There will be MILD spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Solider in this post. Nothing huge. But I warned you.
Look. I'm not a parent. I'm not. I should preface this with that statement. I don't profess to know how hard it is to raise kids. But I do know common sense. And that is where this advice is coming from. Common sense.
Note that this advice carries over to baby sitters, older siblings, licensed child-care providers, neighbors, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and other people charged with the care of young children for any length of time.
I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier tonight. It was a great movie. Think political intrigue meets spy thriller meets comic book heroes, because that was the feel. I highly recommend it. Go see it. See it twice.
But not with your four year-old.*
Listen. This movie is bloody. It is violent. People die. Some people die TWICE. (That was the mild spoiler, right there. All done now.) And violence has an effect on your kids. (It really does. There are STUDIES.)
There are superheroes, and kids love superheroes. But watching someone explode is not how your child should learn about anatomy. This is a scary movie. This is more scary than a four year-old can handle.
Before you ask, yes, there was a preschooler behind me at the movie. And yes, he was sitting with someone older. His maybe eight year-old brother. His parents were there, too. But they didn't so much care that their child 1. talked through the whole movie,** nor did they care that 2. Their child kept asking his brother why people weren't moving, why that person was hitting the other person, why people were hurting Captain America...you get the idea.
Your kid is not emotionally mature enough, at age four, to differentiate between reality and fantasy. That's just a developmental fact. Kids don't get the difference between that until they hit six or seven. Yes, a few years make a big difference. if you don't think so, take a child psychology class. Or watch your kid. One of the two.
Your preschooler will look at Captain America, and even if you tell them that he is make-believe, they will still not GET that he's make-believe. Captain America, like Santa Claus, is real to them in their head. Now, following that, imagine your kid watching people bleeding out on screen. If Captain America is real, and he is on screen, does it not follow that they will think that the bleeding is real, too? (This is a rhetorical question.)
Your child is not in a war zone, so it's a good idea to protect them from even the idea of one, since they're lucky enough not to HAVE to see that kind of violence. Celebrate that fact by watching the many great films made for kids--and adults--of all ages.
The bottom line is, your preschooler is not ready to watch the end of Old Yeller and they aren't old enough to watch superhero movies that aren't animated. If you want to have a good time and go see Captain America, go. Take note of Black Widow's necklace. And go.
But before you leave, dial up a friend or neighbor and ask them to look after the kids, because honestly, your kid should not see someone explode (or with third degree burns or without their head or without most of their blood) until they are at least old enough to tie their own shoes.
That is your free parenting advice, from your friendly neighborhood youth services librarian who, yes, has studied child development long enough to tell you you're doing it wrong.
* Also not with anyone younger than four years of age. Also not with anyone older than four by a few hours, or maybe even a few years. I would say 10 or 11 is a the YOUNGEST a kid should be before they are exposed to the kind of mass-death involved in an action movie.
** The parents now owe me $7.50. So do the people sitting three rows in front of us that were playing with their cell phones. That's six people now owing me $7.50, meaning that even with refreshments, I'll turn a profit on this night-at-the-movies thing if I could only get everybody to pay up.