Toddlers are the perfect age for a first visit to Walt Disney World. Babies don’t really know what’s going on, and they won’t remember their first trip to visit Mickey Mouse. Toddlers love rides, and many are eager to see the characters, too, although some will run in fright! You can have a great trip with your little one if you don’t make these three mistakes.
Don’t try to do too much
Toddlers have lots of energy, but they also get cranky and crash pretty quickly when they have a big adventure like a visit to the Disney theme parks. You’ll be tempted to pack as much activity as possible into your trip, but don’t make that mistake or you might end up having a miserable time. Work your schedule around your toddler, and if he or she is getting tired, back off and take a break.
That break doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the theme parks. Each of the four Disney parks has a Baby Care Center with a quiet area where your child can take a nap on a comfortable sofa with a TV.
Some shows are also suitable for a little downtime. For example, the Hall of Presidents and the Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom are both relatively long and take place in comfortable, air-conditioned theaters. The same is true of the American Adventure at Epcot, and Spaceship Earth is a long dark ride.
If you want to see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Illuminations at Epcot, that midday break is pretty much a necessity. Don’t make the mistake of trying to keep your toddler going steadily from morning until night. That will just make the day miserable instead of fun.
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Don’t force your toddler to pose with the characters
As mentioned earlier, some toddlers absolutely love Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and the other characters and run to them with open arms. Other little ones scream in fear at the sight of a giant mouse or bear. Some parents try to force their toddlers to approach the characters because they’re desperate for photos. It’s certainly understandable that you want photographic memories, but it’s not worth traumatizing a shy child.
Let your little one approach the characters at his or her own pace, and don’t push. If you have older children, the younger ones will be more likely to give Mickey a hug if they see their older brothers and sisters doing it. Even if you only have young children, they might get the idea by watching other kids in the line ahead of them. If not, just back off and try again later. Yes, it’s frustrating to wait in a half hour line, only to have your toddler shriek in fear when it’s his turn. Just chalk it up to one of those annoying parenting moments.
You can try two strategies with a shy toddler
- Go to see some “face” characters rather than those who are in full costumes. People who fear Mickey, Stitch, Pooh and Tigger will often approach the princess, Aladdin, Gaston, or others who look more like regular people.
- Book a character meal. The characters come right to each table for photos, and they’re very sensitive to the children’s mood. They won’t force themselves on your toddler if they see that she’s reluctant, but they’ll make every effort to bring her out of her shell.
Don’t insist on a rigid schedule
Adults like to plan and prepare and schedule. Young children are much more spontaneous. When we grow up, we often forget what it was like to be a toddler and to be attracted by bright colors, pretty music, and anything that looked fun and exciting.
When your family includes a toddler, you need to be flexible. Otherwise, your trip will be marred by meltdowns and ruined by rigid insistence on doing what you think you should do, not what your child would truly enjoy.
Sure, you have to do some planning when you visit Walt Disney World. Each of the four theme parks has a vast array of rides, parades, and shows. You need to have a basic plan for which park you’ll visit on which day and the must-do attractions at each. Certain shows and parades happen at certain times of the day, so you don’t have any leeway if you want to be sure to catch them.
However, with a toddler you need to be flexible and not get stressed out if those plans suddenly have to change based on your child’s needs. For example, you might be looking forward to the three o’clock parade at the Magic Kingdom, but your little one is ready for a nap by 2 p.m. Don’t force him to stay for the parade. Instead, take him back to the hotel for a nap and look forward to returning to the park for the evening fireworks instead.