Taking a preschooler to Walt Disney World is an adventure in itself. Being prepared will help the entire family enjoy the experience and make the trip one to remember. Know where you want to go, know what to expect from your child and make a plan for keeping your preschooler safe in a crowded environment.
Scope Out the Attractions
Before you even hit Florida, do your research. There are plenty of rides, attractions, events and characters designed with your preschooler in mind. “It’s a Small World” gives the entire family a musical boat ride through many different countries that you’ll all love. When visiting The Animal Kingdom be sure to take your preschooler to see “Finding Nemo”, a musical version of the movie reminiscent of Broadway’s “The Lion King”–the theatre and show are designed around kids and the play lasts around 30 minutes. If you’ll be making a stop at Hollywood Studios be sure to take a break under the shade of a giant blade of grass as the kids play in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!” play area complete with overhead buzzing bee sounds and a maze of underground tunnels, cubby holes and slides.
Involve your preschooler in making a list of what’s important to see as well as deciding what’s best left to another visit. With your must-see list in hand you can organize your days and trips with the maps of the parks. Be sure to make reservations for any character dinners several months in advance. You may want to start your day in the back of the park. Often park visitors begin at the front and work their way back. You may beat the crowds and you’re more likely to have shorter lines to meet Mickey and Minnie. Mickey and Minnie reside in Toon Town which is at the very back of Walt Disney World!
Don’t Expect Too Much
While Disney World is known as the “happiest place on Earth,” it can also be overwhelming, especially to a preschooler. Preschoolers have short attention spans and also may be shy or afraid when Goofy gets close to share a hug. Let your little ones be your guide. If they’re interested, enjoy. If they want to sit back and watch before trying out the flying Dumbo ride or shaking Pluto’s hand, let them take their time. All kids have different tolerances to traveling, new experiences and all the hubbub that comes with Mickey Mouse–everyone will enjoy the experience more if you allow your child to decide how involved they want to be how fast.
Preschoolers take their time. Walt Disney World offers all kinds of stimulation for little ones–listening to Jiminy Cricket talk of dreams, watching Tinker Bell fly through the night sky or smelling freshly popped popcorn after they’ve flown through London with Peter Pan. Don’t plan on seeing the entire park in one day. Schedule time for breaks on a bench under a shade tree in Adventureland or for having a snack in Ariel’s Grotto, and of course, lots of potty breaks. If your child is potty trained be sure to pack “extras” in case they have an accident.
Keep Your Child Safe
Disney World is a busy, crowded place. Be sure to discuss with your preschooler the importance of staying close to mom and dad (or grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles) and not running off alone. You’ll want to be extremely careful during peak times at the park–such as the opening ceremony outside the main entrance, the light parade down Main Street and the fireworks display that follows–these times are excessively crowded and cumbersome.
Be sure you show your preschooler what a Disney World staff member looks like so they’ll know who to go to if they need help. Choose a meeting place with other adults you are visiting with in case you get separated–such as Liberty Square or Space Mountain.