Tips for Taking your PreSchooler to WDW
Before the Magic…..
Watch Disney movies so that your child is familiar with the story line and characters.
Watch the WDW Planning DVDs or borrowed home movies from other former Disney guests. The DVDs show attractions and you can talk with your child about what he/she will see. Planning DVDs are available from Walt Disney World’s official website.
Bring a key chain light, pen light, or glow worm for a child that is apprehensive of the dark, they’ll feel a bit in control ( and they are not so bright as to disturb anyone else).
Going along with the pen light idea. Buy one of the items that they sell at the night parades. I am not sure what they are called but it’s a Mickey face with plastic pieces sticking up from the base and lights up. Basically it’s a small flashlight with this on top. The light it low enough not to bother other people and the kids will like because it’s a toy for them. My daughter still has it and loves it. We use it just as a flashlight also by taking the top piece off. (Josephine)
A few months before the trip, we started teaching our son how to say Hello! My name is — thank you–goodbye in the native languages of the EPCOT countries. We will get him a passport to be stamped in each country and are hoping that he will enjoy using his language skills as he gets the passport stamped.
Plan Character Meals — There are a lot of great ones but our favorite is Chef Mickey’s for dinner. For more info on character meals click here.
Walk every day starting several months before the trip. It will help get both you and the kids in shape. You will need it to be able to push the stroller for all those miles, and even if you plan on having the kids in strollers, it will help them build up stamina for standing in line. In fact, the less you have to hold them in line the better. (Jeanne)
The Unofficial Disney Guide has a children’s fright factor and tips section that I have found more helpful than any of the others. I have read to him (in small doses) what might be scary and told him that the decision as to whether or not he wants to experience the particular attraction is up to him. We have also made it clear to him that his Dad, Grandmother, and/or I may go on some rides he is not interested in (and using switching option).
We made a paper chain (like I used to make as a child at Christmas time) with a link for each day preceding the date we leave. Then each morning we remove a chain. When we get down to 10 days or less it is exciting with every link you remove! (Jennifer)
We started giving our son Disney dollars (one at a time) for special jobs or treats. He has collected more than 40 so far and this will be his spending money for souvenirs at Disney. The fact that they can only be spent at Disney has really helped him save.
Get a bicycle lock or some other system of keeping strollers safe.
The biggest tip to any parent whose child is still using a potty chair is to start getting them used to going on the toilet without the potty chair. Fortunately we thought of that before leaving home, but there were quite a few kids in the bathrooms screaming that they were going to fall in because they had never gone without it. (Caryn) There’s also a “portable” folding plastic travel potty seat that’s available at some stores, and sites over the web, that could come in quite handy for those who view that hole as something that could easily swallow them whole. A mention in or by that paragraph might be helpful to others (Liz Herman)
My family and I have vacationed in WDW more than a dozen times in the last 8 years. A month or 2 before we leave, I create a Disney Countdown that we mark off each morning so the children can see how many days are left before we go. Then as we wake up the children on the day we leave we have a big presentation while marking off the last day. The children love it and it helps stop the questions about how many days until we leave. (KKWash)
On Your Way to the Mouse House…
In the car listen to the Classic Disney CD’s (volumes 1-4) & play name the movie. I suggest collections like Disney Classics Vol. I, II, III, or IV. (Marie) The sing-along-songs in Disneyland is great. It has bits and pieces of a lot of the rides and helped both my kids get familiar with what they would see. (Jeanne)
We have three favorite airplane toys: 1) Assorted pipe cleaners. They are very cheap, very small, and you can bend them into letters, people figures, whatever. You could even keep a couple with you at WDW for waiting in long lines. 2) A Color forms book. Its a book of 3 or 4 scenery pages, along with a set of stickers like Winnie the Pooh or Barney. I gave one to my daughter on an airplane trip, and she played with it for over an hour, just moving the pieces from page to page. 3) A magic coloring book. It is a small coloring book with a special pen that brings out the color on the pages when it is scribbled on with the pen. Sometimes you can find this toy at airport gift shops. This is another toy that kept my daughter occupied for about an hour. (Janann) Colorforms books may be available at your local Toys R Us. (Caryn)
Bring an IPOD or M3 player. Then surprise him/her with Disney music.
I keep my son busy with a crayola lap desk. Sticker art is a great activity for the car. (Lisa)
We have the vans (we usually have 4 large van loads of family members) with cb’s to talk to one another, play Disney music, play a game naming all things Disney starting with A to Z, pack a few small toys that the children have from home, small electronic games and Crayola Wipe Off boards (wonderful things for in vans, planes, restaurants). (Maria)
Wait until they really start the Are we there yet’s and pull out a backpack full of little toys, a coloring book, and travel games. When you get to the hotel they can empty the backpack and use it to hold things like water, sunglasses, a hat, a disposable camera, autograph book, and pen in the parks.
We found that one of the travel size Magna-Doodle boards was invaluable both on the plane ride and while waiting at restaurants. (Kelly)
Long past my preschool years, my parents kept me occupied with the official Birnbaum guidebook. Why? It’s got pictures of where I was going! It was great to look at pictures, and read when I was older, of where I was going! (Carli )
Snacks are great too! Buy the mini snack bags and fill with a variety of snacks. (Lisa)
We drove from Massachusetts to Disney with a two-year old. Get a Portable DVD player for the car. It’s invaluable. Also, buy one of those harnesses for kids. That way he can run around Rest Areas with limited freedom and you don’t have to cling to his hand. Last tip…purchase a battery powered blender and pack a cooler. It’s tough to get kids to eat on the road, so every night I made him a milkshake with peanut butter, bananas, avocado, etc… (Katy)
I brought my laptop with some of my Disney DVD collection for the drive in the car. (Caryn)
Sharing the Experience
Point out that Cast Members wear white name tags. Then tell them that if you are ever separated to find a Cast Member immediately. (Caryn)
Every time we went our son had his own fanny pack and in that fanny pack we had his sunglasses, snacks, wet wipes, and one of those small bottle of bubbles. That was the best thing that we brought on every trip! It kept him occupied while we stood in some of those lines!! (Mary)
Take an afternoon break. We have found this is a good policy on all vacations but think it’s especially important at Disney.
There is a little play area that younger pre-schoolers really enjoy which can be found under the bridge near the exit of Splash Mountain and near the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This is also a great meeting place for the smaller toddlers to play while the bigger kids ride Splash or Big Thunder mountain.
At Fort Wilderness, take a Hayride, visit the Petting Farm, go to the character campfire/Disney movie (call FW Guest Services for details).
Rent bikes at Ft. Wilderness (also available at DL, CBR, et al.). It makes a nice break in the afternoon.
One big piece of information that you really need to add for toddlers and pre-schoolers alike: YOU CANNOT FIND ANY CHEERIOS AT ANY BREAKFAST PLACES OR BUFFETS. I find it easier to bring a box of this in my luggage in a Ziploc and pack some in a small Ziploc for the days adventures. It’s great for them to munch on while waiting in line or for when they are getting toward the cranky stage . I am sure you can buy it at Goodings or request it from your resorts store if needed but don’t rely on Cheerios at any breakfast. (Jeanne)
We took our 2-year old to Disney World and my best tip is to get Room Service for breakfast. He always ate a big breakfast of waffles, fruit, yogurt, juice and milk. Then, I didn’t have to obsess if he didn’t eat a whole lot for the rest of the day. Also, it makes you get up out of bed if you know they’re coming with breakfast! (Katy)
Hidden Mickeys — Especially look for them in Conservation Station at AK. They are in many of the animals’ eyes and the wings of the butterflies.
All of the hotels, water parks and theme parks have the machines that press pennies or sometimes quarters. The coins come out with a character etc… stamped on them. My daughter first noticed these a few years ago and since then she can’t wait to get to WDW so that she can add to her collection. Disney will provide a list of all machine locations. I have found that my daughter spends more time looking for these machines than she does looking at the gift shops etc… She always makes sure that she has a good supply of pennies and quarters before we leave the room each day. Carla_Warner For more info on penny and quarter presses click here.
I would suggest taking the boat from Port Orleans to the Marketplace. Sometimes a more sedate ride is more exciting to a 5-year-old than one would expect and adults will enjoy too!
The best investment we ever made at WDW was to buy my 4-year-old niece a red name badge, like the ones the CMs wear. We had her name engraved on it right next to a picture of Mickey Mouse. CMs paid special attention to my niece and the characters wrote personalized messages to her in her autograph book. At the present time name tags are not available for individual personalization. Predetermined names are pre-made and are available (Caryn)
My wife and I purchase a Mickey or Minnie hat when we first arrive at Disney for our daughter. As we travel around the parks and meet the characters we have them sign her hat instead of an autograph book. When we get back home we hang it on the wall. We find this easier then caring a book and she gets to show it off to everyone. We also bring a “sharpie” marker with us from home. This works the best. (Robin & Staci)
My daughter loves water fountains. I used this to keep her entertained while in the World Showcase. I would take her picture in front of a fountain if she found it. If I found one, she would take my picture. We took two rolls of film, and have great pictures in most of the countries. (Scfinfan)
My husband and I took our 3 & 4 year old on their first of many vacations to WDW. I found that my boys loved to throw coins in all the many fountains. I took several rolls of pennies with us. When going to a park for the day I would take a few rolls with me and give the kids a couple of pennies to throw at each fountain. This helped keep the kids looking forward to the new sites, or amused while on of us would shop. (Jennifer)
I bought my daughter a disposable camera before we went to Disney. I let her take her own pictures. I did not realize Disney looked so different from a stroller. The best shots of the characters were when she had the camera. We do have a lot of pictures of the ground, but the ones that came out are worth it.
When we took our 2-year old to WDW, we packed a plastic grocery sack with kleenex, wipes, band-aids, and sunscreen (all travel sizes) to throw in the back of the stroller. If I rained it didn’t get too wet, or if it did get wet or stolen (which it never has on any of our trips), we had replacements. When we folded up the stroller each day, we folded it up with it and didn’t have to remember to pack it each day or tote it around in our backpack. Lastly we packed some of the extra long straws. We loved buying the soft drinks with a screw on cap, but our daughter liked to drink from a straw and none of the straws were long enough.
COMMENTS FROM THE TRENCHES
If you have a little one, take a Hand-Holder! We bought one at Wal Mart before we left. It is just an elasticized band that velcroes around the child’s wrist, and there is a loop on the other end for the parent to hold or slip over their own wrist. It sure does give you peace of mind, and it isn’t as hot or cumbersome as those harnesses that fasten over the torso. We had so many people down there to comment that they wished they had one. Some of the ladies even commented that they wished they had them for their spouses! (Kelli Williams)
Upon the recommendation of a friend, the first thing we did at Disney World was to buy an autograph book for our 4-year-old daughter. This investment was the best thing money could buy. At this age the most fun our daughter had was visiting the Disney characters and collecting their autographs and getting photographs of our daughter with the characters. The worst thing for our 4-year-old daughter was the dark and noisy attractions such as It’s Tough To Be A Bug 3-D movie at Animal Kingdom – most indoor dark and loud movies were OUT! Stick to character visits and the race way in Tomorrowland. (S. Clarke).
Our personalized Autograph Book: As Florida residents, there is Disney merchandise available everywhere. So, I purchased from a local drugstore a small (4X6), lined notebook (spiral-bound with perforated pages) with Minnie Mouse on the cover for under $2.00. Also, a fat, felt-tipped pen in my daughter’s color choice. Then I found a three-ring Disney photo album for $1.00 at the local Character Premiere Outlet store. These three items cost less than one official autograph book sold on Disney property. At Disney, each time a character would sign, I took several photos, posed & candid. Once home, Sara Lily could pick one photo to put in the album (the rest went in the family album). Then we placed her photo in one sleeve with the corresponding autograph on the back side. She then decorated the inside album covers with assorted Disney stickers. Following each trip we add to the album. She’ll never run out of autograph pages since the album holds 200 photos (the plastic sleeves also protect the autographs from wear & tear). She loves to look at her very own photo album with pictures of herself with the different characters. Plus, the autographs are easily recognizable because they match the photos. This has been a great hit at Show & Tell in school…much more fun than just looking at signatures on blank pieces of paper! (Laurel)
On my trip last year we were in the Rain Forest Cafe (AK) and the noise frightened my 3 yr. old niece. We got some ear plugs from one of the CM who work with the parrots out side. She was very happy after that, we also used them in the Little Mermaid show and Honey I shrunk the audience and other attractions. They sell these small foam ear plugs in Airport gift stores and some CVS Drug stores. I am able to get her to wear the in the Movies when she is scared and loves them (Sandy).
I read about parents preparing their children for having to use “the big potty”, when they are used to their smaller potty seats or potty chairs. What it doesn’t tell you is, parents should also be prepared for their children to be freaked out by the automatic flushing toilets. Upon taking my 3 yo into the restroom at Rainforest Cafe (where she was terrified already, I might add) I took her into the stall and began to pull her pants down. Just then, the motion sensor must have picked up on the movement or something and the thing flushed. That was the end of that. She did not go until we returned to our resort. It took a day or two before we could get her over this. (Shari)