31 Days of Disney: Tips for Taking Pre-Schoolers to Walt Disney World

Originally posted in May of 2010…
One statement that I frequently hear from those asking me for Disney vacation planning tips is, “I know I really need to wait until the kids are older for them to enjoy it.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! No matter what age the child, there is something at Disney for everyone. Here are some tips for making a trip to Disney worthwhile for your pre-schooler.

1. Focus on the Magic, not the Mountains: While there are plenty of rides in all four of the Walt Disney World Parks (not including the water parks or Downtown Disney) that young children will enjoy, the most incredible part of the Disney experience for pre-schoolers is just that – the experience. Decide before you enter the parks which rides are the top priority, and then be sure to schedule plenty of time to view the parades, participate in afternoon block parties, and check out character story times and special events.
2. Find Your Prince Charming: Speaking of characters, you do not want to miss the special greetings between your children and their heroes. To see the most characters in one place, check the daily Times Guide each morning for parade times. For a relaxed up close and personal character experience, consider booking character dining. You can also use mobile technology to find characters throughout the day via GPS. Don’t forget to take an autograph book to capture the moment forever!
3. But Don’t Forget Sleeping Beauty: You will never see and do all there is to see and do in the World. Repeat this to yourself over and over again to make it easier to schedule in the necessary breaks. While you will most likely not be able to maintain your child’s normal sleeping schedule, you will want to schedule nap time into your day and consider sleeping in late one morning of your trip. My son was able to nap every afternoon in his stroller during our first trip to Disney when he was two and a half, but consider heading back to the hotel for an afternoon break, allowing you to enjoy the parks later in the day. There are also plenty of quiet places in every park ranging from gardens to secluded paths if you just want a quiet place for down time and a snack. Most parks also have Baby Care Centers.
4. Home is Where the Heart Is: For those guests staying at a Disney Resort property, the time spent at the resort can be just as enjoyable as the time spent inside the parks. With beautiful pools, campfires on the beach, and even some character meals, consider taking a day or partial day off from the exhaustion of time in the parks and simply enjoy your Disney Resort.
5. Go Off the Beaten Path: Pre-schoolers will not only enjoy the rides, shows, and parades around Walt Disney World, but may also have the most fun enjoying the little adventures that exist in various places in each park. Check out the jumping fountains after riding with Figment on his Journey Into Imagination in EPCOT and be sure to check out the splash playground in Ariel’s Grotto in the Magic Kingdom.
6. Divide and Conquer: To truly enjoy a Walt Disney World vacation with some of Disney’s youngest fans, you may need to simply decide to send one parent with the youngest child while the other parent takes older children on some of the larger rides. Be sure to also ask a cast member about taking advantage of the rider switch option.
7. Melting Down in 5, 4, 3, 2…: Your child will have a melt-down at some point during your vacation regardless of how carefully you’ve planned. While we anticipated it from our two year old, it actually happened to our four year old who was not benefiting from naps in a stroller like her younger brother. Her meltdown came in the form of a tummy ache and tears during Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, and to salvage the rest of our vacation, we made the decision to leave the park and return to the hotel for an unscheduled rest. By that evening she was back on track, and so was the rest of our planned time at Disney.
8. Let Them Eat Cake! The last thing that you want is for your hot, tired, over-stimulated pre-schooler to also be hungry. Plan ahead by taking tons of toddler friendly snacks into the parks with you. While you’ll be able to find enough cookies and ice cream to last a lifetime, items like fruit and crackers are harder to find, so be sure to take those healthy refreshers.
Have you braved Disney with pre-schoolers? What is your best tip?
2. The Resourceful Kids’ favorite rides for pre-schoolers
4. The Unofficial Guide to Disney World – includes a ride-by-ride age appropriate rating
6. Walt Disney World Moms Panel – submit your questions or read through what others have asked and had answered


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