1. Prepare them Ahead of Time
One of the best things you can do is make Disneyland familiar to your kid before you even go. Talk about the kinds of experiences they might have, show them Disney DVDs so they recognize the characters and songs. Show them pictures of Disneyland and show them what the characters look like with other kids, and look up videos on Youtube.
If you’ve already taken your kid to a fair or amusement park, you may already have an idea of what kinds of rides they might like. If you are not sure how your kid will react to the rides, I recommend starting with gentler rides and build from there.
Disneyland does a great job of not making their less thrilling rides seem babyish. Many of the rides in Disneyland also have a experiential component that can make a fairly tame ride quite spooky, like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion.
It’s also important to note that the height requirements are there for safety reasons and may not indicate how age appropriate a ride is.
It can be hard to predict how your kids will react to the characters in the park. Some kids are scared of them, particularly the large animal ones like bears. Others like to see them, but don’t want to pose for pictures.
Some can handle the characters that look like people but not the ones in full costume. Gordie found the fairies to be the most disconcerting because they were a lot bigger than they are in the movie.
He is usually pretty outgoing but rarely wanted to pose for pictures. Nicky on the other hand is usually quite shy but surprised me by giving hugs and posing for pictures.
4. Be Flexible and Involve Them In the Planning
Being on vacation takes kids out of their typical schedule and routines which can make them feel like things are out of their control.
Involving your child in deciding what to do can help them feel more secure. At the same time, be willing to deviate from your plans for the day and take advantage of something that has them excited.
5. Let Them Be the Photographer
If your kid is interested in meeting the characters but doesn’t want to get their picture taken with them, let them take pictures of the characters instead.
Then when you come home they will still have a picture to remember meeting the characters but don’t have to pose for a photograph. This is something I really wish I had thought to do with Gordie while we were still at the park.
Disneyland has a character breakfast at a restaurant in each of the two parks and one at each of the Disneyland Hotels. These can be a great way for your kids to meet some of their favorite characters in a lower stress environment.
The characters at the restaurants walk around and visit each table. You can get a little more interaction from the characters instead of just a posed photo and you don’t have to stand in line. Each character breakfast has a different set of characters.
Another strategy you can use with the characters is an autograph book. It can help break the ice by giving your kid a job to do and a conversation starter.
You can also sneak a photo of your child with the character even if they won’t pose for a picture. This worked great for Gordie. He posed for almost no photos with the characters but was more than willing to ask for the characters autographs.
Or try pin trading.
9 . Have Some Down Time
Allow your kid to have some down time if they need it. Find a spot on a bench and watch the crowd go by, have a long lunch, watch a theatre show or take a ride on the train or the Mark Twain Riverboat.
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