Saturday, August 13, 2011

Are we NUTS to take our little kids on a Disney trip?

Are we NUTS to take our little kids on a Disney trip?

       You have a sweet little baby and you, a good loving parent wishing to give your child every wonderful experience especially a Disney Experience decide to take them on a Disney Trip. Are you NUTS!!! No, simply put you are not nuts but you may want to consider some things before you pack up the family and head off.

       You plan and dream of the perfect day at sea on a Disney Cruise Ship. You fantasize of sitting next to the pool as your child happily splashes around or better yet you enjoy a romantic meal at Palo while your child is giddy at being in the youth activities. Instead your child wants nothing to do with the pool and even less to do with the youth activities! Yes, it happens! Instead of a family trip where each member of the family has something special they can do that is designed just for them you have home life at sea. You don’t spend any time apart. I’m speaking from experience on this. Still we are happy we did it.

       In your dreams you walk into the Disney Park and your child sees Mickey Mouse and runs to get a hug! Every line is short and each ride a magical experience that brings oohhs and awes. Instead you walk onto Main Street and your child starts crying, demanding you buy this or that toy or food item for them. They see Mickey Mouse and instead of running to him they run screaming in the other direction. You stand for 45 minutes in line to go on a ride that lasts less than 10 minutes and your child cries the entire time you are in line and screams for the entire time on the ride because it scares them to death. This happens a lot.

       Reality is a harsh task master but it is time for a reality check. Consider this information before taking a child to a Disney Destination. Have realistic expectations for you and your child’s first Disney experience and for all of those that follow.

       If you are talking about a Disney Cruise I say as soon as they are old enough to be in the kids programs and when they feel comfortable for several hours away from mom and dad they are ready to go. There are nursery services available but they ask you only leave them there for 16 hours during an entire week long cruise. There is an extra charge for nursery services so check before you go and plan for the extra expense if you need to use it. The kids programs are amazing on the Disney Cruise and they have age specific activities available to keep most kids happy all day long. With story time, games, crafts, character visits just for the kids with the characters playing games with them and taking part of the activities most kids find it hard to leave. The youth activities are free. Still it is not for all children.

       Disney parks are a different story. You are at the park all day, or as long as you decide to stay there with your kids. It is up to you to decide if your child is ready to handle the activity and excitement of a Disney Park. I suggest talking to them about the behavior that is necessary to make a day at the park enjoyable. Things like standing in long lines and not crying, yelling or running around. Knowing their name and your name and cell number in case you get lost. Not running off.

       Babies are easy for me to take to the park. You can take them with you and just stop long enough to give them food, change a diaper and give them a hug. Just be aware you will need to do child swaps to go on your favorite rides. It is tiring to carry a baby all over so make sure you have a good baby carrier, stroller or backpack baby carrier. When our daughter was little we used a backpack carrier that was build on a real backpack frame. It was a joy and made it easy to carry her all over the park and she could see everything. It had a sunshade to protect her from the sun and she was comfortable enough to just drop off to sleep for a nap. This worked until she was 3 years old and about 50 lbs. When they are starting to crawl or walk make sure you give them time to do so or they will get antsy and cranky.

You need to know your child’s limits. Know how long a line you can ask your child to stand in and don’t demand they stand quiet too long. Make sure you take time to find a place where they can run around and just be kids between waiting for rides. There are places in every Disney Park where kids can run around. Kids are not designed or wired to just stand still. If you are staying at a resort hotel or a hotel near the resort you may want to head back to the hotel for a swim and a nap if the kids get hot and tired. Give them and yourself a break so they are not tired and upset. You want to enjoy not fight while at the “happiest place on earth”.

If your child has special needs make sure you have all you need to assist them. If they need meds than must be kept cool then stop by first aid and ask them to store it for you. If you child has limits on how much they can stand or excitement they can take be aware of it. Children with Autism and ADHD can enjoy the park! It can be a great place to help them learn to deal with their limits. A child with Autism may be drawn out and work hard to communicate with their favorite character as they might not with an adult. Kids with ADHD can be encouraged to wait for rides and they will work hard at controlling impulses to get on their favorite rides. Just be aware of how long they can wait. Don’t ask either Autistic or ADHD kids (or adults for that matter) to wait hours in line. It is not fair to them, you or those in line around you. Instead get a GAC card that allows you to go through the FastPass lines. Just ask for one at City Hall. (Hint for getting one. Let your child be slightly out of control when you ask. Let the Cast Member see the true need.)

Two to five year olds are fun to take to the park! They are excited about everything and believe it is all real. This belief is a double edged sword. They will believe that they are really flying with Peter Pan or seeing all the homes of well loved characters in Storybook Land Cannel Boats. This makes them excited and happy. Problem is they also believe that five foot mouse is really Mickey Mouse or the Evil Queen walking around Fantasyland is real. This can be scary for them. So can rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventure. Be aware of your child’s emotional maturity and keep away from what might scare them. Limit yourself to the rides you think they will enjoy and work up to the ones that are more challenging.

Five to seven year olds can be a challenge. Some of them are still not ready for the scary stuff while others are ready to rock and roll. I’ve seen many little tigers that are ready to take on the “Big Kid” rides like Big Thunder Mountain but they are not tall enough. This leaves them upset and feeling cheated. I don’t blame them but safety is more important than a few minutes of them being upset. Just assure them that on some future visit they can go on that ride. Let your child know it is just because Mickey wants to keep them safe.

Most seven year olds to teen age can do all the rides physically but some are still a little scared. Know your kids limits and don’t force them to do things that scare them. It is fine to stretch and work up to bigger and more scary rides but never force.

Teenagers are a challenge. They want to go off by themselves and many don’t even want to go. They consider Disney to be childish and beneath them. They are too grown up for Disney! Fine, my suggestion is let them go off by themselves. Make sure you have a time and place set up to meet or they have a cell phone or walkie talkie for checking in and telling you where they are and making contact in emergencies. Disney Parks are safe and as long as your teen can follow the rules and is generally well behaved there should be no problems.

How old should your child be to go a Disney Destination?? It depends on the child and you. Can your child take the crowds, noise and lines? Will your child stay over all calm during somewhat stressful events? Can  you deal with your child in a calm, supportive and understanding way if they lose it at a Disney Destination? If you can answer yes to the last question then they are ready to go. You see it has more to do with you than them.

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