Posts Tagged ‘children’

Indoor Children’s Play Areas in Epcot

by on October 3, 2016

As much as I love walking around the parks, sometimes you just need an air conditioned retreat. With kids in tow, it can be even more imperative to escape indoors. And though it’s typically not considered the most kid friendly of the Walt Disney World parks, Epcot has plenty of great indoor play areas for kids of all ages to let loose. If you’re looking for a reprieve from that Florida heat, humidity, sun, or even an afternoon rain shower, here are some great locations in Epcot for kids to burn off some excess energy.

Home of the Figment-centric interactive games

ImageWorks – home of the Figment-centric interactive games

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Disney With Small Children: Lessons Learned

by on August 21, 2015

Mickey BarAs a parent, taking your kids to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a rite of passage of sorts. Whether you are a Disney parks veteran looking forward to taking your first family trip or a first timer deciding it’s time to visit Disney, there is no joy like getting the opportunity to experience “Disney magic” through the eyes of a small child. Even if you feel like you’ve got this whole parenting thing wired, though, a trip to Walt Disney World presents a unique set of challenges that are often overlooked by parents engrossed in their halcyon childhood memories and idyllic expectations of these trips. Being aware of these potential pitfalls will help you get ahead of them and prevent them from disrupting your vacation!

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Keeping Children Involved While Visiting a Theme Park

by on May 31, 2015

Picture from my disposable camera from my Disneyland trip-1989

Picture from my disposable camera from my 1989 Disneyland trip (I am on the right).


Let me start by saying that I do not have children of my own, nor do I travel anywhere with children. So, you’re probably wondering what makes me qualified to speak on the subject? Well, I do have one major qualification: I use to be one of those theme park children.

Even though I did not go to Disneyland a lot as a child (it was too expensive for my family), I did visit other Southern California theme parks quite often — specifically Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood. My parents managed to teach me a lot about planning, having fun, and cherishing each experience, so below are the four strategies that I would like to pass along to you to help set up everyone in your family for a happy theme park experience.

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Ideas for Entertaining Kids On The Plane

by on May 20, 2015

Photo - DisneyFor some, the thought of flying on a plane with kids is simple and carefree.

For me, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong – I have an amazingly easy child who travels very well. Still, I would be lying if I didn’t admit prior to flying with her, I become a Nervous Nelly.

For those of you who can relate to my anxieties, here is a list of ideas and items for entertaining your child on a flight to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or anywhere else. Although who are we kidding, why go anywhere else when you could go to some of the happiest places on earth? 😉

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Should I Take My Young Child on a Disney Cruise?

by on May 1, 2015

Cruises, and Disney cruises in particular, offer many wonderful activities for children and families. Parents of elementary-age children, tweens, and teens typically leave the ship raving about their children’s engagement in the onboard kids’ clubs, their independence on the ship, and their enjoyment of various port excursions. They had a fabulous time! Many families with smaller children, preschool age and younger, also have a grand time on board; however, a significant subset have a more neutral, or even negative experience while cruising. Typically, the negative reaction comes when there is a disconnect between expectations and reality.

Some families with younger children find the ship pool areas overwhelming.

Some families with younger children find the ship pool areas overwhelming.

When considering what to expect from a Disney Cruise, first remember that travel with small children is almost always more challenging than travel with older kids or grown-ups. Adults who are used to traveling as, well, adults may be surprised at the difficulties posed when traveling with young children. If the Disney Cruise is one of your first travel experiences as a young family, remember that many of the issues you will encounter are not specific to Disney or to cruising, it’s just par for the course with travel at that stage.

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What to Do With a Toddler at Epcot

by on January 28, 2015

Epcot is an amazing place to spend a day, full of attractions to experience and facts to learn. From the thrills of Test Track to the beautiful and inspiring panoramic film detailing the rich landscapes of France, there’s truly no shortage of things to see and do. However, most of the attractions are definitely aimed at the older park guest, without the variety of family-friendly experiences that you would find in Magic Kingdom. While Disney has the Kidcot coloring stations in the World Showcase, there’s not a whole lot that people think toddlers will enjoy, so many people give it a pass while their kids are young. But this may not be the best move since you might be giving up visiting your favorite park, and there are options that should delight even the youngest of kids. So what can you do if you have a toddler and want to experience Epcot anyway?

toddler at epcot enjoying epcot's club cool drink offerings

His favorite park is Epcot! (But he does miss Dumbo)

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CHOC Fundraiser at Disneyland Resort on July 20

by on July 19, 2013

Image copyright Disney

Do you live in the Anaheim area, and have a child (ages 5 to 15) who loves Disneyland and art? Tomorrow (Saturday, July 20, 2013) you have the opportunity to contribute to a new long-term addition to Downtown Disney while making a charitable donation to a great cause.

CHOC Children’s Hospital of Orange County is holding a “Paint Your Way To Miracles & Magic” event in front of Disneyland’s AMC 12 movie theater from 9am to 2pm on Saturday. Young participants (who must be accompanied by an adult) can each hand-paint a custom piece of tile, which will later be embedded in a lighted display “prominently displayed on the walkway between the Disneyland Hotel and the Downtown Disney District” where “your family and friends will be able to view the artwork any time you visit.”

Saturday’s 45-minute painting sessions start every hour on the hour, and only 32 children can be accommodated at each session. Online pre-registration is required, and each participant must make a $50 charitable donation to CHOC.


Get to Know the Disney World Baby Care Centers

by on June 27, 2013

IMG_2430-001If you’re visiting Walt Disney World with a child under the age of five, your new best friend is the Baby Care Center. This is a place in each park where you can find supplies, quiet, air-conditioning, and peace of mind, all for Disney’s youngest guests and their families.

So where are these baby oases?

There is one in each theme park. The locations are noted on the park maps, but just in case you need help finding them …

  • Magic Kingdom: Go to the end of Main Street and hang a left past Casey’s Corner hot dogs. The Baby Care Center is between Casey’s and the Crystal Palace.
  • Epcot: The Baby Care Center is in the Odyssey building. Technically this is in Future World, but it’s really quite close to the Mexico pavilion. Find the path just past Test Track that looks like it’s heading to Mexico and you’ll see the long brown Odyssey building.
  • Animal Kingdom: It’s in the building next to Pizzafari. Bear left around the Tree of Life, pass Pizzafari, and it’s on the left.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: The Baby Care Center is immediately inside the front entrance to the park. Walk in, turn left and hug the turnstiles. It’s in the same building as Guest Relations.

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Who’s Afraid of Walt Disney World?

by on July 14, 2011

Let’s face it, we’re all a bit squeamish about something. Some people are afraid of heights, or snakes, or spiders, or in my case, tropical fish (really, you can stop laughing now). As an adult, a trip to Walt Disney World can provide a gentle means for you to push the boundaries of your discomfort in a safe, friendly environment. For example, an adult with a fear of heights might try Soarin’, an attraction which gives riders the illusion of being much higher in the air than they actually are. For me, each time I dine at Epcot’s Coral Reef, I chip away at my fish phobia.

Those with a fear of heights should avoid Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney.

A grown-up will likely be aware of the intensity of his fears, and be able to assess the situation, articulate his concerns, and regulate his environment. I’m petrified of spiders. I’ve heard there are spiders in It’s Tough to Be a Bug. This makes me uneasy. I’ll sit this one out, you can visit it without me. However, a child might not possess any of these skills. It’s up to the parent or adult caregiver to make sure that a wonderful day in the parks doesn’t become the stuff of nightmares.

I’m going to briefly bore you with two family anecdotes to tell you what I mean, and then I’ll talk about some strategies to deal with fearful children at the Disney parks.

  • At the time of my only childhood visit to Walt Disney World, I was ten years old and my sister was five. The crowd was headed toward Space Mountain, so my family headed toward Space Mountain, not really knowing what it was. My sister, who was afraid of the dark, emerged from the ride a shattered mess of tears. She subsequently screamed at the start of any ride for the duration of our trip, even ones as innocuous as it’s a small world.
  • With a fear of fire, you may want to skip the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

  • When my daughter Louisa was six, we took her on the Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion at Epcot. While I had been on this ride before, it had been several years since I had done so. I remembered it as a fairly gentle attraction, with a troll that might be scary for a second, but no big deal. I told Louisa it was going to be fine and made her go on the ride, despite her protests and look of unease. Lou was visibly shaken after her troll encounter, non-communicative and fighting tears, but the rest of our trip continued uneventfully. A few months later, my girls needed new shoes. I told them we were going shopping at Nordstroms. Louisa, who is was a little fashionista and normally enjoyed shopping, was apoplectic. “No mommy, no Nordstroms, no Nordstroms.” After much calming and cajoling, we were able to uncover that she thought Nordstroms was like the similar-sounding Maelstrom and that trolls might pop out at her from behind the Ugg display.


As these stories illustrate, a little bit of planning could have gone a long way toward preventing meltdown. Here are some classic mistakes that my family made:

  • Not pre-evaluating the child’s fears.
  • Not investigating the contents of the attraction prior to boarding.
  • Not giving the child the skills/tools to cope with new experiences.
  • Starting the trip with the most challenging attraction.
  • Not being honest with the child about the ride’s potential trouble spots.
  • Not listening to the child’s needs.
  • Not being realistic about what your child can handle.
  • Not following up after a frightful experience.

If there's a fear of loud noises, the fireworks could be trouble.


The first step in undertaking any new experience with a child is to honestly assess his or her strengths and weaknesses for clues about how the upcoming event might impact them. For example, if he’s afraid of the dark at home, this is a good indication that he might be fearful in dark attractions. If she’s shy about meeting strangers, this might tell you that interacting with Cinderella could be troublesome. Or if loud noises are a challenge at home, then this could mean that fireworks may prove difficult. Also bear in mind that the heat and constant activity at Walt Disney World may mean overtired kids (and adults) with lower-than-normal coping skills.

With any new attraction, you owe it to yourself and your child to do your research to make sure you’re not subjecting them to something intensely fear-provoking. Luckily there is plenty of information out there to help. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids lists potential fright levels at the top of every attraction description. There are countless guest videos on YouTube where you can see the ride features in advance. Cast members at the attraction can provide detailed information. If you child has a particularly fragile constitution, it may be worth asking pointed questions of the staff at even the most innocuous of attractions. I’ve witnessed child guest meltdowns at even the gentle Peter Pan (big crocodile) and Tiki Room (simulated thunderstorm).

You can prepare your child for theme park challenges in ways both physical and mental. Something as easy as earplugs to muffle loud booms or advance warning to close your eyes before the troll appears can go a long way toward easing discomfort with an attraction. For a larger issue such as fear of meeting characters or fear of roller coasters in general, a longer term plan of desensitization may be in order. Take baby steps toward your goal. Practice in similar situations at home. For example, for a fear of characters, first try having your child talk to “friendly strangers” such as a clerk in a local store. Then seek out local costumed characters, perhaps the high school mascot or the entertainment at a birthday party.

For roller coaster novices, it often works best to start with the tamer versions of the genre. Begin with the familiar Test Track or the out-in-the-open Big Thunder Mountain before attempting Space Mountain in the dark or the backwards Expedition Everest. Even in the child-friendly Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom, a particularly high-strung youngster might need to work up from the totally tame Small World to merely tame Winnie the Pooh (bolder colors and quicker turns).

Test track is milder thrill ride. Good for testing roller coaster tolerance.

If you are expecting a ride to pose an issue, don’t try to pull a fast one on your child. Lying about whether a ride will be scary/dark/loud may get your child on that particular ride, but it will also undermine your trustworthiness as a source of information, perhaps making the transition to other rides more troublesome.

Being honest with a child may sometimes result in that child declaring that he or she is not ready for that ride. Try to take the child’s needs seriously, perhaps bypassing the attraction until the next trip . There are countless things to do at Walt Disney World. Is it really worth enduring the tears and screams of your frightened child just for a trip on Space Mountain? Perhaps a spin on the teacups or a dip in your resort’s pool would be a better source of happy memories. Similarly, as the parent it is your job to realistically evaluate what your child can handle, even if he can’t express his needs himself. If the mild darkness of Pirates of the Caribbean was problematic, then the Haunted Mansion might not be on your to-do list for this trip.

If despite your best efforts, your child does become frightened on a ride, don’t forget to follow up later. This may mean using your experience to inform future attraction choices, giving your child some extra hugs and attention at bedtime, admitting your mistake, or asking the child for additional feedback about the experience.

With all the incredible experiences available at any Disney park, there’s no need to have fear become a factor in your vacation.

So what have you learned about child (or adult) fright issues in the parks? Are there any attractions that seem tame to most but threw your child out of whack? Do you have any good coping strategies? Let us know in the comments.

Touring Walt Disney World Alone: Is Your Child Ready?

by on June 17, 2011

There comes a time in every Walt Disney World vacation when you find that not all members of your group want to do exactly the same thing. Maybe Mom wants to shop while the kids want more time on the rides. Maybe little brother wants another turn on the Teacups, while big sister wants to cool off on Splash Mountain. Maybe Dad wants to go for a swim, while big brother wants to sleep in at the hotel. Many of these situations involve parents and children with differing vacation wants and needs. Would everyone have a better time if kids and parents spent some time apart?

Kids and parents may have different attraction priorities

When children are small, splitting up is not an option; you know can’t send a four-year-old to explore Tomorrowland on his own. And when you’ve got high school seniors, you may be grateful that they want to conquer the Tower of Terror without you. But what do you do in the intermediate years? How do you know when it’s OK to give your child some time alone at your hotel or in the theme parks?

Is there an official policy?

Over the past five years, I’ve asked at least a dozen Disney cast members in various positions whether there is a policy about what age is acceptable to allow children alone in the hotels or parks. I’ve never gotten a firm answer. While there may be no publicly released policy, there is information from which you can infer the party-line point of view: the on-site childcare centers will accept children only until age twelve. After that, families have to answer the evening supervision question on their own.

Currently, there is no age-of-required-supervision given on the official Walt Disney World website. However, I did find reference on several older Disney-related discussion board threads to a statement on the 2004 version of WDW Annual Passholder site which stated, “Persons under the age of 10 years must be accompanied by a person over the age of 21 years while attending Walt Disney World® Water parks and the DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park. Persons under the age of 7 years must be accompanied by a person over the age of 21 years when attending the Magic Kingdom® Park, Epcot®, Disney-MGM Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.” The implication here was that you could send your eight-year-old to the Magic Kingdom alone.

As for what the law allows, I have found that Florida has no legally mandated age for leaving a child unsupervised at home or elsewhere. (I’m not a lawyer. If you need more information, please consult a professional attorney.) But just because it may be technically acceptable to leave your child alone in a hotel or theme park, that doesn’t mean this makes sense for your personal situation. As with most parenting decisions, this really boils down to a judgment call.

Factors to Consider

When deciding whether to give your child time alone at Walt Disney World, there are a number of questions to ask yourself:

  • How mature is your child?
  • Has your child been home alone before?
  • Has your child been alone before in public (going to the mall, going to the movies)?
  • Has your child navigated alone before (walking to school, biking into town, etc.)?
  • Does the child actually want to have alone time?
  • Can your child read a map?

  • Has your child had self defense or “stranger danger” training at school?
  • Do you and your child both have access to a cell phone and do those phones have good reception at WDW?
  • Has your child been to WDW before? Are they familiar with the surroundings?
  • How far away will you be?
  • How long will you be separated?
  • In a hotel, what floor are you on? Where are the fire exits?
  • Does your child understand when, and when not, to open a hotel room door?
  • Will your child be with siblings/cousins/friends? What is the maturity level of those individuals?
  • If siblings are together, do they get along well?
  • Can your child be relied upon not to lose things like money or park tickets?
  • What time of day is it?
  • Does your child understand the Disney transportation system?

  • Does your child behave well at home?
  • Can your child ask for directions from an appropriate source?
  • Is your child able to identify cast members?
  • Have you established contingency plans in case the unexpected occurs (a ride breaks down, a phone doesn’t work, etc.)?
  • Does your child have any medical issues that need monitoring?
  • Are there weather issues that might impact your child (impending storm, etc.)?
  • Does the child understand how to call you from a hotel phone or other non-cell phone? Do they have your cell phone number memorized?
  • Does your child understand how/when to call 911?
  • Does your child have your hotel and room number information memorized?
  • Does the child understand your rules about water safety?
  • Does the child understand your rules about food consumption?
  • Does a child alone in a hotel room have sufficient material to be entertained in a contained environment (engaging TV, books, snacks, etc.)?

The answers to these and a multitude of related questions will influence your decision on whether to allow your child some time alone at Walt Disney World. For some families, a child as young as seven or eight might be ready to go on a ride alone. For other families, a 16 or 17 year old might still need watchful attention at all times.

Practice Makes Perfect

In between constant supervision and a totally solo trip to the parks, there are a number of intermediate steps on the road to a child’s independence at Walt Disney World. Here are some milestones along the way:

  • Allow your child to go into a public restroom while you wait outside.
  • Allow your child to go on a ride alone while you wait nearby and are visible (Dumbo, Teacups, Carousel, etc.)
  • Allow your child to go on a ride alone while you wait nearby and are not visible (Small World, Buzz Lightyear, etc.)

    Allow your child to go on a thrill ride alone

  • Allow your child to get food at the pool snack bar alone.
  • Allow your child to eat or shop in a theme park or your hotel alone.
  • Allow your child to go to another area of a theme park while you are also in the park.
  • Allow your child to set and follow through on a specified meeting time and place in the park.
  • Allow your child to stay in the hotel room during the day while you are in another part of the hotel.
  • Allow your child to stay in the hotel room in the evening while you go to a restaurant at a different hotel.
  • Allow your child to return from a park to your hotel on their own, or vice versa.
  • Allow your child to go to a park on their own for a few hours during the day.
  • Allow your child to stay at a theme park in the evening while you return to the hotel.

Each of these steps gives a different degree of freedom that may feel more or less comfortable given your unique situation. You can use them as building blocks on the road to theme park independence. At each step, stop and assess how comfortable both you and your child are with more separation. If there is any anxiety, then take a step back or wait until your next trip before trying again.

In every case, be sure to discuss contingency planning with your child. For example, several of the restrooms at Walt Disney World have multiple entrances. Would your seven-year-old know what to do if she accidentally chose the wrong one to leave through? If a ride breaks down and someone is delayed or a cell phone battery fails, do you have a fail safe meeting time and place? A few minutes of advance planning can go a long way to making sure everyone has a positive experience.

What have I done?

While each family is different, I personally started letting my daughters go alone into a restroom or onto a ride when they were about eight years old. We’ve gone through several of the steps above and are now at the stage where my 11-year-old twins have stayed alone in our hotel room while I went to the resort’s quick service restaurant for a few minutes. Our 14-year-old has been allowed to explore Epcot alone for a few hours during the day. We have also allowed her to leave the Magic Kingdom and take the monorail on her own back to our room at the Contemporary, texting us all the way. Other families might consider our timetable to be too restrictive or too permissive. Tell me what works for you…

UPDATE March 2013: Disney has changed its policy on allowing unaccompanied children in the parks.