Does it get any better than seeing the smile on a young child’s face as they walk through the entrance at Magic Kingdom® Park and see Cinderella Castle for the first time? For me it doesn’t. I have often told friends and family that when I retire from teaching, I’m going to become a street sweeper at the Magic Kingdom® Park just to see the look of pure joy and awe on the faces of the kids. My heart would be full every day!
One of my all-time favorite memories is when my own kids (back when one was in preschool and the other in kindergarten) had the chance to meet Disney princesses at a character dinner. I smile every time as I picture my son calling out to Jasmine, inviting her to eat with us!
The author and his family received a hosted trip to Walt Disney World® Resort to gather content for this article. All thoughts and opinions expressed are his own.
Now, planning a trip to Walt Disney World® Resort with preschoolers is a whole different ball game. But fear not! I've got some fantastic tips and tricks to make your planning and visit all the more magical for you and your little ones!
First off, did you know that there are over 80 attractions in the theme parks specifically designed with younger children in mind? From captivating shows to fabulous rides, and unforgettable encounters with beloved characters, there's a whole world of entertainment waiting to delight guests of all ages.
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If you are anything like me, you enjoy the amazing thrill rides that Walt Disney World has to offer. I recently got a chance to ride on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and the adrenaline is still pumping through me!
To make sure everyone in the family gets a chance to experience the thrills and chills of Walt Disney World, there's a terrific system called Rider Switch. So, here's the deal: Most preschoolers won't meet the height requirements for some of the attractions. But don't worry, Walt Disney World has your back! With Rider Switch, part of your party can stay behind with the little ones while the rest jump on those exhilarating rides. And when they return with huge smiles on their faces, you switch roles.
Walt Disney World even has a roller ride that gives your preschooler a chance to experience their first roller coaster! Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios® has just the right amount of dips and drops for little ones to test out thrill rides. I admit, even my 18 year-old daughter and I went on it five times in a row because it was exhilarating for us non-kids too!
The Extra Touches
Walt Disney World thinks of everything for preschoolers. They have Baby Care Centers in all four Theme Parks, which are convenient areas for peace and privacy. Need a quiet place to nurse your little one or change a diaper? They've got you covered. And just in case you accidentally left behind an essential item like wipes, juice, diapers, or sunscreen, fear not! They have a shop stocked with all the necessities. (Some items provided at an extra cost)
Let me share a heartwarming moment from our latest trip that left me teary-eyed. During one of our character visits, a member of our group had a two-year-old who was quite nervous about meeting Mickey Mouse. But guess what? Mickey, being the superstar he is, instantly sensed it and backed off, giving mom a chance to hold her little girl without worry. Slowly, Mickey made his way into view, one small step at a time, letting the little girl gradually warm up to him. And you know what? By the time Mickey was close enough, that same little girl was throwing up her arms wanting to hug him! Witnessing that gave me some warm fuzzies for sure.
Planning for Walt Disney World with Preschoolers with Disabilities: Magic for Everyone!
As someone who's been working in Special Education for the past 33 years, it is ingrained in me to check out how accessible and disability-friendly places are wherever I go.
Walt Disney World passes the test with flying colors! They are the epitome of a welcoming, accommodating, and inclusive environment for all, including guests with disabilities.
Mickey and the gang truly know how to make everyone feel right at home! In fact, while at Festival of the Lion King in Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, I happened to glance towards another section of the audience, and noticed a man and a woman using American Sign Language to interpret the show for guests with hearing disabilities. They were not just signing though, they were very much into the show! Their facial expressions and body movements both entertained guests, and helped the guests to better follow along with the show. It was yet another indication of Walt Disney World making sure all their guests are welcome.
Before your visit, I highly recommend chatting with a Cast Member to discuss any specific needs or concerns you and your family might have. Whether it's through an online chat or in-person at Guest Relations during your visit, they're there to help make your experience as magical as possible.
And let's not forget about the wealth of information about accommodations available on Walt Disney World's website. It's like having a personal guidebook right at your fingertips!
Let's dive into some key things to keep in mind when planning your visit with someone who has a disability:
Disney's Disability Access Service (DAS): This fantastic program is designed for guests with disabilities who may find it challenging to wait in the regular queues. With DAS, you can request return times for attractions based on the current standby list, allowing you to enjoy other experiences in the park instead of physically waiting in line. You can apply for DAS at Guest Relations once you're at one of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Or if you like to be prepared in advance, you can even chat with a cast member online to pre-register before your visit. Talk about convenience! More details here.
Take a Break in Style: We all know that Walt Disney World is an exciting adventure. For some guests, this can become overstimulating. That’s why the parks have designated break areas where guests with cognitive disabilities can take some time to relax and recharge (find details here). These havens are perfect for those who may need a moment to regroup before diving back into the fun. So, feel free to take a breather and enjoy the excitement at your own pace.
Mobility Matters: For guests with mobility concerns, Walt Disney World has got your back! Throughout the resort, you can rent wheelchairs and Electric Conveyance Vehicles (ECVs) to ensure you can explore the parks with ease. And to top it all off: most transportation systems on the property are also accessible, making it a breeze to move around and experience all the fun!
Furry Friends Are Welcome: Yes indeed — service animals are more than welcome at most locations in Walt Disney World Resort. They understand that these incredible animals provide crucial support, and they're ready to accommodate their needs too. For more information, visit here.
Now, let me share a personal note with you. I've had the pleasure of visiting Walt Disney World at various stages of my life — as an infant, tween, teen, college student, young adult with friends, and as a proud parent. Each visit has been filled with unforgettable moments.
I have to say though, there's something extra special about experiencing the magic with preschool-aged children. Trust me when I say that even though they're younger, they'll never forget that first character they meet. I still remember the overwhelming excitement of Snow White leaning over my stroller to greet me! It was a moment that I will always cherish. (I still love meeting characters!)
If you're on the fence about taking your preschooler to Walt Disney World, let me put those doubts to rest. Embrace this precious time in their lives and all that Walt Disney World offers to make the experience a memorable one for you and your preschooler!
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