Disneyland is the most iconic family vacation. I had never been before, but longed to go since I was a small child. After our son was born, people told us to wait until he was 5 or 8 or even 10 before taking him. However, when we were looking for a family vacation destination that was a short flight from Seattle, Disneyland kept coming up. So, we threw caution to the wind and booked our tickets.
We had about a month between when we decided to take a vacation to Disneyland and when we were actually going. It was in this time that we realized our 2-year-old son might not recognize characters at Disneyland and that really bummed us out. Part of the fun of traveling for me is preparing for the trip, so I was determined to prep my son in all things Disney.
7 Ways to Prep Your Toddler for Disneyland:
- Watch Disney Movies. This may seem like a no-brainer. The important thing is to figure out what rides or activities (like Character Dining) you are planning on doing and making sure you show your child movies involving those specific characters. We knew we were going to Cars Land, so we watched Cars and Cars 2 multiple times and it did make our experience there even more fun, especially when we got to meet Lightening McQueen and Mater!
- Watch Mickey and Minnie Mouse Clips. Since these are the main characters at Disneyland and they are everywhere, it’s nice for your child to understand that they are a big deal. I found a few vintage clips of Mickey Mouse online and would show them to my son on my phone when he needed a distraction. We also found some compilations of Mickey and Friends on Netflix and that gave our son a great overview of the Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto. He really recognized them when we got to Toon Town and was excited to meet Mickey in person!
- Buy Disney Clothing. I ended up getting my toddler several Mickey shirts, a hat and pajamas a couple of weeks before the trip. He was so excited to see them and it became a game for him to spot Mickey Mouse on his clothing and on other people. This was fun when we got to the park and he was pointing non-stop at people’s clothing shouting “Mickey!” or “Goofy!” This really played into the magic and excitement of being at Disneyland.
- Listen to Disney Songs. Again, keep in mind the rides you are planning on doing. Many of them play a well-known song from the movie. The Teacups play “Mad Tea Party” and Peter Pan’s Flight plays “You can fly, you can fly, you can fly!” Some rides like It’s a Small World have their own theme music and are easily recognizable.
- Watch YouTube Videos of the Rides. My toddler is scary good at maneuvering YouTube to watch videos of trains. Somehow he found a video of the Casey Jr. Circus Train and he was entranced. So, I started pulling up videos of other toddler-friendly rides at Disneyland to gauge his reaction. This helped me figure out which rides he’d like and which he wasn’t that interested in.
- Hit the Dollar Store. I found soft-cover Disney books (Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, etc) as well as hard-cover books about Mickey and Minnie Mouse. These were great as bedtime stories and helped my son identify characters and give some insight on their personalities. They also had Disney coloring books, stickers, crayons, activity books, figurines and more! These were great to take on the airplane and have on-hand in the park so we could distract our son in line.
- Disney Plushies. I was nervous that my toddler might get scared of the characters at the character meals. I was right. We bought him a plush of the main characters of the Character Dining experiences. We gave them to him ahead of time so he would not only be comfortable and recognize the character. It also gave him something to use to interact with the character. By the end of the trip, he was much more comfortable being around them and still raves about high-fiving Goofy and Minnie Mouse kissing him.