Activities to Prepare Young Kids for Disney World
Prepare young kids for Disney World with some fun pre-trip activities.
The Disney magic doesn’t just start when you reach the parks. In the months leading up to the trip, spark and build the magic by involving kids in planning and activities to get them more familiar with the characters and Parks. We use books, games, music, maps, ride videos, and crafts to get the kiddos comfortable with and excited for our Disney adventures.
Check out how we prepared ourselves and our young kiddos for our 2 Disney World trips…
Our Prep Tips
Research and Plan
As we are Disney novices when it comes to touring plans and figuring out Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, we relied on the expertise of our favorite Disney blogs: Disney Tourist Blog and WDW Prep School. Also, we talked to people who’ve been to Disney World – we’ve gotten some of our best tips and recommendations from friends.
After considering recommendations for touring plans and itineraries, we planned each day based on ride height requirements, our kiddos’ attraction preferences, and our tolerance for running around. On our first trip, with 2 kiddos under 4, we kept a leisurely pace and moved, as much as possible, in a circle around the parks. More recently, we Rope Dropped each day and tried some of the bigger rides. My kiddos loved Smuggler’s Run, Slinky Dog, Splash Mountain, and Mine Train. We can’t wait for our next trip!
Hoping for the best, but planning for a mishap, I added my phone number to each kid. I decided to use these plastic write-on key tags and tied them to each kiddo’s shoe. They’re weatherproof and didn’t bother the kids at all. We practiced how to show someone where to find mom’s phone number.
Prepare The Stroller
There are roughly a zillion dark strollers at Disney World. Adding to the confusion, cast members rearrange the stroller parking lots and even move strollers to a different area. To help us identify our strollers, we decorated the handles with bright colored, plastic leis and outdoor ribbon from our local Dollar Tree.
There are few things more frustrating than frantically searching for a stroller, in a crowd, with tired kiddos. We really appreciated this quick, inexpensive trick, which made it much easier to find our stroller after a cast member re-park. We decided to take a double stroller on our second Disney World trip with a 4- and 6-year old. Even though they are old enough to walk with us, the stroller allowed us to move faster at times (getting into and out of the parks) and contain the kiddos when helpful (airport security line or for a rest).
While at your local Dollar Tree, check for Disney-themed stickers and activities to use while traveling to Disney World. We also grabbed some little notebooks to occupy the kids while waiting in line, and glow wands and glow sticks, much cheaper to purchase in advance than in the parks.
Prepare Young Kids for Disney World With Projects
Make a DIY Disney Autograph Book
Our DIY autograph and photo books are near the top of my kiddos favorite souvenirs from our trip to Disney World. Before heading out for our Disney Adventure, we prepared a set of blank note cards to capture the Disney Characters’ signatures. The kids loved meeting the characters, getting their signatures, and taking a photo.
When we returned home, we combined the signatures and photos into a personalized autograph book. This is perfect for kiddos not yet able to read, as they can see the character photo right beside the signature.
Make a Countdown Calendar
About a month before our trip, I printed a blank calendar and outlined our trip, labeling our flight and park days. The kids added stickers to help identify the park: Mickey/Minnie for Magic Kingdom, Frozen for Epcot, Lion King for Animal Kingdom, and Toy Story/Star Wars for Hollywood Studios.
Crossing off and counting days became part of our morning routine. The calendar made it easy for the kids to answer their own question of “How many more days before Disney?”
Check out some of our favorite Raya and Encanto inspired projects:
- Raya and the Last Dragon: Sisu-Themed Birthday
- Raya and the Last Dragon: Sisu-Inspired Dress
- Robin Hood Themed Birthday
- Encanto: DIY Isabela Dress
- Encanto: Foam Board Casita
Prepare Young Kids for Disney World by Getting Familiar With the Parks
Watch Ride Videos
Depending on your kiddo’s personality, the first time on a ride may be surprising and fun, or scary and uncomfortable. My kiddos fit into the latter category. To try to fend off nerves and anxiety, the kids watched Point-of-View (“POV”) videos of the rides, some favorites are from 4KWDW and Document Disney. We only watched rides at their height requirement. Some rides we previewed first and decided our kiddos weren’t up for the experience, yet. We didn’t show those videos.
Knowing what to expect made the kids much more comfortable during the ride. They knew that any “suspenseful” bits were short-lived and we could prepare them for sudden dips or noises. The rides lost none of their magic, even though the kids watched them on a video.
Print and Laminate Park Maps
As I was making our touring plans, I found it really helpful to refer to a park map so I knew approximate distances between attractions and how to get from one place to the next. I ended up printing out the park maps and showing them to the kids. They loved looking at the layout and tracing paths around the park. I eventually color printed and laminated the maps. We also laminated maps we picked up at the Parks.
After we watched a ride video, we found the ride on the map and talked about how to get there. We used the maps for lots of chatting about distances, directions, and planning a route. The kids enjoyed tracing routes with dry erase markers, which we easily cleaned off the laminated maps. We also had fun with transportation maps.
The maps also provided an opportunity to talk about the various height requirements and what we could and could not ride. On our first trip, we weren’t all tall enough for Slinky Dog Dash and we explained very clearly we wouldn’t be going on that ride. When we arrived at Toy Story Land and saw the adorable Slinky Dog, the kids understood that wasn’t a ride for us and were barely disappointed.
Prepare Young Kids for Disney World by Listening to Music
Disney World is filled with music! We often listen to movie soundtracks and enjoy hearing the songs on the rides, parades, shows, and fireworks.
Before our Disney World trip, we also listened to songs unique to the parks. From the music at each park entrance, to shows, to rides, it was fun for the kids to hear songs they recognized. Many music services offer Disney World Park playlists, individual songs, and albums. My kiddos’ favorites are The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room, Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing, It’s a Small World, and Grim Grinning Ghosts.
Read Books to Get Familiar With Disney Stories and Characters
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When we told the kids about our first Disney World trip, we gave them a Disney Pixar Character Encyclopedia so they could learn more about their favorites and discover new characters from movies we hadn’t yet watched.
This quickly became a favorite book and we added the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia to our library as well.
Another favorite book is Disney Maps: A Magical Atlas of the Movies We Know and Love. This is a gorgeous book with maps of Disney and Pixar movies along with fun facts and characters.
The kids love exploring the worlds of their favorite movies and retelling the stories while tracking around the illustrated maps.
Books about the Disney movies or featuring Disney characters are seemingly limitless. Our local library is usually stocked with Disney books, but if a particular item isn’t available, the inter-library loan service has a pretty quick turn-around. We’ve also purchased some Little Golden books retelling the Disney movies as gifts for holidays before our trip: Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Small World, and Haunted Mansion.
One of our favorite Park pastimes is searching for Hidden Mickeys – the representations of Mickey placed in the attractions and structures. We borrowed these books from the library to make a list of Hidden Mickeys to watch out for: The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World, The Complete Walt Disney World Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys, Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Wal Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets. We’re such fans of Hidden Mickeys, we made Hidden Mickey Christmas ornaments!
Play Disney Games
From originals to classics with a Disney theme, there is no shortage of Disney board games. Our favorite are two “Eye Spy” type games; one with cards and one with a giant, gorgeous game board. The World of Disney Eye Found It game has a 6-foot game board covered with Disney characters and scenes. Players work together to search for objects while moving along the path. The Disney Eye Found It! Hidden Picture Card Game card game features Marvel or Disney Characters. Like the board game, players look for hidden objects. This was small enough, we brought it along to play on the airplane and in the hotel. There’s also a Marvel Version.
If you have any tips to share for how you prepare young kids for Disney World, please share them here!