As someone who is an obvious Disney fan, I get a lot of different people at work and elsewhere asking me for advice and tips for their vacations to Disney. One of the questions I get quite a bit is the one dealing with, “How soon is too soon to take your child to Walt Disney World?”. If you ask around, there are pretty much 2 different schools of thought. On one side of the aisle, you have people, like me, who love the Disney parks, think it is the most magical place in the world, and it is never too soon to take your kids. My wife and I have been taking both of our kids to the parks since they were 6 months old, and we’ve never regretted it. Then, you have another camp of people who see taking a vacation to Disney with your infant or toddler as a waste of time and money and will be more of a hassle than it is a vacation. I still stand by my theory that it is never too early to take your child to the parks, and here are a few reasons why.
1. They might not remember it – BUT YOU WILL!
One of the most common reasons I hear for not taking young children to Disney is that they’re too young to remember it. That may be true, however if you take lots of photos and bring back things to remember your trip by, you will remember those trips and look back fondly on those precious moments. Take pictures in front of iconic places like Cinderella Castle so they can look back on those photos one day and see that they were there when they were young. Take them to character meet and greets. The characters are amazing with young children! If the child is afraid or skittish, they pick up on that right away and encourage you to hold your child while they stand from a comfortable distance for the photo. Stop by Guest Relations and get a “First Time Visitor” button or their very first pair of mouse ears with their name embroidered on the back as a memento of their trip. We still have my son’s first pair of mouse ears, and they did the embroidery for us for free, since it was his first pair!
2. It’s good for early childhood development.
Now, let me say up front that I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, but I do know that a baby’s brain is being fed by each of the 5 senses as it develops throughout the early stages in life. The parks are full of colors, sunshine, beautiful scenery, music, and smells. It could just be me, but I always felt like my son developed a little bit more after each of his first several trips to Walt Disney World. For example, we are playful parents and try to tickle our kids pretty much from birth, but the first time HE ACTUALLY TRIED TO TICKLE US was at our resort on one of our Disney trips. He also seemed to understand and to be able to communicate a little bit more after each of those trips. Additionally, the first time he actually slept for 8 hours straight was on his first trip to Walt Disney World. Trust me, he’s 5 now and I still remember that beautiful, glorious evening.
3. There are PLENTY of rides they can ride even before the age of 3.
It’s no secret that the best park to take young children to is Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, if you’re on the west coast. But even with all the attractions geared toward younger kids, I still have parents ask me if their infant or toddler will be able to ride much there. The answer is YES! To name a few, I have taken our babies on Pirates of the Caribbean, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Dumbo, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Jungle Cruise, and many more. Even at the other parks, I’ve taken our kids on Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. If there’s not a height requirement for it, your child can ride it.
4. There’s no more baby-friendly place in the world than a Disney theme park.
Disney theme parks were created as a place where the entire family could go to have fun, and Disney has continued to operate around that idea for over 60 years. Every restroom has a child changing station in it. Doorways are easy to get through, even with a double stroller. Dining locations have kid-friendly offerings like chicken nuggets and grilled cheese, but they also offer healthy sides like yogurt, apples, grapes, apple juice, and milk. To top it all off, each one of the theme parks has a Baby Care Center for parents to use free of charge. These centers are air conditioned, quiet places where mothers can go to nurse, change their babies, or even just use them to get out of the heat and overwhelming crowds. They have TV’s playing Disney movies, and they even offer essentials, in case you forgot them, like diaper cream, baby food, and formula.
5. It’s a great way to continue that early childhood bond with your kids.
One of the things I have always loved about our trips to Disney with our kids is the strong family bond we get while we’re on vacation. Disney is a place where you can go and you have nothing else to do besides just spending time together for the entire day, each day of your trip. There’s no laundry to fold, no dinner to cook, no work to be done, no appointments to rush off to, and nothing to clean. It’s literally just you and your family waking up, going to the park, and spending the entire day together until you go to bed at night. I’m a busy dad and most days I struggle to fit everything into my day, while also giving an appropriate amount of attention to my family. But when we’re down in Walt Disney World, whether it’s for a week or just a day trip, I feel such a strong bond between my family and I, because we’re all in a place we want to be and none of us have anywhere or anything else that’s pulling us in a different direction.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there won’t be some frustrating moments as you’re navigating the parks with your young child. Young children, especially infants, will dictate what you’re going to be able to do in the parks and the pace that you’re going to do it in. I always tell parents taking their kids to Disney for the first time to think of it as a totally different kind of trip than going without kids. There are other tips, that I’ll go into at a later date, which can help you deal with this a little more effectively, but ultimately, you need to go in with an easygoing mindset. If you go into it with the expectation that you’re going to do whatever attractions you’re able to do and just enjoy spending the day together in the parks as a family, it will be a worthwhile trip that you will be glad you took for years to come.