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Doing Walt Disney World with a Toddler

By Anna Totty, PassPorter Guest Columnist

You've done the advanced preparation, made stroller decisions, got your bag packed and you're at the park. What do you do next?  

Locate the Baby Care Centers -- Pick up a map at the entrance and locate the Baby Care Center(s). They will be a great retreat for you. They have changing tables, rocking chairs, and if you've left something behind or run out of diapers, the center will have exactly what you need. An added bonus is that they are air conditioned so you can get out of the heat for awhile. The Baby Care Center will also be your best friend if you are potty training your child.

The Baby Care Centers have small toddler-size potties that don't flush automatically, which are great for potty-training toddlers. All the other restrooms have automatic-flush toilets and they nearly ruined our first trip for our youngest. She's small and every time she wiggled, the toilet flushed, loudly. She was terrified and refused to use the bathroom anywhere but in the hotel room. She still asks if the toilet is like Disney's every time we go to a new bathroom. But if you can't make it to the special potties at the Baby Care Center and have to use a regular bathroom, try this trick. Just cover the flush sensor with your hand or with a small Post-It note until your child is finished so it doesn't flush until your little one is done.

Baby Swap -- Now, you're ready for the rides. Do you have older kids who want to ride Space Mountain but your younger one is still too small? Disney has an answer. All of the rides that have height requirements also have a baby swap option. What does this mean? One parent can ride Splash Mountain while the other one waits with the baby. Then, the second parent can ride while the first parent waits with the baby. Your older kids will love baby swap. Disney wants to make sure everyone has a great trip so no one has to ride alone. The older kids will get to ride with Dad and then ride again with Mom, too. That's right; the older kids get to ride twice at the baby swap rides.

One thing to keep in mind with the baby swap is that all of the rides handle it differently. For example, at Kali River Rapids we were able to take our sleeping baby in her stroller through the FASTPASS line to a special waiting area with benches just for people using the baby swap option. At Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, however, the parent waiting with the baby is given a pass like a FASTPASS and waits outside of the ride until the first parent comes out. Always tell the first cast member you come to at each ride that you want to do the baby swap and they will tell you how to handle it.

Just for Little Kids -- There are also some special things that small ones can do while waiting for the bigger kids to ride the big rides. For example, if some of you are riding Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom, the others can take advantage of the toddler-size playground located near the entrance to Splash Mountain, hop on the train at the nearby station and ride the complete loop around the park, or go see the Country Bear Jamboree. Is your group riding Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear? Then ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority with your toddler. It goes through both of these rides so you can play a game to see if you can find the rest of your group.

Do you want to explore the World Showcase at Epcot but you're scared your little one won't sit still? At the first country, locate the Kidcot Fun Stop - there's one in each country. One parent can stay with your toddler while she does the art project and makes her mask, while the other parent explores. Then you can swap. If you explore all of "the world" and your child gets stamps from all the Kidcot Fun Stops, she will get a free poster at the last stop. My girls loved doing the Kidcot Fun Stops. It really kept their interest.

Also in Epcot, are you doing Mission Space or Test Track? If so, there's a small playground in the Mission Space building and, to make it even better, it's air conditioned. Go through the regular queue and pre-show, and ask a cast member to show you the way. Are your older kids spending lots of time in Innoventions? There are a few computer games for smaller kids near the Toontown game.

Disney-MGM Studios is a little trickier. There's nothing for little ones to do near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror but wait outside in the sun. I suggest going back down Sunset Boulevard to the open air Sunset Ranch Market and buying a snack and waiting for the rest of the group there at a table in the shade. If you think the Studios Backlot Tour is too intense for your little one, you can wait at the very convenient Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground. When it comes to Star Tours, baby swap allows you to go all the way up to the ride and wait on a bench outside the entrance. While your child will have to wait, it will give you a nice break in the air conditioning.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is very toddler friendly. If your group wants to ride Primeval Whirl, the baby swap occurs at the ride platform at the loading gates. It has benches and is in the shade. If part of your group is riding Dinosaur or It's Tough to Be a Bug and you decide it's too much for your little one, your toddler will love the convenient Boneyard playground. It has toddler-sized slides in addition to the big climbing areas, and a huge, shaded sand box where you can dig up fossils.

Here are some other things you can do to make your trip less stressful and more memorable:
  • When checking in at your resort take advantage of the fact that only the person whose name is on the reservation has to stand in line. Take the kids to explore the hotel. Go look at the pool or some of the special things at your resort such as the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the giant paddlewheel at Port Orleans Riverside, etc.
  • Take things with you to the parks to keep your toddler happy while waiting. Some easy things to carry are pipe cleaners in multiple colors that can be used over and over to make anything your child imagines, bubbles, the small, travel-sized Magna-Doodles that can be attached to your stroller, Playdoh, etc. 
  • If you are going to Disney's Animal Kingdom and your child won't drink without a straw, make sure you bring a sippy cup. Straws are taboo at Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals, but disposable sippy cups work wonderfully well. 
Take a Break -- Finally, take a break in the afternoon. That advice is so basic, and it's also the advice that's most often ignored. If you are staying onsite, hop on Disney transportation and take the short ride back to the hotel. You will feel so much better, and your toddler will, too. If going back to the hotel isn't an option, find a quiet place at the parks to rest such as one of the chairs on Tom Sawyer's Island in the Magic Kingdom, or watch the boats and have a snack at the Cantina de San Angel at Epcot.

Your vacation is going to be great. Don't rush; take time to experience the magic of Disney. Your toddler won't care if she didn't get to ride everything in the park. Toddlers like the small things and Disney is a great place for making magical memories. We've found that it's often the small, unexpected things that children, especially toddlers remember most vividly. 

See the first part of this article: Taking Toddlers to Disney (Advance Preparation)

This article originally appeared in our July 7, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

Related Articles:

  • Preparing Kids for a Disney Vacation
  • Child Safety Seats
  • Driving with Kids
  • Flying with Kids
  • Overcoming Kids Fears
  • A Kid's Perspective

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    Updated 02/12/07 

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