Disney brings out the kid in all of us. Whether your first visit to Disney World is as a small child or as grandparent, there is plenty to do and to see. But what is the perfect age to take kids for the very first time? Preschool age! At that age kids get so excited so seeing Disney through their eyes is pure magic.
10 Things To Do With Your Preschooler At Disney
Meeting Mickey Mouse – The biggest wow for preschoolers is the moment they meet Mickey Mouse (or their favorite Disney character) for the first time. Character meet and greets are available throughout Disney World, but the best way to meet characters is through character dinning. This gives kids the opportunity to meet several characters all together. Plus everyone has to eat anyway, so character dinning is a great way to make the most of your time and do two things at once.
There are 15 character dinning locations at Disney World. Inside the Magic Kingdom you can meet Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace and Cinderella and other princesses at Royal Table. My preschooler was in awe meeting her favorite Disney Junior characters at Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios. And Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort is our all-time favorite character restaurant.
A Magical Haircut – Only Disney could take an ordinary chore like a haircut and turn it into something special. Nestled in the corner of Main Street, U.S.A. is Harmony Barber Shop where kids of all ages can enjoy a hair cut and a possible serenade from the Dapper Dans. If you have held off giving your preschooler a haircut (like my three and a half year old), then nothing tops a first haircut at Disney! The special cut comes with a First Haircut certificate and a pair of “First Haircut” ears (all this for $19!). The photo opps are non-stop. And as an added bonus all haircuts can be completed with glitter, which makes this an inexpensive alternative to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. (Regular kid cuts $15 and adult cuts are $19.)
A Souvenir Tradition – When kids walk into a store at Disney, they want everything. One way to reign in the gimmies (and the expense) is to focus your child on a specific collection. Start a tradition of collection one series of Disney merchandise like pins, Vinylmations, Tsum Tsums, a charm bracelet, etc. then everyone knows they will get one item to add to their collection. Kids will look forward to adding to their collection and it becomes a family tradition.
Make time for the Parades – Parades are great fun for preschoolers and Disney knows how to do parades like no one else. Because you will want to arrive early for a front row seat, parades are a great chance to have a snack and sit for a spell. Then when the music stars, watch as your child dances, waves and jumps up and down as colorful floats filled with favorite Disney characters wind their way down the street. For mom and dad, the costumes and pageantry of the Festival of Fantasy parade are truly beautiful.
A Princess or Prince Makeover – For princesses ages 3+ a makeover at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique is an absolute joy. The royal treatment includes hair, makeup, nails and lots of Pixie Dust. In addition to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique inside Cinderella’s Castle, there is also a Bibbity Bobbity Boutique located in Downtown Disney.
Here’s a tip, after getting made up at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique in Downtown Disney, princesses are invited to have professional photos taken at the nearby PhotoPass studio. Here’s the best part, since it is a PhotoPass studio all images go into your PhotoPass account. So if you bought the Memory Maker already… LOTS of adorable pictures of the newly crowned princess for no additional cost.
BTW – Boys are welcome for prince makeovers – complete with a sword and shield too!
Pint-Sized Thrills – While some of the big roller coasters are out of range for little ones, there are still great rides for thrill-seeking preschoolers. In addition to Goofy’s Barnstormer, the new Mine Train coaster has a height minimum of 38 inches, which means my daughter has been riding it since she turned three. Just tall enough to ride, it is her favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom.
(Let’s play spot Sissy in both pictures – once with dad and once with mom!)
Of course, old favorites like the carousel and Dumbo are a must for ever visit.
Take a Break from it all – One of the hidden gems in the Magic Kingdom is Tom Sawyer’s Island. Just a boat ride away from Frontierland, Tom Sawyer’s Island offers kids a place to run, jump, climb and play — free style. It is a giant playground filled with caves and bridges to explore. Shaded by a thick layer of trees, it is a great place for a picnic. Yes, a picnic in the middle of one of the busiest theme parks in the world, but you have to plan ahead. It is the perfect place to let preschoolers, who are tired of waiting patiently in line, burn off some energy at their own speed.
A Souvenir Scavenger Hunt – Another way to keep little ones from wandering into every store with wide eyes is to distract them with a mission. Located throughout the Disney parks and resort areas are old fashion penny-press machines. Each penny-press machine offers several themed flattened penny designs for $.51. Since no two machines have the same design it becomes a scavenger hunt to find the next machine and collect a new design. Tip – you can buy a book to hold your pressed pennies for $8.95 throughout the Disney parks.
Mickey Ice Cream Bar – It isn’t a trip to Disney without the quintessential Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Sure your preschooler might end up covered in a mess of sticky chocolate and ice cream, but that’s half the fun! Mickey Ice Cream Bars and other assorted frozen novelties are a great way to cool off on a hot day at Disney and since you will find ice cream stands around every turn, there is no point in resisting this one-of-a-kind sweet treat.
The Final Bang – A full day at Disney is as exhausting for parents as it is their preschoolers, but Disney’s fireworks displays are not to be missed. My biggest tip for families staying on Disney property is to take advantage of the hotel and take a much-needed break mid day. Not only does it get you out of the heat of the day, but letting preschoolers nap frees them up for late night fireworks and nighttime parades. The dazzling lights of the Main Street Electrical Parade are a family favorite, and there is something truly magical about Disney after dark.
There is much to love about Disney at any age. But I can’t imagine missing it with a preschooler. Sure, there are moments… But the joy and wonder in her eyes makes it all worth it.