I’ve heard it said and I’ve seen it happen. What do you do when you travel all the way to a Disney Park and your children freak out when they see Mickey Mouse in person? Not every child is comfortable meeting their favorites up close, but here’s some tips for introducing your kids to characters at Disney (and some alternatives if they don’t work!)
1. Prep them before you go.
My kids have always had a love of the Mouse, but we intentionally introduced a large stuffed Mickey to them before our travels to the parks. We’d make Mickey dance, give them hugs and let his nose be chewed and sucked on. We wanted our babies to see that he wasn’t just a cartoon and could be physically touched. It worked, and our boys did the same things to real Mickey as they did with the stuffed version. Poor Mickeys nose was covered in slobber!
2. Warm them up from far away.
If you think your child may be nervous, don’t immediately hop in the line up to get a photo. Stand off to the side and watch how they react as the characters meet other kids. If they seem interested and eager, join the line up. If they seem nervous, give them some more time before forcing a photo. Another tip? Go with face characters first! Many kids will be more comfortable with a Princess than a costumed character.
3. Be in the photo with your child.
My oldest is not shy and has no problem running to a character without me. My youngest is much more nervous and needs me with him constantly. Go slow! You can’t expect your child to walk up to a big furry stranger they’ve never met and smile nicely for a photo, so keep your expectations at a minimum. Let them see you or an older sibling interacting with Minnie Mouse and Princess Ariel, and stay by their side the entire time if it’s needed. You won’t regret having photos of yourself and your child anyway!
3. Book a character breakfast for later in the trip.
Some people suggest doing this first for meeting characters, but because it’s not a cheap experience, I’d advise you to wait until your kids have seen Pluto and Donald from far away before having them show up at your table. A character breakfast is a wonderful way to get in some candid moments with your favorites, but it can be very overwhelming for a child who has never dealt with costumed creatures. By warming them up slowly and waiting for the dining experience, you are more likely to have your children excited verses scared.
4. Stick with parades.
Some children will never be comfortable with character interactions, but don’t let that get you down. Your family will still be able to enjoy this side of the park by attending the parades! Grab a snack, sit on the sidewalk and wave (from a comfortable distance) as the fab five, princesses and villains stroll by. The parades were a highlight for my shy child and he wasn’t the slightest bit nervous sitting on my lap.
Those are my tips for introducing your kids to characters at Disney – I hope they help! Remember, you know your children better than anyone else, so only you can decide how to proceed. Now get out there and make some magical memories with your family and friends!