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Parenting in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Taking a 1-Year-Old to Disneyland
I've received many comments and questions recently from families planning to take their 1-year-olds to Disneyland. So, as requested, here are some tips for taking a 1-year-old to Disneyland.

Many of you wondered if it was a good idea to take 1-year-olds to Disneyland. I think it is, but I also started taking my son to Disneyland from the time he was barely three weeks old.

Before you go, consider some of your objectives and plans are for your trip: Are you the type who wants to get on as many rides as possible? Do you like to go nonstop through your day? Are the faster and more adventurous rides high on your priority list? If so, consider finding a family member or friend to take care of your baby for the day while you enjoy yourself at Disneyland. This type of itinerary is ideal for many adults, but unrealistic with a 1-year-old.

Parents with 1-year-olds know that they require a little more time and attention than do older children and adults. This means you must plan for a slower pace. Mealtimes and bathroom breaks take longer, as does walking between rides. These are not complaints, mind you. I have always enjoyed taking my son to Disneyland. In fact, I find that the slower pace with him is a treat, not a burden. You do however, need to be aware of this time factor before your trip.

The Baby Care Center is a must-visit location for anyone with a baby or toddler. The center's cushioned changing tables are not only more comfortable than the restroom changing tables, but they are also larger, accommodating bigger, squirmy 1-year-olds nicely. The center sells many of the supplies you may need, including diapers, wipes, and diaper cream. If you bring prepackaged baby food or toddler meals, the center has a kitchen for you to heat them up in. Disneyland restaurants do not heat baby food nor bottles.

Strollers and diaper bags

Matthew models one of Disneyland's rental strollers
Matthew models one of Disneyland's rental strollers

Regular readers know I'm not a big fan of rental strollers. Disney allows visitors to bring their own strollers to the theme parks. The only restriction on strollers is that wagons are not allowed. I think 1-year-olds are still young enough that they're much better off with a stroller from home. One of the biggest reasons I use my own stroller is because it is easier to haul our stuff around with.

In addition to diapers, wipes, and rash cream, you should plan to pack spare clothes in case of diaper blow-outs or big food messes. Don't forget jackets and a blanket in case it gets cool after dark. Blankets are also good for covering the stroller if your baby decides to take a nap.

Also helpful are sippy cups or bottles, as well as baggies or containers filled with goodies such as cereal (like Cheerios), bananas and other fruit, animal cookies, Goldfish crackers, and small juice boxes. I packed snacks that were not only appropriate for my baby to eat, but were also available the instant he announced he was hungry.

Don't forget to bring along some children's pain reliever (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen), with a spoon or syringe for dispensing them. It's very convenient to bring your own over- the- counter medication if your little one is teething or has a fever. If you are caught unprepared, Central First Aid can give you a single dose of liquid children's acetaminophen every four hours.

Soon after Matthew turned 1, we learned that he was prone to febrile seizures. Although they are usually harmless and not uncommon in infants and toddlers, the first seizure came with very little warning, as is often the case. Because of this, I am now very diligent about treating him at the first sign of an elevated temperature, making sure his bottles of medicine are always in our diaper bag!

Plan naptime

When my son was 1, I could still get him to take a nap in his stroller. If you are blessed with such a child, I recommend finding a quiet corner, and settling your little one down to nap by covering the stroller with a blanket. Take the opportunity to either rest yourself, or enjoy some of the rides that your little one can't experience. (see sidebar.) If your child won't nap in your stroller, consider a trip back to your motel for the nap.

What 1-year-olds Can't Do

See the sidebar (at right) for attractions with age and height requirements at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In my opinion, very few attractions at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom are restricted. However in addition to height- restricted rides, parents of 1-year-olds should be cautious of some of the dark rides. At Disneyland, the Fantasyland dark rides can be very scary for young children. Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Enchanted Tiki Room also have elements that are dark, loud, and / or startling to young ones. If you're planning a trip to Orlando, Brian Bennett has compiled a list called Traveling With Kids - Attraction "Fear Factors" for Walt Disney World attractions.

Older children have less fear of characters
Older children have less fear of characters

Keep in mind that children under 3 are often wary of characters. Try to hold the child at your eye level and approach characters carefully. You may find that your child is willing to meet them, or you may quickly learn to stay away. My son would occasionally meet princesses because he could see their faces, and they were able to speak to him reassuringly. Right about the time he turned 1, however, he became very afraid of "head" characters, such as Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.

Rider Switch

Rider Switch is an option available for guests with family members who cannot or do not want to experience certain attractions. It is formally available at the rides with height, age, and / or health restrictions.

For example, there is a sign at the beginning of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR) queue showing you how tall you must be to ride it. A cast member (CM) stands next to this sign checking the heights of shorter guests. As the rest of our group gets in line, I would ask the CM for a "rider switch pass." Since this pass is good for two people, I could ask someone from the group to wait with me if I wanted.

The CM would then hand me a colored card with printed instructions, and probably direct me to a waiting area. While the group waits in the queue, Matthew and I might stay at the waiting area to watch the BTMRR trains rush by, or take a stroll around the area to enjoy watching ducks, street entertainment, or a nearby store. Matthew and I meet up with our group at the the ride exit, and it's now my turn to ride. If I didn't ask someone else to wait with me, I could take one lucky member of our group to ride again, this time with me. I would leave Matthew with our group, while the two of us enter the ride through the exit without waiting in line. When we approach the ride, I would give the rider switch pass to the CM, who shows us where to wait for the next train.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland
The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland

Technically, you should be able to ask for this option at any ride in the park. For example, although the Haunted Mansion has no formal restrictions, many young children are still too afraid to ride it. While you could ask the CMs at these unrestricted attractions, do not expect them to be prepared to offer or arrange for rider- switch. Since experienced CMs may be able to help, however, my philosophy is that it never hurts to ask (but don't be upset -- or rude -- if they say no).

There are still many things that 1-year-olds can see and do at Disneyland and other Disney parks. Mark Twain Riverboat, Disneyland Railroad, Casey Jr. Circus Train, King Arthur Carrousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and "it's a small world" are all classic favorites that my son has always enjoyed. Since I believe that 1-year-olds are always magical, taking them to Disneyland only intensifies the magic for me!

Wanted: Your questions and feedback! They will help me plan future columns! Write me at:

Magic: Year One

WHY A 1-year-old?

Did you ever notice that a 1-year-old is not quite a baby, but not quite a toddler? An infant is generally considered a child under 12 months old. Yet many 1-year-olds are not quite walking, so they are not really toddlers. They're still transitioning between baby food and adult food, and have not quite reached that period of rebellion, which seems to occur at around 18 months and last through age 3. (When Matthew was 1, he had not yet latched on to the word "no"... ah, I remember those days fondly.)

I focused on 1-year-olds in this column because so much of the email I receive has specifically asked about children 11 to 18 months old.

Although febrile seizures are common and usually benign, seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that your child has experienced one. Follow this link for more information about febrile seizures.


At Disneyland:

1-yr min. (w/adult): Autopia, Astro Orbitor (new version of TL Rocket Jets)

3-yr min.: Gadget's Go Coaster, Matterhorn Bobsleds

40-inch min. and 3-yr min. - Big Thunder Mtn. RR, Space Mtn., Splash Mtn., Star Tours

48-inch max. and 3-yr. min. - Chip 'n' Dale Treehouse

46-inch min. - Indiana Jones Adventure, Rocket Rods

52-inch max. and 3-yr. min. - Goofy's Bounce House

52-inch min. and 7-yr. min. - Autopia (child alone)

At Disney's California Adventure:

40"-- Jumpin' Jellyfish

42"-- Grizzly River Run
Mulholland Madness
Soarin' Over California
parts of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

48"-- California Screamin'
Orange Stinger

52"-- Maliboomer

At Walt Disney World:

This list is obviously much longer than the Anaheim list.

Click on the following link to view Brian Bennett's Traveling with Kids - Attraction Age and Height Requirements for WDW.


Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.

Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.

Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.

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