Planning a Day in the Magic Kingdom with Toddlersby Kylie Chamberlin, contributing writer
The Magic Kingdom is home to many of the most iconic images and rides in Walt Disney World, as well as many of the typical memory-creating locations for young children—such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, parades, or the a first haircut on Main Street, U.S.A. Because of this, the Magic Kingdom is my favorite park to visit with very young children. However, there is no denying that toddlers have their own unique set of needs, and when planning a vacation with them, there are several factors that can help make your day a success. You should have a plan, but remember to stay flexible enough to discover the magic along the way.
One of the main things to remember is always be prepared. Make sure to pack a bag with sunscreen, a change of clothes, diapers and wipes, sippy cups, and a hat or sunglasses, as well as anything else your child typically needs for a day out. If you have a child who is very attached to a stuffed toy or blanket, vacation is not the time to wean them off of it. Throw it in the bag, along with anything else your child needs to be comfortable. Pack the essentials, and try to keep in mind that the park has plenty of water and entertainment.
Another thing to consider is a stroller. I've taken many trips to the parks, and the walking has even worn down a 12-year-old who played softball and ran track and field. Even if you have an older toddler who is a confident walker, the parks at WDW are a huge and busy place. A stroller is a must. Rentals at the Magic Kingdom are typically less than $15 a day, and are a little less if you pre-pay throughout the stay. Consider cost and convenience when thinking about bringing your own or renting. A nice thing about renting is that you don't have to worry about dealing with a bulky stroller on Disney transportation. If you are park-hopping, just show your receipt to the stroller rental station at the next park, and they will give you one.
WDW offers a great resource for families called the Baby Care Center, with one located in each of the parks. The area offers a space for nursing and pumping mothers; changing tables and potties; a food prep and eating space with a microwave oven, oven and a sink; couches and a television for taking a rest; and a store that sells necessities, such as diapers, sunscreen, baby and toddler clothing, formula, and over-the-counter medicine. This is an excellent resource, just in case there are sudden teething pains or if a little rest in some air conditioning is what your little one needs to calm down. In the Magic Kingdom, the Baby Care Center is located down a small pathway between Casey's Corner and the Crystal Palace, right next to the first-aid station.
One thing I've always found helpful when planning a day at the Magic Kingdom with toddlers is to consider the toddler's typical schedule. What time does she normally nap? When does he usually have a morning snack? Is there a time of day when he tends to be a little more grumpy? Plan your day around their schedule to maximize the enjoyment of your whole family. It's tempting to try to "get your money's worth" by marathoning the day, but I have seen way too many frazzled parents accompanied by screaming, over-heated, over-tired toddlers. No one in that group ever seems like they are having a magical day or really getting their money's worth. It's OK if you need to plan to spend the morning in the park, eat lunch, head back to the hotel for some naptime and rest, and then go back to the park. I recommend it. Even older children can get cranky and overstimulated without a break. If you really want to stay in the park all day, consider planning some calmer and more low-key activities after lunch, like visiting the Baby Care Center, sitting and watching the ducks by Casey's Corner, resting on one of the scenic benches near Cinderella Castle (bonus, they are usually in the shade), and maybe a few heat-busting activities, such as playing in the Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak.
Toddlers will have no end of activities in Magic Kingdom. Most toddlers appreciate the parades and some might enjoy the firework shows (if they stay awake that late). If your toddler is antsy about loud noises, consider bringing ear protectors, which are easily accessible online. In Fantasyland, toddlers can enjoy the attractions with no height restrictions: Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Many Adventures Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan's Flight, "it's a small world," The Mad Tea Party, the Walt Disney World Railroad, and Prince Charming Regal Carousel. Older toddlers who are at least 35-inches tall and enjoy a little more daring activities could try the Barnstormer. Enchanted Tales with Belle and Mickey's Philharmagic are shows/interactive shows that toddlers may also enjoy (although they will need to be able to wear the 3-D glasses to get the full Philharmagic experience).
In Adventureland, fans of Jake and the Neverland Pirates might enjoy watching shows with Captain Jack Sparrow. Magic Carpets of Aladdin is also a great choice for toddlers. While Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and the Enchanted Tiki Room have no height limit, some toddlers might be scared of the elements in these rides, such as darkness, loud noises and (for the latter two) realistic Audio-Animatronic animals. Toddlers might like to explore the Swiss Family Treehouse, but it is a lot of walking or climbing, so be prepared to have to carry younger ones.
Frontierland has the Walt Disney World Railroad, which is sure to delight many toddlers. It also has the Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island, which is a great place to let antsy toddlers walk and climb with parents.
The Haunted Mansion, in Liberty Square, also has no height restrictions. However it has darkness and many other spooky elements that might scare toddlers. There is also the Liberty Square Riverboat, which can be very exciting for toddlers. The Hall of Presidents is an option for all heights, however, the subject matter will most likely go over the heads of most toddlers.
Tomorrowland offers many options for toddlers. While they might not yet have much skill, many toddlers will enjoy shooting lasers at target in Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. The Astro Orbiter is another classic for toddlers who enjoy Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Driving a real car at Tomorrowland Speedway is exciting for older toddlers who are at least 32-inches tall. The PeopleMover is another fun ride for toddlers, but does contain some darkness. The Carousel of Progress is a great option, both for its air conditioning and catchy song. As for the Monster's Inc Laugh Floor, toddlers might not understand the whole show, but most (and especially Monsters University fans) will love the laughter.
It's also important for families to remember that using the Rider Switch program is an option. If family members want to ride a bigger ride, or one that might be too frightening for their child, members of the party can take turns riding the ride, or waiting with the toddler without having to wait in line twice. It's a great option to make sure everyone gets to enjoy what they want on their Disney must list (it also makes it fun for older children who get to ride an attraction twice). I've done this numerous times with children who don't want to ride certain rides and it is an easy process.
There really is something especially magical about bringing toddlers to the Magic Kingdom. With a little flexibility, and a general plan, you and your toddler can have a truly magical day and enjoy creating some of their first Disney memories.