No Kidding Around

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

No Kidding Around

"When's the best time to go?" "How long should I stay?" "Where should we stay?" These types of questions get asked by everyone who plans a Walt Disney World vacation. However for some people, another very important question—and one that affects the answers to all those other questions—needs to be considered, and that has to do with children.

The question, "When is the best age to bring children to Walt Disney World for the first time?" is one that has no right or wrong answer, because this area is so dependent upon each child... and parent.

The Perfect Disney Age

Sometimes the question is phrased in a rhetorical way, such as, "What is the perfect age to bring a child to Walt Disney World?" My answer? What do you think would be the perfect age to bring your child to Walt Disney World?

Let's face it—no one knows a child's temperament, patience, energy level, interests, tolerance for crowds, social skills, etc. better than the parents. Thus it is you who can best judge when that perfect age is for bringing your child to WDW.

However, let me add an important caveat here: While parents are the best judges for determining that best age, this is true only if they have previously visited Walt Disney World, preferably within the last five years.

Think back to your very first trip to Walt Disney World. Was it 100 percent as you expected it to be? Be honest. My guess is that 65 to 75 percent of your expectations were met. I'm sure you found yourself adjusting many things as you went along, such as how you toured the parks, and how you dealt with long lines, dining habits, transportation, fatigue, and so on.

Now imagine visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, and you are towing a small child. For the sake of argument, let's say the child is no more than 4 years old. Talk about adjustments.

Let's think about this for a second. How fast can you tour the parks? Would you go back to the hotel room for a mid-day nap or break? If so, should that convince you to stay on the property?

How about dining? Should you think about just quick service meals and forget table service, or try to have a nice sit-down meal everyday?

How about the attractions themselves? Will there be an issue with height requirements? Sure you can do the baby swap, but let's be honest here. How many people would want to experience a Walt Disney world attraction for the first time on a solo basis? That's not everybody's idea of fun.

These are all the issues that need to be looked at if anyone is thinking about visiting Walt Disney for the first time and especially if they are bringing a young child along.

The Inconvenience Factor

I've already mentioned several inconveniences you would experience when bringing a small child to Walt Disney World. Now let's look at this inconvenience factor from several perspectives starting with the child's point of view.

This is somewhat difficult because I'm trying to cover an age range of around 8 months to 5 years because that is the age range that I think most people take children for their first trip.

It's very hard to gauge a child's energy level. As adults we are subject to adrenalin rushes that can keep us going for an extended amount of time. I'm not so sure our children can call on adrenalin to get us through the day.

I'm not thrilled when I see a small child sleeping in a stroller. My first thought is that the child is uncomfortable, and the second thought is that the child should be taking a break back at the hotel room.

Let's look at attraction queues. How many children are patient enough to wait 60 minutes to ride Peter Pan's Flight? Not that many. Should we subject a 3-year-old to wait that long? I'm sure there are exceptions but the attention span of a 3-year-old is far less than that of a 7-year-old, so keep that in mind, too.

Hey, here's one that will open your eyes. Have you ever been in an attraction like Carrousel of Progress, Mickey's PhilHarmagic, American Adventure, or Muppets 3-D and you hear the very distinct sounds of a crying baby? It really adds to the attraction, doesn't it?

I would hope that any parent would know whether or not their child would be able to make it though any attraction like that without having an issue that would lead to disturbing others.

Hmmm, OK so we have now discussed how bringing a child to WDW too soon could be inconvenient for the child and of course the guests. How about the parents?

Besides child swapping, how about dining? There are some very nice restaurants around WDW and it's rather difficult to properly enjoy these dining options with a small child.

I remember a few years back eating in Chef Mickey's and noticing a couple with their 8-month-old child. The child would have no part of a stroller or high chair, so the couple had to take turns holding the child while eating. It was not a pretty sight because the child was constantly squirming. It was certainly not convenient for the couple to deal with their child while trying to eat.

The parents of small children must realize that there are some concessions that they have to make if they are bringing their young offspring to WDW.

How about nighttime spectaculars like fireworks? Some young children are frightened by fireworks. I remember witnessing a young boy, maybe about 3, screaming bloody murder during "Wishes!"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not here to try to convince anyone reading this that they should not bring their child to Walt Disney World. What I am trying to do is to point out potential issues that may arise, and hopefully get you to think very carefull7 about when your child is ready for Mickey and friends.

What about character meets? Is there anything more disappointing than bringing your child to see Mickey Mouse and then seeing your child scream in horror as Mickey appears as big as life? I've seen that happen many times and it's usually because the child is just a bit too young for this character interaction.

Consider the temperament, patience, and social skills of your child in deciding when your child is ready for a trip to WDW. A patient child is a rarity, and patience seems to be a trait that we all learn as we age. A 7-year-old, deemed in many circles as the perfect Disney age, seems to show signs of patience not seen in younger children.

Along with patience come the social skills needed to tour a Walt Disney World theme park. Children are always in learning mode, and it's possible that children who have had a year or two of school may have an easier time handling theme park protocol.

Remember, as the parent, you have the final say in all of this. This is your vacation and you know your family best and you you're your children best. We all want what's best for the whole family, after all shouldn't we do our best to make sure when our children visit Mickey for the first time, that when they leave, they will always?

...Remember the Magic?

Next Time

Somebody has to stand up for a very unappreciative aspect to some Walt Disney World attractions, and I'm just the man to do the job.

Until then, it's class dismissed.