If you know me at all, you know that I’m a long-time Disney fanatic. The obsession started when I was tasked with planning my family’s first trip to Walt Disney World when I was 8. Yes, I was a planner and a researcher even back then.
Many years later, I participated in the amazing Disney College Program and interned as a “showkeeper” at the then-Disney-MGM Studios. “Showkeeper” is a fancy word for janitor. So I pretty much scrubbed toilets and mopped up puke for a summer. And it was glorious, actually. I loved having the parks as my own personal playground (with free admission!) and making friends with fellow-Disney fanatics and future besties.
I’ve visited Walt Disney World (and the Disneylands in California and Paris) many, many times since then, and I’ve always loved helping my friends and family plan their Disney vacations. I think the next best thing to actually being at Disney is helping someone else plan their trip to Disney. It brings a little of that pixie dust back home 🙂
That’s why last year I decided to add “travel agent” to my resume and joined a group called The Mouse Detectives. I’m officially a travel agent specializing in planning and booking magical Disney vacations! Now I can enjoy helping even more families plan their ideal Disney trip, one that fits their family’s personalities and their budget.
I’ve had a few clients express interest in bringing their young toddlers to Disney, but they aren’t sure how to get their child “ready” for Disney at this young of an age. I myself must confess that we’ve booked our first trip as a family of 3 later this year, and I could not be more excited. Hazel will just be turning 2 and I know that she is going to absolutely love Disney World.
While a 2-year-old cannot totally grasp all the Disney stories and plot lines, they can still enjoy Disney World and its wide array of attractions. I have done a few things so far to introduce my daughter to the world of Disney. I think she’ll enjoy the vacation regardless, but knowing that she’ll actually recognize Mickey when she sees him in real life makes the magic even more magical for all of us.
Thus, long intro aside, this post is all about getting your 2-year-old (or any young toddler) prepared for their first trip to a Disney park! Please note that this post contains affiliate links. I am recommending several items that we have and enjoy in our own home, along with some similar ones.
Don’t think of this as homework, and by all means, don’t feel like you need to force Disney movies/stories/paraphernalia on your child in order to have a successful family vacation. You can do absolutely nothing and your toddler will probably be thrilled to go to Disney with you (just as a 2-year-old is usually thrilled to go to the grocery store or the post office with you). Disney vacations are generally amazing and magical because they’re about spending quality time together as a family, enjoying your experiences together. These are just ideas if you want your little one to have fun recognizing some familiar faces while there.
So on to the matter at hand, I sort of stumbled upon getting Hazel into Disney characters. One day, when she was about 12-months old, I had an old Mickey Mouse t-shirt on. She kept pointing happily at Mickey, and I would just tell her “That’s Mickey!” I’m sure this is pretty much just how your toddler is with dogs, cats, or any other animal or character.
She then started recognizing Mickey all around our house (I’ve accumulated my fair share of Mickey paraphernalia over the years). She gets so excited when she sees him somewhere unexpected; it’s too cute. She enjoys eating on our Mickey plates and finding him at the end of the meal, or seeing him on my coffee thermos in the morning.
My point is this – the easiest way to introduce Disney characters to your 2-year-old is to get Disney-themed items for things you already use everyday. For your toddler, that will be Disney plates, sippy cups, placemats, socks, toothbrushes, etc. This way you aren’t paying money to bring a bunch of extra STUFF into your house.
Disney Plushes & Toys
My second favorite way to naturally introduce Disney characters to Hazel has been via stuffed animals, or plushes. I already had a small collection of favorite Disney plushes before Hazel was born, so they naturally just sort of became hers (a grown woman doesn’t need stuffed animals…right?).
Her absolute favorite is her Disney Baby Winnie the Pooh. She cuddles with him every night in her crib and falls asleep hugging him. It really warms my Disney-loving heart. Thanks to getting to know Pooh in plush form, she now recognizes him elsewhere (on her Pooh toothbrush for example), and I’m sure she’s going to love seeing him while dining at Disney’s Crystal Palace someday soon!
You can get a Disney plush for your little one in just about any size and character. I’d recommend Pooh, Tigger, Mickey, Minnie, or Dumbo to start with since they seem especially kid-friendly and popular at the parks. You can even get a Disney pillow pet or a blanky if you don’t want to go the stuffed animal route.
Yet another idea for exposing your kids to Disney characters is via good old-fashioned toys. The ideas here are endless, really. For Hazel, I love this Minnie Mouse Bow-tique because she’s really into putting sunglasses on and off her stuffed animals right now. A few other good toy ideas would be a Buzz Lightyear action figure or these Disney princess bath toys.
Disney Books, Movies, and Shows
We also enjoy reading lots of Disney-related books. Hazel is at that age right now where she is constantly bringing (throwing) books at me, backing up her little tush and then plopping herself into my lap. It’s demanding, but also cute. Our favorite Disney-related books are our It’s a Small World books (we have this one and this one, also see this). These books are based on the toddler-favorite Small World ride, have bright and colorful illustrations, and usually include another toddler-favorite – animals.
You can even get a Small World book that includes a CD with that always-catchy “It’s a Small World After All” tune. Imagine how excited your child will be to ride the ride for the first time and actually recognize the song!
If you aren’t a Small World fan, you can get books that are basically toddler-length versions of just about any Disney movie. Try the Dumbo or Peter Pan Golden Books for starters. There’s even a Frozen Golden Book now. You can download a lot of these books onto your Kindle or e-reader as well.
Keep in mind, if your goal is to get your toddler geared up for a Disney trip, it’s best to focus on the characters and stories that are most visible in the Disney parks. You’ll find that some Disney movies have rides or attractions built around them, while other movies or characters are hardly present in the parks at all. Here’s my list of Disney storylines and characters to focus on:
- Mickey, Minnie & friends (Pluto, Goofy, Donald & Daisy Duck, Chip & Dale)
- Snow White
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Little Mermaid
- Peter Pan
- The Lion King
- Winnie the Pooh & friends (Eeyore, Piglet)
- Finding Nemo
- Toy Story
- Disney Jr shows/characters (Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First)
- Cars (if going to Disneyland)
If you are comfortable with your toddler watching movies (and if he or she will actually sit through one at this age), you might want to think about letting them watch some of the above. Keep in mind, several of the above movies are currently locked away in the Disney “vault”, and not easily accessible if you don’t already own them. I’ve linked to the ones currently out of the vault.
Side note – if you think your toddler might someday want to watch one of the movies currently out of the vault, I recommend getting it now while you can! When they go back into the vault they stay in there for years!!
Speaking of screen time, if you’re ok with your toddler watching some TV, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a great way to introduce Mickey and friends. Plus, everyone loves the Hot Dog Dance! You can even stream episodes on Amazon instant video. You can also consider downloading a few Disney apps for your smartphone or tablet.
Get creative with your attempt to sprinkle some Disney pixie dust on your 2-year-old! Watching YouTube videos of kids meeting characters reallyyyy helped my toddlers get excited and mentally prepared for meeting Mickey & friends in real life. I think this is really an essential preparation step to help prevent timid kids from totally freaking out at character meet & greets.
Watching YouTube videos of parades and rides also helped prepare my toddlers and get them excited before our trip. You might try watching some videos of different rides that your little one might like. You can play Disney songs (from movies or attractions) in the car while driving. You could even order some Mickey Ears for him or your entire family in the months before your trip and let him get excited about wearing his new hat around the house!
I hope you find this information helpful, but remember – don’t stress about it! You and your family, including your tiny tot, are going to have a great time together at Disney!
If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas about bringing your toddler to Disney World, feel free to leave them in the comments! I’d really love to hear how you’ve gotten your toddler ready for the world of Disney!
I love talking about Disney with pretty much anybody and everybody! If you need help planning your trip, my services are 100% free! You can email me at [email protected] or visit me here for more info.