Chad and I love all things Disney. We love Disneyland. We love Disney movies (well most of them anyways, can anyone really say that they loved Pocahontas?). I even love that Disney has bought the rights to Star Wars, because I personally think that they can improve it (I know Chad is cringing at that one). One of my personal life goals is to visit all the Disney parks.
I would love to be able to say that this healthy obsession began when I had my daughter and that I loved seeing the look of joy in her eyes as she looked at Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. It is true, I love watching Zoës face light up when we walk into Disneyland, but Chad and I had annual passes long before she was even a thought in our minds. Our favorite weekend get-away was aptly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth” and we visited it often.
We knew that Zoë would love Disney as well, I mean it’s in our genetic makeup, how could she not! We began brainwashing introduced her to Disneyland at the tender age of three weeks old. Just this week we started off our world travel with one last time (well at least for this year) enjoying the wonderful world of Disney.
This was Zoës sixth time at Disneyland, and there are many parents out there that think that we are crazy. I have heard some of the arguments, such as, taking a child before they are old enough to remember the trip is a waste of money, or it will be too difficult to keep track of them. The way I feel about that, is that you are making memories for yourself having special time with your child, even if they cannot remember it, you will, and that happy experience with you impacts them. As far as having difficulty keeping track of your little one, I feel it’s no different than taking a child to a crowded shopping center, except for the fact that Disneyland has amazing security and a child has never been taken from Disneyland ever. Thats right folks, in 57 years, not one child has gone missing from the park. This gives me a sense of security (but that doesn’t mean that I just let Zoë run around all over, I pay close attention to her and make sure that she doesn’t stray out of my sight).
There are things that infants and children can do at Disneyland no matter what age they are, and that parents can enjoy too. I want to share our experiences with you and maybe you too will want to take your little one to our favorite place.
3 WEEKS OLD
(Zoë and Grandma Mitchell. Photo Taken by Chad R. Mitchell)
At this age, babies are just eating, sleeping and pooping, which makes this age very easy in my opinion. Zoë couldn’t even hold up her own head but was able to ride all of the Fantasyland rides, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh (near Splash Mountain), the train, Small World, the Submarines, Roger Rabbit, and the Haunted Mansion. She was also able to go on the Little Mermaid ride, Monsters, Inc. and the Bugs Land ride in California Adventure. She, of course, was too young to really enjoy it, but I was! (New moms want to have fun too).
A great part of the Disney parks, that many people don’t know about are the Baby Centers. These rooms (one in Disneyland and one in California Adventure) have a nursing area, diaper changing tables and tiny toilets for potty-trained toddlers. They are air-conditioned (or heated in the cold months) and are comfortable and private. I spent a lot of time in these rooms this first time.
8 MONTHS, 10 MONTHS, and 13 MONTHS OLD
(Zoë and Nana McKeever. Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell)
I am lumping these trips together because these ages are not hugely different, at least as far as taking them to a Disney park. There was not much change in the rides that Zoë could go on in either park from 3 weeks to 8, 10, or 13 months old, but there was a huge change in the amount that she observed and reacted to. She was moving around more (she started walking at 9 ½ months) and was pointing to things that she wanted to see. I loved watching her and seeing what she would react to. I loved hearing her squeal and laugh and use the words she could say to describe what she was experiencing. I used the Baby Centers all the time but enjoyed the time away from the crowds for a bit. At these ages she was grabbing everything and putting everything in her mouth, so I had to be hyper-diligent in making sure she didn’t pick up any thing off the ground and to sanitize her hands often, besides that it was pretty easy going.
16 MONTHS OLD
(Zoë Playing in Donald Ducks House. Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell)
Zoë had a growth spurt at this age. She was finally 32 inches tall and had graduated to more big girl rides. She was able to drive the cars in Autopia in Disneyland and ride on the new Cars Land – Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in California Adventure. Mater was her first real ‘”roller coaster” type of ride. It was very exciting! Tom Sawyer’s Island, now called the Pirate’s Lair, was especially fun for Zoë at this age. It was perfect for her new running and climbing capabilities. She loved running around and tumbling in the dirt, and we loved it because it wore her out and she was willing to stay in her stroller longer. There is nothing better than a happy and exhausted toddler.
A side note, Zoë finally started to notice the characters walking around and was scared to death of them. We had to watch them from afar.
22 MONTHS OLD
(Photos Taken By Lisa McKeever, Jennifer Mitchell and Disney Cast Member)
As everyone knows the closer that a child gets to two years old, the more difficult it can be to take them places. There is a reason the twos are called terrible. It can be exhausting and frustrating taking care of a little person who is asserting their personality, desires and emotions, mostly without words. There are tantrums, disobedience, and many moments of fun as well. This age is not all bad. It is such an honor to see how this little person that you made is becoming who they are. Disneyland is a great opportunity to explore your almost 2 year old’s growing use of words and the way they deal with their new and confusing emotions.Tantrums are inevitable, but the bribery options at a Disney park are so much easier and more accessible.
I digress. Now back to the great things about taking a 22 month old to Disney parks. Disneyland has many options for toddlers to play and run around, Pirate’s Lair, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and the Bugs Land water parks are great for your toddler to cool down and tire themselves out. The Bugs Life show, Muppet 3D show, and especially the Disney Junior – Live on Stage were favorites for our almost 2 year old. She wasn’t able to ride any new rides, as she has not reached 35 inches yet, but that is okay because this time she understood and participated with the rides she could go on. We realized that she loves to cry “WHEEE” as we go down the drops in rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, which was so cute!
This time Zoë noticed and loved seeing the characters, even so much as to give Mickey Mouse a high five and a hug. It was great! This was by far the most fun we have had with her, not just with her around.
Disneyland is still my favorite theme park to go to and will always be. I hope that Zoë will share in our love for it and find it fun and fascinating. Besides teaching her to love travel and new places, I hope that she will also love and cherish the ones that she has been to a hundred times.
Have you taken your little ones to the Happiest Place on Earth? What do you think was helpful or good for you and your infant or child?