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It's safe to say every parent planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort is hopping for a vacation's worth of picture-perfect memories and cherished moments—with minimal meltdowns. Lily's first character encounters were terror- and tear-filled. I'll never forget our first visit to see Minnie. No matter how friendly and inviting she tried to be, Lily wanted nothing to do with her. She ended up wrapping herself around my frog legs and burying her head. So no matter how big a fan your child is of her favorite Disney character, her reaction to meeting that character in the parks may surprise you. It's quite common for the younger tadpoles to be afraid of Disney characters when they meet them for the first time. So what's a parent to do? We've got a few tips that can help ease the fear of a child afraid of Disney characters.
Even children who’ve made repeat visits to the parks can get "shy" or scared as they progress through different developmental stages. Some children never warm up to the characters. Even though Lily has been to Disney a few times in her short life, she seems to have a different reaction to the characters each time we visit. While I think we’ve made it past the stage where she avoids eye contact with the face characters, there are still times when I can’t get her to sit with a character without me holding her and getting into the picture too (not that that's a bad thing).
It's pretty easy to see how small tadpoles might fear the characters—some of them are more than twice their size! It seems like the villains are even taller! Even I'm a little intimidated by Jafar. You will often see characters kneel down to a child's level and this helps, but sometimes it's not enough.
While these are our best tips for helping a child afraid of Disney characters, we bet you have even more. Please share them below!
Related: Terrific Disney World Character Meeting Tips
Related: Tips of Meeting Your Favorite Disneyland Characters
Disney World Tadpole Tips
My DD is almost 10. We're approaching our 7th trip to Disney (we're very lucky I know!) At 18 months she was fine with all characters. However recently by her next trip at 3 she was terrified and would hide behind us if she even saw one walking in the distance. We tried princess meals and she hid under the table at 5. She worked back up to princesses by age 8 but still cowers behind us when a masked character is near. Now we just split up if her sister wants to see a character and take the younger one for a snack or a bathroom break. Some kids never grow to like characters no matter how much you try to prep them or desensitize them. Trust me, Disney is still fun even without character meetings.
When we went during September we were lucky enough to just run into everyone we wanted to meet. We found that as long as we were doing everything the opposite of everyone else, we were doing it the right way!
I have to say that starting them off easy was the best way for my daughter. She was 2 when she first visited and absolutely loved all things Disney. Her first reaction to Mickey Mouse was a little different than expected. She didnt cry but wouldnt go anywhere near him. We then tried a different approach-we would show her the characters from a distance and wait for her to go up to them. By the end, she was hugging them and dancing with them at Chef Mickey's.
All kids are different but I think allowing them to choose when they want to engage is a good start:)
We just had ou first trip to Disney one month ago and it was amazing!!! We have the BEST pictures with the characters and I think it is due to a few reasons:
1. When we booked the trip, we started making bi-weekly trips to ChuckE Cheese. We wanted the kids to be comfortable with dressed up characters and if they are okay with a large rat, they will LOVE Mickey Mouse :)
2. We paid ahead of time for the photo pass (which gave us a big discount) so we (mommy and daddy) didn't worry about getting pictures with our camera. We were able to introduce the kids to characters and enjoy the moment. Plus they took a lot of pictures that we GREAT!
3. I bought each of my kids a Disney storybook that had about 15 stories in them. We read one every night together. Instead of having an autograph book to sign, the kids got their story books signed. They were a little heavy to carry around, but so worth it. They were excited to have the stories signed that they read and the characters really played it up. If one of the characters didn't have a story in the book, they signed the front.
We show my grandsons the DVD "Disneyland Fun" numerous times before every trip (they were both 8 months old on their first visits & are currently 5 & 2). The DVD has the characters from the parks interacting with kids singing, riding rides & playing. The music is from Disneyland (or past music - it was made in the '80's). It isn't so scary for them because they are then used to seeing the oversized characters playing with kids in Disneyland. My son had this video on VHS as a kid and now my grandsons have it on DVD.
We took our twin girls when they were 4 1/2 and they were terrified of characters. We had gone to a couple local baseball games and they cried when they saw the mascots. We bough 2 autograph books and explained to them what they were for. Our first stop was Animal Kingdom and we saw a couple of characters walking around, and we admired from afar. We asked the girls if they wanted their books signed or a picture to put in their photo album and they slowly approached them. After the first encounter they were on a mission to have everyone sign their book. We let the kids decide the pace of trip and what they wanted to do and it worked out perfect.
Although my children have always loved the characters, I have noticed that they are usually a little hesitant around then in the first day. I know some parents may be upset to travel so fa and pay so much to find out the kids are terrified. My advice is not to give up if the kids do not initially love the characters. Give them a few days to warm up to them and follow the suggestions above. They are all wonderful tips. The best tip is probably I hold your child opposite the character. You also may want to stand a few feet in front of the character to help increase distance on the first few pictures. Make sure to show your children all the pictures when you get back to the room. They will be excited that they are in the picture with the character and may be more excited to try an encounter the following day. They may be scared in the moment, but are usually proud when they look back on it.
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