For shy or sensitive children, experiencing all the new adventures, shows and rides at Disney can be uncomfortable. There are new sights, fast rides, bright lights, big characters and loud music around every corner. What if instead of being enthralled by the magic, your kids are scared or shy at Disney? Take this as the perfect opportunity to encourage your children to try something new! These are 6 top tips for encouraging shy kids to be brave at Disney, gleaned from the childhood experiences of our Day Trips Traveling Mom and the many trips to Disneyland with her own kids.
Shy at Disney? Here are Ways to Increase Bravery
As a mom of four living in Southern California, I’ve made countless day trips to Disneyland with my children over the years. At some point, each of my kids has gone through a bit of shyness, nervousness or even fear at some of the aspects at Disney. Whether it be frightened during an attraction or being too shy to pose with a favorite character for a picture, some kids are just more nervous and need encouragement. What they don’t need is the feeling of being pushed or pressured. Here are 6 ways I’ve encouraged my kids to have more fun at Disney!
1. Show shy kids at Disney what to expect.
Before you even step foot inside a Disney Park, share with your child what they can expect. This will give them more confidence. They won’t feel like they’re in a strange place if they have a better understanding of what Disney Parks are like.
Here are some ideas of what and how to preview Disney to your child:
- Check out the Disney website.
- Request vacation planning tools, including a DVD to watch with the kids.
- Print copies of the Park maps.
- Watch videos of the rides on YouTube.
- Talk to friends who have been to a Disney Park and encourage them to share their memories.
2. Encourage new tastes.
Does your child prefer the comfort zone of chicken nuggets and fries? The Disney Parks are a great place to try something new. A child who didn’t care for pineapple in the past might try it swirled up in a Dole Whip!
Here are a few tasty Disney options to sample:
- Instead of burgers or nuggets off the kids’ menu, try something more adventurous from the adult menu.
- Look for Mickey Check kid’s meals that include healthier options like fish, baked chicken, and steamed veggies.
- Buy two or three platters and request extra plates to share amongst the family.
- Encourage a bite or two of each new food.
- With a wide variety of foods to sample, kids won’t feel committed to eat an entire plate of something they might not like.
The first time I ever ate shrimp was at Disneyland — I had never even tried seafood before in my life! I was a picky eater, but got wrapped up in the excitement of all the new experiences and successfully broadened my horizons.
3. Encourage character interaction.
Some of those Characters are larger than life, especially to a little one! Some nervous or shy kids might be too worried about approaching them. Check these tips on how to meet Disney characters and read below for additional advice for meet n’ greets with children.
- Talk about the various characters kids might encounter in the Park.
- Discuss with your child before the trip how a character meet n’ greet works. Let them know that guests will wait in line for their turn to meet each character, They can sign an autograph book and take a picture with them.
- Do not promise any specific character meeting, in case that particular character isn’t available in the Park that day. Once at the Park, watch characters from afar.
- Ask your child if they would like to meet the character. Find out if they are open to a hug or if they’d rather just wave or blow a kiss. Let the Cast Member handling the character know your child’s desire.
- Never force your child to hug or touch a character if they are truly scared or crying.
Even though we’ve been to Disneyland about five times together, my 3-year-old is sometimes still hesitant about meeting characters first thing in the morning. I usually give Mickey a big hug myself first to let my little one see that there’s really nothing to worry about it. By the end of the day, he’s warmed up considerably and giving hugs unprompted.
4. Encourage activity and minimize boredom.
Standing in long lines will wear on your kids, making them more cranky and less flexible. Minimize wait times by purchasing Park tickets ahead of time (we recommend ParkSavers for discount Disneyland passes, use code TM2 for $2 off per ticket) and by using FastPass while in the Park. Bring snacks in line so you can multitask by filling little tummies while waiting in queue.
If the rides are making your kids nervous, try some of the other fun things offered at Disneyland. Whether it be parade watching or burning off extra energy at one of the play areas throughout the Park, make sure that kids are having fun. You don’t want them walking out of the Park at the end of the day feeling like they had a bad time.
Fortunately, Disneyland is more than just rides with lots of ways that kids can have a good time without going on rides.
- Warm weather? Bring a bathing suit and towel. Let kids get wet in a splash pad area.
- Disney Parks have specific areas for kids to climb and play.
- Tom Sawyer’s Island is a wonderful place for kids to explore.
5. Encourage silliness, fun, and spontaneity.
Let your self-conscious kids know that Disney is the perfect place for having fun like nobody’s watching. Because frankly, everyone else is being silly and having fun, too! Just loosen up and (you know I have to say it), “Let it go!”
- Wear a silly hat.
- Scream your lungs out on Space Mountain.
- Make a goofy face in your photo with Goofy.
- Hold hands and skip across the Castle drawbridge.
6. Encourage, YES! Pressure, NO!
There is a thin line between encouragement and pushiness, and kids are very sensitive to not feeling pressured one way or the other. You certainly don’t want to ruin your Disney vacation because you pushed too hard and now they’re resistant to try anything! Encourage your children, but don’t push or pressure.
The no-pressure approach worked with my kids. My two elementary-aged kids were terrified of fast rides before. Now you can’t pull them off of the roller coasters! I would ask if they wanted to ride and if they didn’t, I didn’t ask again or push them in any way. Eventually, they decided they were ready on their own.
Only you know your kids and how far you can take things with them so use your best judgment. If kids become overwhelmed, find a quiet spot to rest and reflect upon the day before starting something new. Build upon the day by taking things slowly at first until they have worked up some confidence to try new things.
You never know, they might be ready to hold your hand and skip across the Castle drawbridge by the end of the night!
Do you have a child who is nervous or shy at Disney? What tips can you share for making the vacation memorable?