The first time we traveled to Walt Disney World with our kids, my daughter was 2 and my son was 10 months. Last week, I was going through some pictures of those early days, and my son was disappointed to see that he wasn’t pictured in most of the character photos. He was pretty scared of the characters for our first two trips, and only interacted with a few of them. Although my daughter wasn’t too afraid of the characters, before our trip, I was fearful that she might be. She was, however, terrified of Goofy. I guess he was so big that he intimidated her.
In preparation of that first trip, I asked cast members and other Disney fans for their best advice for how to introduce characters to your apprehensive child. Here’s what worked best for us.
Know Your Child’s Mood
After traveling with my kids for many years now, this is definitely one of the most important pieces of advice I can give – regardless of where you are traveling or what you are doing. The child who loves princesses may wake up one morning and decide she isn’t interested. I am speaking from experience here. I remember being so thrilled to get a coveted Princess breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. But when we showed up, my daughter wasn’t interested at all. Know how your child is feeling before heading out for the day, and be prepared for anything.
Start With Face Characters
We made breakfast reservations at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot for our very first character meal, because the princesses look most like real people and speak to the children. We figured that would be the least intimidating, and it was. Later that day, we moved on to Mickey and Minnie. My son was terrified for years, but always liked the face characters.
Look from Afar
The parades are a great way to watch the characters from a distance. It’s less intimidating to a child, and may make it easier for them to get acclimated to seeing their favorites in person.
Once you’ve decided to go a one-on-one meet and greet, approach the character slowly. If they see that your child is apprehensive, they will move slowly as well. If it doesn’t work out well, don’t push it. You want the first interaction to be positive. When my daughter was terrified of Goofy, he moved very slowly, even kneeling to make my daughter more comfortable. The meet and greet area wasn’t crowded, so Mickey walked over and interacted with Goofy, showing my daughter that he wasn’t scared. It took a while, but she eventually wasn’t scared.