When a toddler has a meltdown, it’s not pretty. When that meltdown happens on a ride line in the Magic Kingdom, it’s the opposite of magical. One way to help avoid tantrums and tears is to include napping at Disney as one of your must-do activities. Here are mom-tested tips to help you structure your Disney days so that your littles get the rest they desperately need to get through long, hot park days and nights that stretch way past normal bedtimes.
Napping at Disney won’t resemble naps at home in familiar cribs and beds. We recommend using equipment like baby carriers and strollers to max advantage when visiting the parks. And build in afternoon rest periods. This is much easier to do when you’re staying at an on-property Disney resort.
Here are five ways to make napping at Disney more likely to happen.
1. Use a stroller.
If you are coming to Disney World with a child under the age of 6, chances are you need a stroller. We tried to get away without one this month because our youngest is almost 5. Nope! We missed it. He missed it. And my 7-year-old missed the opportunity to squish in with his brother too. Strollers carry things. They keep a little one out of the sun. They keep kids contained. And they are a wonderful place to sleep. I’m always amazed at how quickly my kids fall asleep in a stroller. Even a short cat nap helps revive them to avoid meltdowns later in the day.
2. Let them sleep wherever they can.
Whether it’s on a 20-minute bus or monorail ride, during a show, or in the air-conditioned tent in Dumbo, let them get sleep in wherever you can. One of the reasons I like to drive to Disney World is because I can let the kids sleep in the car. Remember though, just because the kids usually get a two-hour nap at exactly 2 p.m. every day, that doesn’t mean they need that necessarily at Disney World.
3. Plan a mid-afternoon siesta.
For those who are adamant about actually napping at Disney, you may want to shift your day around a bit. Get up early and hit the parks as early as you can. Then go…go…go until about 2 p.m. Head back to your hotel room to rest during the hottest part of the day. You can head back to the parks after dinner for some more rides and of course, fireworks. If you have older children, you might get some pushback. This could force you to divide and conquer, with one parent staying with the younger kids who need to rest and the other parent managing older children who can push through.
4. Use “rest” periods.
Sometimes, napping at Disney just isn’t possible. For many kids, it may be enough to just get out of the heat and the sun and let them chill out for a while. I love using the Baby Care Centers for this. They are relaxed, often quiet, and can give you a chance to just sit and recuperate for a bit.
5. “Wear” smaller kids.
Baby-wearing has become more and more popular, especially at theme parks. However, it’s not just newborns that can be worn. From the smallest of babies to some pretty big four 4-year-olds, there are carriers that can comfortably fit each child. Small babies who may get overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of Disney Parks, can particularly benefit from baby-wearing. The carriers can shield them from the noise around them and let them quiet down and sleep.
For bigger kids, think about investing in a backpack carrier that can comfortably fit toddlers and preschoolers. Even the crankiest kids tend to fall right asleep when nestled against your back or your chest. The downside about wearing kids is that they can get heavy and make you hot. Try to avoid one parent carrying the child all day as this may be too strenuous in the heat and humidity of Orlando.
Napping at Disney is something that can help to make your day a little less stressful. Naps can also help to curb tantrums and meltdowns so your family can make it to the fireworks each night. While it is difficult to keep a strict schedule on a Disney vacation, embracing a little structure can be useful. Younger children will especially benefit from your foresight in thinking about how to nap on vacation. And when your little kids are in a good mood, it is so much easier for the whole family to be in a good mood.
If this feels overwhelming to you, just know that this is a short season of life you are in. In a few years, you won’t even think about having to stop for a nap during the day for your kids. Enjoy these magical young years when you have them!
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