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Disneyland Resort is the most iconic location for a family vacation. I had never been before, but longed to go since I was a small child.

After our son was born, people told us to wait until he was 5 years old or 8 years old or even 10 years old before taking him.

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However, when we were looking for a family vacation destination that was a short flight from Seattle, Disneyland Resort kept coming up.

Our friends who also had a toddler decided to join us. So, we threw caution to the wind and booked our tickets to Disneyland with toddlers in tow.

We had about a month between when we decided to take a vacation to Disneyland Resort and when we were actually going.

It was in this time that we realized our 2 year old son might not recognize characters at Disneyland Resort and that really bummed us out.

Part of the fun of traveling for me is preparing for the trip, so I was determined to prep toddlers for Disneyland.

I’m so glad I did, because when we arrived at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, he was excited to see the Goofy statue!

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7 Ways to Prep Toddlers for Disneyland Resort:

1. Watch Disney Movies

This may seem like a no-brainer. The important thing is to figure out what rides or activities (like Character Dining) you are planning on doing and making sure you show your child movies involving those specific characters.

We knew we were going to Cars Land, so we watched Cars and Cars 2 multiple times and it did make our experience there even more fun, especially when we got to meet Lightening McQueen and Mater!

Magic Mornings and Magic Hours are great ways to get into the parks early to get photos!
We used one Magic Morning to head straight to Cars Land to get photos with the characters. Photo credit: Disney PhotoPass

2. Watch Mickey and Minnie Mouse Video Clips

Since these are the main classic Disney characters at Disneyland Resort and they are everywhere, it’s nice for your child to understand that they are a big deal.

I found a few vintage clips of Mickey Mouse online and would show them to my son on my phone when he needed a distraction.

Toon Town is the ultimate place at Disneyland with toddlers or Disneyland with preschoolers. Lots of Disney characters meet & greets and photo ops.
When you go to Disneyland with toddlers, Mickey’s Toon Town is where all the classic Disney characters hang out. Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

We also found some compilations of Mickey and Friends on Netflix and that gave our son a great overview of the Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto.

He really recognized them when we got to Toon Town and was excited to meet Mickey in person!

3. Buy Disney Clothing

I ended up getting my toddler several Mickey shirts, a hat and pajamas a couple of weeks before the trip. He was so excited to see them and it became a game for him to spot Mickey Mouse on his clothing and on other people.

This was fun when we got to the park and he was pointing non-stop at people’s clothing shouting “Mickey!” or “Goofy!” This really played into the magic and excitement of being at Disneyland Resort.

4. Listen to Disney Songs

Again, think about the Disneyland rides for toddlers you are planning on doing. Many of these toddler Disneyland rides play a well-known song from the movie.

The Mad Tea Party ride plays “Mad Tea Party” and Peter Pan’s Flight plays “You can fly, you can fly, you can fly!” Some rides like “it’s a small world” have their own theme music and are easily recognizable.

5. Watch YouTube Videos of the Rides

My toddler is scary good at maneuvering YouTube to watch videos of trains. Somehow he found a video of the Casey Jr. Circus Train and he was entranced.

So, I started pulling up videos of other toddler rides at Disneyland Resort to gauge his reaction. This helped me figure out which rides he’d like and which he wasn’t that interested in.

We watched videos of “it’s a small world” over and over and when we got to Disneyland with toddlers, the ride was a huge hit! Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

One of our favorite videos featuring Disneyland toddler rides was “it’s a small world.” We probably watched 20 different ride videos.

Once we actually got to ride it, my toddler kept pointing at all the little details from the videos. Had we not watched the videos prior to our Disneyland trip with toddlers, I’m not sure he would have been as excited.

6. Hit the Dollar Store

I found soft-cover Disney books (Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, etc) as well as hard-cover books about Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

These were great as bedtime stories and helped my son identify characters and give some insight on their personalities.

They also had Disney coloring books, stickers, crayons, activity books, figurines and more! These were great to take on the airplane and have on-hand in the park so we could distract our son in line.

One of the best things I purchased prior to Disneyland with toddlers were Mickey Mouse glow sticks. They kept the boys entertained while waiting for parades. I kept them in my Disneyland diaper bag.

7. Disney Plushies

I was nervous that my toddler might get scared of the characters at the character meals. I was right. We bought him a plush of the main characters of the Character Dining experiences.

We gave them to him ahead of time so he would not only be comfortable and recognize the character. It also gave him something to use to interact with the character.

Bring Mickey Mouse plush when heading to Disneyland with toddlersThis Goofy plushy was essential for character dining at Disneyland with toddlers

By the end of the trip, he was much more comfortable being around them. He still raves about high-fiving Goofy and Minnie Mouse kissing him. These Disney plushies made the characters easier to approach.

More posts about Disneyland Resort

What I Pack in my Diaper Bag for Disneyland
Disneyland Resort with Toddlers: Tips & Itinerary
Disneyland Character Dining Review
Anaheim Fairfield Inn at Disneyland Resort Hotel Review
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel Review
How to Create a Mickey Mouse Collage Picture Frame
How to Survive Disneyland with Preschoolers
Why You Should Take Grandma to Disneyland

PictureHow to prep toddlers for a Disneyland vacation, Disneyland with toddlers, Disney with toddlers


Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.


  1. essay for you Reply

    Than you fort his tips. This will be very helpful to all of the parents that have still needs guidelines and tips for their children. This will be a good reference for me and we can now enjoy our day at the Disneyland.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Thanks! It’s always fun to be extra prepared to get the most out of Disneyland!

  2. Julia Dent Reply

    I went to Disney World as a toddler, and I remember having a great time! The character meals were actually my favorite thing haha

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Hi Julia! Yes, character meals are a blast! I haven’t done at Disney World yet but hope to next year!

  3. Such a great list of tips! We’ve been to Disneyworld recently. We’re not yet parents but wondered how we would bring a little one with us. We defo want to bring our future family ASAP! We saw so many young children asking who characters were so watching movies is a great tip!
    Rebecca x

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Rebecca, yes it took me awhile to realize that my son didn’t know a lot of the characters. I think a lot of younger kids know Pixar movies more than classic Disney films. I’m so thankful for YouTube because it’s easy to show clips of movies so that kids are familiar. It’s just so much more fun when they are excited to see the characters come to life!

  4. Great tips! Never really thought about the work that would go into making sure a child gets the best experience out of Disney world, but makes sense!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Thanks, Ashley! I think we all just assume that kids know who all the Disney characters are and will be excited to see them. I was shocked that my toddler didn’t know who Mickey Mouse was until I showed him some YouTube videos.

  5. Such great tips ! Have so many friends with toddlers and will pass it along !!!!!!

  6. We are planning our second trip to Disney for the fall. Your tips are great! I feel every time you go is a learning experience. I wish I had these tips the first time we went!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Disney is such a fun place! I can’t wait to go back in June!

  7. We do Disney World because we are East coasters and my kids have been going since they were babies. We are actually heading back for the 8th trip next week.

  8. We can’t wait to go to Disney some day!! We already do most of the items mentioned in your list, so I guess you could say that we’re ready? LOL

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes! Sometimes kids are a bit young for some Disney movies, so it’s nice to find ways they can connect with the characters!

  9. When we were at Disney, my favorite thing was to see all the kids dressed up in Disney gear. It was really fun to see all the handmade Disney outfits, too.

  10. Disney does offer a lot of great rides and activities for toddlers. It can be exhausting but if you prepare for the trip and book some fast passes you can have a great time.

  11. I love Disney so much, I think that’s why all my kids grew up loving it as well. We try to go to Disney every year and I have this goal to go to all the Disneylands around the world. This is a pretty awesome guide for parents who are taking their kids there fore the first time!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Disney is super fun! We’ve done Disneyland and Disneyland Paris so far. Hoping to do Hong Kong and Shanghai in the next few years!

  12. aww this is so sweet! Haha I wouldn’t be trying to prep the toddler with Disney movies though, I would be prepping myself :p

  13. Thank you for sharing . I will definitely use these strategies for my nieces and nephews. These are great way to prep them, I will forward this link to my friends as well.

  14. StylishGeek Reply

    Your post reminded me of my daughter’s first trip to Disneyland! She was a year old and so full of energy and excitement! She loved repeating rides! I daresay we finished past 10 p.m. and she was still ok!

  15. I wonder how kids would go at Disney – afterall, we visited as adults and found it tiring!! But I more so wondered how they’d go with the overwhelming crowds! These tips are great

  16. We have been to Disneyland hundreds of times but our last visit over the summer was the absolute best. Our youngest daughter is two and she had the most fun!

  17. First off, you have a beautiful blog! I so couldn’t imagine taking my little ones to Disney. My husband and I decided that we would consider it when they are six, so just two more years!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Oh thanks so much! Traveling with littles is nice because they are portable! I hope you have a fabulous Disney trip whenever you decide to do it!

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