How many times have you said, “I’m going to wait for my kids to get older before I take them to Disney?” We said that too – but that’s because we didn’t know about the countless attractions that are perfect for preschoolers. We also didn’t know how easy Disney made it for parents and caregivers traveling with children – they really do think of everything, with concessions like charging stations for phones, Baby Care Centers, rentable strollers and magical buses that shuttle you wherever you need to go. Here’s what you need to know when visiting Disney World with preschoolers:

1. Disney Junior Play ’n Dine at Hollywood Studios. Start your day here with a delicious buffet breakfast and character meet-and-greets with Handy Manny, Sophia the First, Jake from Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Doc McStuffins. There’s something for everyone at the buffet to satisfy even the pickiest palate, including coffee for parents who plan to run their kids ragged from dusk to dawn (and a little beyond). After, burn off some energy at Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure climbing and crawling through a bug-sized world. And don’t worry, parents and caregivers can join in on the fun.

2. Time for a show, which is a great way to cool off when the heat index rises. While touring Hollywood Studios, be sure to check out For the First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. This show is great for kids and adults. (I don’t want to give it away, but when Disney makes fun of itself and Frozen, it turns into a laugh-out-loud, must-see experience for the entire family.) Preschoolers will also love being a part of the action in Disney Jr. Live on Stage! If your kids like to collect things that fall from the ceiling, bring a little bag to carry their treasures.

3. Schedule a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover at Cinderella Castle or get decked out like a swashbuckler at The Pirates League. Starter packages are a great way to give your child an amazing experience that will have them looking like the princess or pirate of their dreams! It’s not cheap, but those hairstyles will stay perfectly pretty for a couple days – provided you don’t go swimming!

4. Ride the rides at Magic Kingdom! Our favorite ones for the littles include: Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Mad Tea Party, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small World. You’ll definitely want to FastPass+ The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight as these rides can have long wait times. My suggestion: arrive at the park when it opens and head directly to these rides.

5. We may be tempting late night tantrums, but seeing The Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is worth it. Yes, I just said that! If you have a stroller they can snooze after it’s over, but it’s simply amazing and you’ll still be talking about the display on the castle long after you’ve returned home. If you can FastPass+ the Nighttime Spectacular, do it. Great area with lawn seating without the tall crowds on the street.

6. Epcot offers a ton of activities for preschoolers. The Seas with Nemo and Friends is a fun ride, then explore the aquarium and visit cute sea creatures including manatees. Go inside the iconic geosphere for Spaceship Earth – an easy ride that covers communications from the Stone Age to the digital age. Shhh! You’ll sneak a little history in too – educational and fun! Another great ride – Soarin’. Check the height requirements first, but this is definitely one you’ll want to FastPass+ if your child makes the cut. And one more thing. Tour the countries in Epcot for great photo opportunities with Disney princesses. You can also meet Mickey and friends at the Epcot Character Spot.

7. Tired yet? We haven’t even hit up Animal Kingdom – another paradise for preschoolers and the adults who brought them. If your kids love animals, then you’ll definitely want to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris and see all sorts of critters like crocodiles, elephants and giraffes. Or if they’re into dinosaurs, play in The Boneyard or go for a whirl around the TriceraTop Spin. Take a walk into The Tree of Life and watch the 3D film It’s Tough to Be a Bug (but if your kiddos are scared of spiders or the dark, this experience might not be for them). For the grand finale, Festival of the Lion King is a colorful and acrobatic show that thrills from start to finish. Just be warned: your kids may never want to leave because they loved it that much!

8. Vacations aren’t only about the kids! Lilo’s Playhouse at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort offers parents and caregivers the opportunity to – dare we say it – go out on a date while the kids play and party in an atmosphere that’s only for them. Enough said!

9. Traveling with infants or toddlers? Every park has a Baby Care Center, the perfect spot to nurse your child or buy things like formula, diapers and other odds and ends you either run out of or forgot to pack. I always think I pack well for anything that could happen, but these little ones can be unpredictable so it’s great that you can pretty much find whatever you’ll need at a Baby Care Center located at all of the parks.

10. Memory Maker: You’re probably thinking what I thought the first time I went to Disney: Why do I need a Memory Maker? I have my cell phone and I’ll even pack a camera that I probably won’t take out of my bag. But, when I came home I realized that while I took great photos of my kids, one person was sadly missing from all of our memories – ME! Trust me when I say it’s worth the investment. There are tons of Memory Maker photographers around the parks just waiting to take pictures of your family. The one by The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom even takes “magical” photos of your kids. My kids have yet to stop talking about the time they actually held Tinkerbell and didn’t even know it!

11. Rider Switch. Traveling with your partner and a little not big enough for a ride, but you still want to ride the ride? Just tell the Disney cast member that you want to do a rider switch when you’re at the front of the line, and once your partner is done, you’ll go on immediately after.

12. My Disney Experience App. This is literally one-stop shopping for your Disney vacation. Pick your FastPass+ experiences for your entire party, make dining reservations and check out wait times for rides. There’s also a map to help you navigate the park (although if you don’t want to be holding your phone the entire time, any one of the cast members can give you directions to your next destination).

13. Stay on the property. Disney’s Art of Animation caters to the young and the young at heart. Party by the pool with lots of fun activities and dance parties for kids. You can even listen to music underwater at The Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation (so cool!). The cafeterias are clean and there are myriad ways to eat healthy – just look for the Mickey Check and you’ll know that your kiddo is eating a well balanced meal that meets nutrition guidelines. Another tip: both my kids and I ordered the kids’ meals. There’s enough food to keep them and you going, and we’d often take the sides with us for little snacks throughout the day.

Disney World is a great place for kids of all ages. You’ll find tons of resources for planning your trip at

For even more helpful hints and tips, email [email protected]. 

Cheryl Crosby is the senior editor of Boston Parents Paper