Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest Post: Going to the Disney Water Parks with a Toddler

My family recently returned from a vacation to Disney World. We decided to try both of the Disney water parks. We have an almost 8 year old and barely 2 year old which always makes things interesting. If you plan on visiting the water parks (which you should), and you have children with an age gap, I do recommend splitting up because their interests and attractions they can participate in will be different. My 7 year old wanted to go on the big water slides all day long and obviously the 2 year old can't swim yet. To solve this issue, one parent slid while one watched our toddler and then we swapped so each got to experience some of the amazing attractions the water parks have to offer. TIP: Wear waterproof watches and come up with a meeting place to make it easy as the parks are large. Everyone ended up happy which is always a good thing!

I often get asked which water park is better...Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. My answer is they are both wonderful so you should give them both a shot but I do have a personal favorite when it comes to toddlers that I will share with you! Both parks offer areas designated for children under 48” but we found both to be very different.

Blizzard Beach has an amazing area for young children called Tyke's Peak which consists mostly of a variety of small water slides which is wonderful if you have a child who enjoys them. Even though there isn't a height requirement on many of the “big” water slides, they still may be too big for young children, especially if they are new to swimming. Clearly you don't want them to go down a slide and land in a 3 or 4 foot deep pool of gushing water. Not a good idea. These small water slides are the perfect size for young children. Some are just a few feet long for little ones while others are curvy which are great for young children. There is also a shallow wading pool with some alligators that squirt water and a waterfall that little ones enjoy splashing around in and even a spray ground and sand area. The issue my toddler had was she was scared of all slides, no matter how little they were. I remember my son going through the same thing at our local water park. It wasn't until he was around 5 that he was comfortable to go down the children's water slides and then he progressed to the “big” slides around 6 (obviously, each child is different). An issue I had with Tyke's Peak is it's in the full sun. Not good if you have a fair skinned little red head who doesn't handle the sun well so we had to take some breaks in the shade which is offered nearby.

So what did we do all day at a water park with a child who wouldn't go down a single water slide? We found plenty to do! Our little one had a great time running around and splashing in the wading pools. I brought some beach toys and she had the best time filling the water up in the sand bucket, dumping it out and then filling it back up again. TIP: If you order a children's entree at some of the water park restaurants, their food comes in a sand bucket. She also enjoyed the wave pools. Clearly, not wise to go in too deep but if you stay right where the pool starts, little ones usually have a blast with the waves that are small at the end. She particularly enjoyed Typhoon Lagoon's wave pool which features one large tidal wave. Sounds scary but if you stay in the very shallow part, the wave is pretty small. She got a kick over me holding her and “jumping” the wave. She also loved when the water was soaked back in just like at the beach with the tide. Very cool. We enjoyed going around the lazy river at both parks. I put her in a small inner tube that had a bottom and pushed her around. Throw in some time to relax and have lunch and there you have a good day at the park with a toddler.

Even though we had a great time at Blizzard Beach, my toddler and I fell in love with Ketchakiddee Creek (gotta love the catchy name) which is the children's play area at Typhoon Lagoon. It was perfect for her! There are shallow streams, small water falls, fountains, a spray ground, all kinds of areas for them to splash around in that were toddler friendly. I loved that Ketchakiddee Creek provided some shady areas which is a welcome relief on those hot sunny Florida days. I thought it was perfect for toddlers!

 I definitely recommend giving the Disney water parks a try! You won't be disappointed and no matter when you visit, the water is heated. If you are visiting Disney for several days and want a break from the parks, I would recommend adding the Water Park, Fun and More option and go to both water parks to see which one suits your family best. I guarantee the whole family will have lots of fun!

Contributed by Corby C. of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud wife and mom to Banks and Henley, a Disney Destination Planner with Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Create Your Own Disney Photo Cups and Plates at Shutterfly

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  I just found this and wanted to share.

I sat down tonight to order the items in my cart from Shutterfly.  I had received an email from them earlier tonight with a good deal and I need to get those items on the way.  In the email, the latest Shutterfly products were shown, photo cups and plates.  They looked cute but I mainly clicked on the image just to save my $10.  What a fun surprise once I got to the site! The new plates and cups are available in Disney patterns.  You can add a picture of yourself or your child to templates featuring Mickey and Minnie, Princesses, Pooh Bear, and Pixar characters.  The cups run around $15 and the plates around $20.  I may have to delay my purchase and make Tink a cup with a picture of her and Belle.  Since Minnie just turned one, she'll have to wait on hers.

Have a magical night!


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Five Photos: Bambi's Butterfly House

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
Bambi's Butterfly House

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Photo Flashback! WDW -- A Page in Time

WDW 1975 photo album page
Today's Photo Flashback is a little different from what we usually post as these photos are stuck in an old album and I could not get them out.  So today you get an entire "Page in Time" from a 1975 trip to Walt Disney World.  Things have changed just a little since these were taken.

 This could be Amy's first trip to WDW as Mom thinks this was when she was pregnant with Amy.


Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five Photos: Naptime at Walt Disney World

Seriously, kids can sleep anywhere.  That's Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! 
Nighttime at Magic Kingdom. One out, one ready to party. 
Minnie fell asleep on the way to the Studios and napped for the first hour or so that we were there. 
She fell asleep during the Mulch, Sweat and Shears set. 
Since my husband couldn't join us this trip, I loved having our van and its carseats for tired girls.
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Minnie Moms: Sleeping Away from Home

This month the Minnie Moms and I are discussing sleeping away from home; how we help our children and ourselves have the best possible rest while traveling.  

Amy:  Tink has always been a good traveler and loves a hotel bed.  She's three now and it's fairly easy to get her to sleep away from home.  It can take a while for her to settle down from the excitement of the day but following the usual routine helps: bath, brush teeth, stories, songs, bedtime.  Depending on where we are and who is there, she may sleep alone or with me and/or my husband.  On our most recent Walt Disney World vacation in May 2012, the girls and I tagged along with my parents and stayed in a one-bedroom villa at Old Key West.  The living room has a sleeper sofa and a sleeper chair.  The chair made a twin bed that was perfect for Tink.  Minnie and I shared the larger bed and she did just fine.  Both girls were exhausted by the end of the day so it wasn't too hard to get them to sleep.  

Pack 'n Plays are in the DVC resorts and are available on request everywhere else.  We have attempted to use one in the past with Tink but didn't even open it up for Minnie this time.  I set one up for her at Hilton Head in January and it just served as a safe place for her to play.

I always pack the girls' loveys and favorite blankets.  I have on occasion packed a nightlight but we have also made do with a bathroom or closet light at Disney or when staying with family.  For Disney trips, my mom bought a couple of fans years ago and always carries them.  When those are not available, we use a white noise app on my iPhone.  

My husband and I learned the hard way that pushing on farther on a road trip just meant that Tink fell asleep in the van around her normal time and was wide awake and ready to play once we stopped for the night.  If you can, I think it's better to stop earlier than you'd really like and get the kids fed and into bed closer to their regular time.  The odds of the whole family being able to rest increase and you can wake up a little earlier to make up the lost time.

I've found it's best for me to restock the diaper bag/backpack in the evening when we return to the room.  It saves time in the morning and lets me enjoy a little extra shuteye on those rare occasions when the kids sleep in.

We know that we may not get the best sleep while away from home since the girls are so small.  Sometimes they do fight us or we've traveled with a tiny baby who still takes ages to get to sleep or the available bed is too small.  You have to get out and go anyway.  If we waited until the conditions were ideal, we'd never go anywhere.  

Danielle:  I am extremely lucky because my children are very adaptable when it comes to sleeping away from home. I attribute this to the fact that they have been sleeping away from home quite frequently since they were babies. We lived five hours away from my parents and were often visiting them for weekends. We also started vacationing at Walt Disney World (WDW) two times per year with each child since they were less than a year old.

My main piece of advice is to make it as similar to home as possible. I started having my children sleep in pack n plays at my parents' when they were babies so they became used to that and can sleep in any pack n play no matter where it is: someone's house, WDW, Mexico, cruise ship, etc. Something else that I have used with my kids from birth is white noise to help them sleep. Claire is 3 and has just recently stopped using the white noise at night. I have the white noise app on my iPod and bring that iPod with me each time we sleep away. Luckily in WDW, the Disney Vacation Club villas come equipped with an iPod docking station, as do the cabins on the Disney Cruise Line. Otherwise, I purchased a travel docking station that I bring with me. Having that white noise, I'm sure, is a familiar sound to help them fall asleep, and it also blocks out noise that is inevitable when the whole family is sharing a hotel room.

A newer issue that has surfaced since Claire has outgrown the pack n play is how to secure her in big beds while we're away from home without having to rent bed rails. What we do is place the throw pillows from the bedding underneath the fitted sheet to provide some soft barriers for her. It has worked like a charm and is free! Lastly, when we are all in close quarters, we try to keep the kids as far from each other as possible (to minimize the chance of them waking each other up). We always rent a one-bedroom DVC villa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House when we go to WDW. My husband and I take the bedroom, Claire is either on the sleeper chair or sleeper sofa in the living area, and Max is in the pack n play. We always place Max's pack n play in the kitchen and, believe it or not, if the villa's closet is big enough, he sleeps in there! Now, we keep the doors open, but the closet provides just the right amount of privacy to help him drift off to dreamland without being distracted by his sister in the next room.

That being said, they are really good even if we are unable to spread out in a villa. On our recent Disney cruise, they slept right beside each other (for lack of space) and did great. Space, white noise, etc. is not always necessary. The key is... Exhaustion. On vacation, they are so tired at the end of the day that it is very easy for them to fall asleep no matter what the circumstances!

Janine:  Tink has never napped or slept too well.When I nursed her full time she would sleep anywhere, so long as it was on me!  She didn't sleep in her cot on her own til she was 18 months as we co-slept.  So again, she slept anywhere, so long as it was next to me.  Thankfully she is better now. She does nap in her cot, but only in her cot, not in her stroller or in the car.  And she stays in her cot all night, although she still doesn't sleep through.

So what tips do I have for when we stay away?

We try to make her surroundings as familiar as possible and keep to routine as much as we can. I take all her bed clothes from home so she has her own sheets, sleeping bag and her special Cinderella blanket. We use a bedtime lavender spray at home so that comes with us. We bring a few toys from her bed (always Minnie and Mickey and whoever else is in favour) and her bedtime cup for her milk.

We read stories together, then I sing to her. I often let her fall asleep holding my hand. And we always take her princess nightlight, which is a torch for reading too. She doesn't like the room pitch black although she needs it to be almost silent, any background noise just distracts her.

This might seem like a lot to take and to bother with for some people but it seems to work for us. I have a case full of her familiar things to take with on our trip to France (she has a travel cot over there) and will take a lot of it to Florida later this year. That will be slightly different as she will be sharing a bed with me for the holiday. She is a real starfish in the bed, arms and legs everywhere and a duvet stealer ;-)  I'll be looking forward to getting back to my own bed by then end of it lol.

Natalie:  Taking a vacation and spending time away from home can be difficult many times. Some of my worst experiences include loud guests in the room above jumping on beds, children running up and down the hallways outside the room, or small babies crying in the room next door.

I am quite a light sleeper. Once I wake during the night, I typically cannot go back to sleep. To help me out, I bring along a fan. I always choose a fan that is a bit older and makes a bit of noise. I find that the extra fan noise provides enough white noise that the I am not able to hear others making ruckus.

Other simple solutions for this same problem are to download apps on your phone such as "White Noise Lite" or "Relax Melodies" which plays soothing music to help drowned out any unwanted noises. If you prefer silence while sleeping, purchase some ear plugs. They typically cost less $5 and eliminate nearly all possibilities of sound issues.

Happy sleeping!

A big thanks to Danielle, Janine, and Natalie for joining me on today's post.  Two of them are currently traveling and I hope they get a great night's sleep.  Please visit our Minnie Moms page for all our past topics and more information on our whole team of moms.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Walt Disney World with Grandchildren

Here at Growing Up Disney we have discussed many times about how old a child should be before you take them to Walt Disney World.   In general, unless you can travel to WDW frequently, I think they should be old enough to walk all day without needing to be carried.   If you have a large stroller you don’t mind carrying it around, you can take a younger child.  A very young child will not remember the trip.  More than once I have seen the tired parent carrying a tired child and pushing the stroller.  That does not make for a fun trip for anyone.

But, if your trip is not a once in a lifetime event, take them early and take them often. 

We recently went to WDW with my two granddaughters.  My wife and I had planned a trip and Amy decided she and the girls could come with us the week before our trip.  We had a one-bedroom villa at Disney’s Old Key West Resort booked that will sleep 5 so we had plenty of room.  The trip down was an event in itself.  Once we arrived the fun really began.  When you travel with young children it works best to keep them on their “home” schedule as much as possible.  So we tried to keep the girls on some sort of schedule.  This was something new to my wife and I as our “schedule” consists of doing what you want, when you want.  It’s been a long time since we have had young children to take to WDW.

Lunch at Olivia's
The days in the parks were fun, watching the girls and their wonder at all they saw.  Amy had some specific things she wanted Tink and Minnie to do on this trip and we just followed along.  While trying to do the things on her list, we also ran into some wonderful surprises.  Like when we ate lunch at Olivia’s and Tink’s picture which she and I colored was announced as the picture of the day and posted on the door to the restaurant (along with the other pictures of the day) with much pomp and fanfare.  Then after lunch we arrived at our room and were greeted by a flock of ducks on our patio.  The girls seemed to love that.

The next day we walked into Main Street at the Magic Kingdom.  Amy was going to get Fast Passes for the Mickey Mouse and Princess character greetings and as she was rounding the corner there was Mary Poppins.  Tink got to visit with Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins also came over to talk to Minnie who was watching from her stroller.  Not so unusual, except there was no line and no waiting.  Mary Poppins was there by herself just waiting for some young child to find her and find her we did.  At the Studios we happened up on one of the shows as we were walking around with Tink giving Amy a few moments alone.  Tink had great fun dancing and sharing her goldfish crackers with Mulch, Sweat, and Shears.

Mary Poppins & Tink
Tink sharing treats with Mulch, Sweat, & Shears

Mostly, my days in the park were spent pushing Minnie’s stroller, and Mom and I would watch her while Amy took Tink on some of the rides.  But I got to watch.  I got to watch my daughter take her daughter on her first rides.  It was fun.  I got to ride with Tink and Minnie on Prince Charming's Royal Carrousel while Amy took pictures.  And we all rode It’s a Small World and watched the children sing and dance.  We all rode the Kilimanjaro Safari; I think Tink liked seeing the animals while Minnie just enjoyed being bounced around.  Tink seemed to enjoy Muppets 3D and Mickey’s Philharmagic while Minnie liked playing with the 3D glasses.  When you have been to WDW as many times as I have, when you take a small child, especially your grandchild, you get to see things new again through the eyes of a child. 

Tink and Minnie on Main Street

We didn’t do all the things Mom and I normally do when we go to WDW, but we’ll be back.  We are, after all, Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual Passholders, we will be back.  I’ll only get to see my granddaughters experience WDW for the First time once.  Our next trip will be different.  The girls will be older and will see things differently.  I wouldn’t miss all the “Firsts” for anything.  We live about 600 miles from the girls so we already miss lots of “firsts” and “seconds” in their lives.  I’ll take what time I can get with them, and if a lot of it is experiencing “Firsts” at WDW, I’ll take it.  I wouldn't miss it for anything.   I don’t mind sharing them with Mickey.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Photo Flashback! Like Mother, Like Daughter: Ear Hats Over 30 Years Apart

I guess some things are just always moments you want to capture, like your daughter watching a Magic Kingdom parade.  We've done it again, but these two shots were not planned.  I was looking through some of Dad's old photos and realized the one of me looked familiar.  

Tink watching Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! at Magic Kingdom, May 2012, Age 3
Amy watching the 3:00 parade at Magic Kingdom, May 1979, Age 3
Update: A few readers have expressed an interest in the 1979 Magic Kingdom parade.  Follow the link to see Mickey, Minnie and Donald by the firehouse.
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Focused on the Magic

Monday, June 18, 2012

Planning a Disney Vacation Can Be Stressful; Don't Let Your Vacation Be

A friend is planning her family's first Walt Disney World vacation for this fall. She said, "I want our trip to be as smooth and fun as possible. The planning is stressful!"  And it can be.  I remember worrying about details before taking my oldest daughter for the first time and I had been to the parks more times than I could count.  That's why I started this share what I had learned and to tap into this wonderful online Disney fan community.

To my friend, yes.  Planning can be overwhelming.  Walt Disney World is huge and there are so many things to see, do and eat.  You won't be able to do them all in one trip, so just let that idea go.  Do your homework and you should be able to make the most of your time and money.  However, once you are there, please try to relax and enjoy the experience.  Just like any other big thing in life, something will go wrong, you'll forget to do something, and some aspect will disappoint.  However, Walt Disney World is filled with wonderful small moments of magic that you won't find in any guidebook.  Take the time to let those happen and you will have a terrific family vacation that you will never forget.

Happy Father's Day: A Disney Bride's Dance with Daddy

Continuing the Father's Day Celebration, I'd like to honor the men who have shown my husband and I what it means to be a terrific father, our dads.  

And since they looked great in their suits, let's check them out on our wedding day.  Andy and I were married at Disney's Wedding Pavilion with a reception at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.
Pre-ceremony smiles for the Eastmans 
One last kiss on the cheek from DisneyDad before we headed down the aisle
Andy's father opened the ceremony with a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 and asking "who gives this bride?" I loved how my father addressed that later in the ceremony.  He said that he didn't give me away because I wasn't his to give.  Children are a gift from God and I was entrusted to him and my mother for a time. 
Not many girls are lucky enough to have their dad officiate their wedding.  Not many grooms are unlucky enough to have their father-in-law officiate their wedding.  (I kid. )  He did a fantastic job with the ceremony.

First dance with Dad to "Stars Fell on Alabama"  A Disney moment that I now wish had lasted a little longer.
Love this picture!  Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you!
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