When I outlined the posts for my month-long series 31 Days of Disney, I included one post titled Tips for Doing Disney World with a Preschooler. That was BEFORE our family of five vacation to Disney World! Once we arrived on the ground, began our first Disney vacation with a three year old (and two older children, ages 10 & 12), and began taking notes, I realized there was no way I was going to fit ALL the tips in one post. There’s just SO much to say about taking a week-long Disney World vacation with a preschooler. So I decided to do a two-part preschool series. Yesterday’s post, Tips for Doing Disney World with a Preschooler. And today’s post, Tips for Feeding Your Preschooler at Disney World. If you’ve landed on this post and plan to take a Disney vacation with a preschooler, I highly recommend reading BOTH posts. My greatest hope for these posts is that they will help families plan and execute a Disney vacation that’s as smooth and successful as possible when traveling with preschoolers!
Let’s get to it! Today, I‘m sharing all the love, all the lessons learned about feeding your preschooler at Disney World.
Tip #1: Make sure your preschooler is fed.
Feeding your preschooler at Disney World sounds pretty easy, right? Self explanatory? The obvious piece of advice for any human being? Not necessarily. For us, keeping our preschooler fed was not as simple as it seemed. Preschoolers operate differently than older children, teens and adults. They need to eat more regularly. They haven’t learned to “get over” or “move past” their hunger a little while longer. When they need to eat or drink, they need to eat and drink. Period. We learned this the hard way. If you do not feed your preschooler on a regular schedule at Disney World, you will end up with a crabby child. If you keep your preschooler on a VERY regular eating schedule (pretty much just like home), you will end up with a content, satisfied, happy, much more well-behaved child. This basic need for REGULAR food and beverage is a fact that’s good to keep at the forefront of your mind from day one of your Disney World vacation.
Tip #2: If you have a Disney dining plan with 2 meals and 1 snack per person per day, plan on getting in a THIRD meal, even if it’s small.
We’ve purchased the Disney dining plan for our last four Disney vacations. Typically, we purchase the standard plan which comes with 1 quick service meal, 1 sit down meal, and 1 snack per person, per day. This meal plan worked perfectly for us in the past! For the third meal of the day, we just foraged and made do with breakfast bars in the hotel room, eating heavier at our first meal of the day, etc. But on our most recent vacation to Disney World with a preschooler, mealtimes became a little trickier. The standard 2 meals and 1 snack per day wasn’t enough sustenance for our preschooler. She was getting hungry and crabby without her daily 3 meals, 2 snacks and regular access to beverages. We made accommodations early on in the week by using the previous day’s unused snack vouchers to buy her a fruit platter and/or a pastry for breakfast. A few times, we purchased something small at the parks for her third meal. And often, we purchased extra beverages to help refresh her throughout the day.
Tip #3: If you have a Disney dining plan, try to schedule as many character dining experiences as you can.
We’ve always loved to do character dining with our children. It’s one of the MOST SIGNIFICANT perks of having the Disney dining plan for families. But on this vacation, we appreciated the character dining even more so because we had our three year old along! Not only was it amazing to get our preschooler fed and happy again, but the characters provided great engagement and fun. In an odd sort of way, the characters provide positive distraction during mealtime. While your preschooler eats, they can watch the characters mingle around the room and eagerly await that magical moment when the characters visit your table for a one-on-one visit. I dined with our preschooler at Hollywood & Vine for a sit-down lunch buffet with Disney Junior characters one day on our recent vacation. Sophia the First, Jake & The Neverland Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and Handy Manny were all there! The music was a little obnoxious and there was a fair amount of noise with all the characters and kids, but the food was EXCELLENT for both kids and adults and the kids clearly loved it. Highly recommend character dining for preschoolers (and older children as well).
Tip #4: It’s great to make sure your child is exposed to and eating a variety of food, but sometimes you just need to surrender to “kid food.”
One of the things I’ve been most proud of as a parent is that my two oldest children are NOT picky eaters at all. They’ll pretty much eat anything, anywhere. Sure, they have a few select things they don’t want to eat, but for the most part, they’ll eat everything without complaint. My youngest, on the other hand, is much more fickle and picky with her eating. She eats a variety of foods, but nothing’s a guarantee. And the amount of food she’ll eat at any given meal is really hard to predict. All of that to say, I understand both ends of the spectrum as far as having children who are picky eaters, and children who are NOT picky eaters at all. Even though my preschooler tends to be a pickier, more fickle eater, I continue to serve her a variety of foods just like I do my other two children. We don’t prepare special “kid food” for meals at home. They get what they get. They get the meal I’ve prepared for our family. This rule applies to our Disney World vacations as well. I’m not about to serve my children chicken nuggets, fries, corn dogs and mac ‘n cheese when they could have salmon, sauteed green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and all the other delicious food options. But I must say, sometimes we just needed to allow our preschooler to have the “kid food.” On our most recent vacation to Disney World, there came a time when we just needed our preschooler to eat something, anything, everything she’d put her hands on. A full tummy meant a happy preschooler. And that meant a much better day for all of us! Lesson learned? Let them eat all the “kid food” they want when you’re at Disney World, as long as it’s well balanced. Maybe, like my preschooler, “kid food” means eating chicken nuggets, steamed broccoli, mac ‘n cheese and a huge serving of pineapple for lunch. Good, right?
Tip #5: If you’re making reservations for sit-down dinner and have any choice at all, try to make reservations for times you’d normally eat at home (or as close to normal as possible).
I have to admit, we had a few major meltdowns because our lunch or dinner reservations were simply too late. For example, lunch at 12:45 p.m. instead of 12:00, or dinner at 6:45 p.m. instead of 6:00. For preschoolers, eating an hour later than they normally do can cause major disruptions. You might run into a “hangry” (hungry + angry) preschooler! If your reservations are later than your normal mealtimes, just be sure to get your preschooler a hearty snack and beverage an hour or two before the reservation. A good general rule of thumb is to stick to normal mealtimes as much as you can. Your child will be a lot happier that way!
Tip #6: After snacks and quick service meals, make sure to take your child’s cup and straw, refill the cup with ice and a beverage of your choice, and bring it with you into the Disney Parks.
This is a key learning I didn’t really start implementing until the last two days of our most recent Disney World vacation. Time and time again, we’d finish a meal and a half hour later, our preschooler would be complaining that she was thirsty. I kept wishing that I’d brought her cup from lunch, filled it up with ice and beverage, and brought it out to the stroller so we didn’t have to PAY for another beverage (at $2.75 for a bottle of water). Finally, I became proactive about the situation and started refilling her cup right before we left the quick service restaurant. That way, she was fresh and ready to go with beverages for another hour or two. This tip is small, but pretty amazing and makes a big difference. We do this all the time at fast food restaurants at home. Why not do it at Disney World? It makes a HUGE difference in your child’s thirst and satisfaction, and saves on beverage costs.
Tip #7: Just get a popsicle.
Need I say more? If all else fails and your preschooler is continually hungry, thirsty, crabby and tired at Disney World, just get a popsicle. It will fix everything, at least for a while. Watch out for melting, though. You may need to help with a few licks or bites here and there. That Florida sun makes those popsicles melt fast!
That’s all, friends! If you have any questions about feeding your preschooler at Disney World, please feel free to ask. I’m happy to answer anything! Also, if you’re going to be traveling to Disney World and haven’t read my post Tips for Doing Disney World with a Preschooler, make sure to read that as well. Here’s to successful travels with preschoolers!
This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!
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