Kids & Characters: 7 Ways to Break the Ice

Disney characters are special to kids. Let’s face it; they’re just as special to us adults. Do you remember the first time you came face to face with your first character, or maybe your favorite character? It made you feel like a kid, didn’t it? Of course it did! So naturally your little princess or pirate will want to get just as up close and personal with their favorite characters, right? Well…maybe. It all depends on them. Chances are if they are a little shy around costumed characters at home or at the local mall then they might be a bit on the weary side at Disney World. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! There are many ways to help avoid shyness.

Here are 7 strategies to help your kids feel more at ease with the characters.

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1. Gifts from the Characters – This worked really well for our family. Daddy and I packed some goodies that we bought from the Dollar Store at home. The first night of our resort stay, we assembled the loot on the table along with a note from “Mickey and friends”. The note encouraged the kids to tell them jokes, ask them yes or no questions (they save their voices for their TV shows and movies), give high fives and have fun! The note prompted a new attitude and for the rest of the vacation, my son was thanking the characters for letting us visit their home. Adorable.

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2. Autograph Books – These are an essential ice breaker between characters and children. Kids can be afraid all they want of the size of a character but they WANT that autograph and they will stretch their little arms as long as they need to until Mickey Mouse can reach it. No hugging necessary. No touching is even necessary. Parents- talk about the autograph book before you get to Disney World. “Won’t it be so cool to have Minnie’s autograph? You can keep it forever!” Any book will do but have you seen some of these elaborate books? They are amazing, and personalized!

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3. Speaking Characters – There are plenty of them. You can find Peter Pan, Wendy, Mary Poppins, Princesses, and others in different locations. Meeting speaking characters first might be more reassuring to kids rather than starting them off with a huge Tigger or Pooh. The first character my son would go near was Princess Jasmine. She was beautiful, sweet, engaging, and she carried on a conversation with him. He also let his guard down a bit when Peter Pan asked him about Kindergarten. With each character encounter he gained confidence and felt more comfortable.

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4. Ask Yes or No Questions / Tell Jokes – Kids can still engage with the characters without physically touching them. Some of the best Disney memories are the children’s conversations with the characters. For weeks, my son’s favorite Disney story to tell was that Mickey laughed at his joke. He laughed so hard that he almost fell on the floor, but he grabbed the chair to stop himself. (Mickey was not really hurt during the telling of this joke. Wink…)

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5. Parades and Shows – If you’re not sure how your child will react to Donald Duck getting up close and personal, check out a parade or show at any of the parks. Let your kids get a taste of the characters’ looks and size before they come face to face. The more prepared your child is the more comfortable he/she will be. This is a great opportunity for them to get used to the characters from a distance.

6. Character Dining – Certain restaurants offer meals where the characters make an appearance. These are table service meals and are widely popular with the kids and adults alike. You can eat AND meet characters at once… without waiting in line! This is another great opportunity for your child to see the characters without having to go near them. The characters do come to every table. However, they are trained to take cues from the guests. If it is clear that little Johnny doesn’t want them to get too close, then they won’t. They will wave and move on to the next table as they don’t want to cause anyone to get upset. When my youngest son was just shy of 2 years old, we had a breakfast scheduled with Lilo and Stitch. When Lilo approached the table, she made a crying motion with her hands and pointed to him. I didn’t understand at first that she was asking me if he would cry if he saw her. He was less hesitant with the characters than his older brother (no fear!) so he enjoyed his encounter with Lilo and Stitch. We loved that she wanted to be sure he was ok with her being near him.

7. Parents, get in there! – One thing I’ve noticed during visits to my happy place is that parents are just as happy to meet the characters as their kids are. I fall into that category (surprise, surprise!). If you want to help your kids get over their character shyness, keep it up! Get in those pictures! Your kids don’t want to get near them or pose for photos? Have THEM take the photos! This is a great way to have fun with the characters even if a hug is out of the question. If Mom and Dad won’t pose with Buzz Lightyear then why would the kids want to? Show them that there’s no reason to be hesitant and have fun at the same time!

Remember to let your kids lead the way when it comes to characters. If you force them in front of Captain Hook and demand that they smile and say cheese, you will probably get a great photo of them screaming and crying. It’s ok to start with a high five, a hand shake or even just let your child touch Pluto’s paw with one finger. You never know when a high five will turn into a hug they’ll remember forever.

Contact me today for more tips and info regarding Disney Vacations!

Erin Santamaria – ErinS@travelwiththemagic.com 877-377-0505

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