How I…Ended the Poop/Butt Stage

How I...Ended the Poop/Butt Stage

The dreaded poop/butt stage. It seems every toddler goes through this, especially during potty training. I don’t know about you, but I always dreaded it simply because I think it’s gross.

When my son and I started potty training when he was not quite 3.5, I was bracing for it. For awhile, it didn’t really happen. He was actually afraid of pooping for months, so he didn’t talk about it.

Shortly before he turned 4, though, it happened. Poop. Butt. Poopy butt poopy head. Poopoo nugget. And more combinations than I choose to remember. He has some cousins who are just a few months to a couple of years older than him and they only helped to increase his vocabulary.

Now, I could have gone the same route as every other mom I know. I could have been resigned to this stage and just sounded like a broken record. “That’s not a polite thing to say.” “We don’t say things like that.” I could have chosen to just live with it for the next year or so, because every 4 year old I’d known was still stuck in this stage.

But I decided I wasn’t going to just patiently wait for him to grow out of it. I wasn’t going to just sternly say no on repeat. I wasn’t going to accept this was just a phase I had to suffer through.

I’ve worked as a behavior interventionist for children with autism. As part of my training, I learned about the things that drive children to tantrum or otherwise misbehave. One of them is attention. Children misbehave for attention.

I know my son. He demands constant attention.

I admit that, at the beginning, I just lived with the poop and butt stage. But then I started looking at him through the lens of my training. If I didn’t have to live with the toilet talk, I wasn’t going to. I realized he was doing it because he loved the attention that followed!

Children shouldn’t be ignored. But sometimes their behavior needs to be.

So, how did I end the poop/butt stage?

It was so easy it only took a month!

  1. Ignore. I completely ignored this speech. Whenever he said poop, butt, or any creative combination (and, boy, have they been strange), I didn’t pay it any attention. Yes, he said it more often, but I stuck to ignoring it and these words slowly started to vanish, and become less creative.
  2. Pretend he didn’t say poop or butt. Sometimes we were having a conversation. Sometimes I was asking a question. He would say something poop or butt related in response, but I pretended he didn’t say it. I kept the conversation rolling or repeated my question until I got an appropriate response. Surprisingly, he never kept on saying it. He would answer me without saying poop or butt and received attention.
  3. Set aside poop and butt playtime. I know it sounds weird, but it means we get to control when and where he says it. Sometimes we play the game with him and say it back, but we never let it go for more than a couple of minutes. He learned that when we said that’s enough, it was time to stop and we would give attention for more appropriate speech.
  4. Tickle his tushie. Along with the words came the sticking out of his tushie. Sometimes we let him, when we’re all in a playful mood or when he’s playing with daddy. Otherwise I know he’s super ticklish, so I tickle his tushie. He doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t repeat it for days.

He still says it, but I can recognize why he does it and when it’s likely to happen so I can more effectively handle it. He says it to strangers who are trying to engage him because he’s a little shy and being confronted by someone he doesn’t know disturbs him, so he hides behind being silly. Usually, I let him say it, explain he’s a little shy, and let him hide behind me. He also says it when he wants to be silly (like with his grandparents), but even this is getting rarer. When it’s okay to be silly, he knows I’ll engage him in silly play and it’s okay to say it. When it’s not okay, I ignore and he gets the message right away.

Okay, so he hasn’t completely stopped, but he’s not even 4.5 and can go several days without any poop/butt talk. Most days, it doesn’t even seem to be part of his vocabulary. When it does pop up, it’s always brief and mommy always ignores. Daddy is, of course, an entirely different story.

 

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Breastfeeding My 16 Month Old is Like Nursing a Baby Cow

Well, not exactly, but close enough!

Recently, my daughter and I went to the county fair with my son and his class. She had a blast looking at all the animals and calling them all kitty. He…not so much.

My son may be interested in science, but animals and insects and plants have no appeal to him. He’s more of a space and gravity and robotics guy.

But he did manage to be more interested in the milking demonstration. Probably because he didn’t have to get anywhere close to the cow. Guess I’m not looking at a future vet. For now, at least.

I have to admit, as a nursing mom, I was interested, too.

I grew up in the suburbs, a half hour drive from L.A., without traffic. Cows were a half hour drive in the opposite direction and, even though we often visited my aunt and uncle there, we hardly ever actually saw a cow. I grew up looking at pictures of cows and seeing them in the various types of media, but don’t recall ever getting up close and personal with one. Needless to say, I pretty much only know we get milk and beef from cows.

Turns out a milk cow isn’t so different from a pumping mom. As a non-pumping mom, I was tickled, but not really interested.

Then the guy started talking about how the baby cows get mom’s milk to let down.

My interest was piqued. I know all about let down. I know all about nursing babies and small toddlers (my 16 month old is still going strong with the nursing).

I wasn’t so tickled to learn baby cows head butt mom to get the milk to let down.

My son was content to simply suck until the milk came all the way up to when he was weaned at 19 months. My daughter is a completely different story. If it doesn’t come right away, she starts crying. Even at almost 17 months.

Instead, she hits me. Bites me. Twists my nipples. Hits me some more. All while sucking vigorously on one nipple.

Ow.

Seriously, child, do you think that’s going to work? It never does, probably because my body is focused on recovering from the pain and not getting the milk to let down. But that doesn’t stop her. And she doesn’t like to listen to reason.

During the demonstration I was a little horrified to learn my daughter is basically a baby cow. But, unlike mom cow, I do not experience let down when she beats me up. Too bad she hasn’t figured that out.

How I…Teach My Toddler Simple Math

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I raise my children the same way I was raised: by letting them develop their own personalities and interests.

As a parent, it’s my job to introduce as much as I can into their lives. We provide diverse experiences and activities, introduce different ideas and ways of doing things, and expose them to as many subject areas as possible. For most of the year, I’ve done a revolving schedule of reading, letters, numbers, science, history, and art with my son, one subject per day. Even though I love books and reading, I don’t spend our days just reading books with my kids. Even though my husband is a scientist, he doesn’t try to do experiments with them every weekend. Instead, we encourage diversity and are guided by their interests.

My son recently turned 4. He’s done a bit of traveling to other states, but most of his experiences have been across Southern California. His first word was the result of an obsession with an owl book. He loved an Irish singing group called Celtic Thunder. He’ll play on his keyboard and my harp every chance he gets. He loves baking and helping us cook. He enjoys building with blocks and playing in his kitchen. He’s curious about the world and enjoys nature from a distance (he’ll freak out if he gets a bit of dirt on his hands, so not quite sure how he’s going to survive the rest of his childhood).

But do you know what he really loves?

Science and math.

His father is thrilled. He has so many experiments in mind that sometimes I think he’s going to implode. I, on the other hand, am a little bewildered. Being at home means I have the time to explore science and math with him. But…I really suck at math and literature is more my forte.

All I can say is, thank goodness he’s only 4 and not doing scientific calculations!

But it does mean I’m teaching him addition and subtraction. Because he’s excited to learn it.

I think I have to “thank” the PBS show Peg + Cat for this. The whole show is based on math concepts and my son religiously watches it Monday-Friday right before naptime. He has been known to throw a fit if he misses it.

One day, right in the middle of the show, he turned to me and started asking me addition problems. Curious to see where he was going with this, I played along and started asking him simple addition problems. He figured it out within seconds, figured out subtraction five minutes later, and has been enjoying addition and subtraction for over a month now.

I’m not going to say he’s some math whiz, but he definitely surprises us all the time. I’m a little scared he’s going to be asking about multiplication and division any day now.

So, how do I teach my toddler simple math?

It’s really very simple!

  1. Visuals are key. Remember when you were a kid learning math? We had all those dreadful worksheets asking us to color the apples one color and the oranges another color and then to add the apples and oranges together. Basically, it’s counting. But it’s how young children learn to add and subtract. I usually use my fingers for answers between 0 and 10 and his toys or other objects for greater numbers.
  2. Show the problem in motion. If your problem is 2+2, then set out 2 items and say “2.” Then say the “plus 2” and put 2 additional objects in a separate, but close, pile. That way your child hears the problem, sees the problem, can start to understand how it works, and can then count and provide an answer.
  3. Be patient. Kids can be slow counters and may need to see and hear the problem more than once. It may be tempting to constantly shuffle things around and encourage them to count, but their processing speed, just like an adult’s, is not always whip fast. If your child looks confused, present it again, a bit slower. If they’re just not paying attention, stop and wait for another opportunity. Remember, a 4 year old does not need to know how to add and subtract! (Hear that, my child?!)
  4. Make it fun! As with everything with kids, make it fun. Do addition with candy and let them eat it. Do it with toys and then play with them. But, most of all, if they have no interest, don’t push it. My son enjoys math, but he doesn’t want to have to do it all day every day.

I constantly call my son a little weirdo. He’s unlike a lot of toddlers his age that we know, hates getting dirty, actually listens to me at home and in public, is consistently polite, and is well-behaved in public. And now I can add budding mathematician. Seriously, where did this child come from?

Well, his dad recently informed me he wants phonics videos when he’s being put to bed (daddy handles his bedtime), so I guess we’ll be starting reading soon, too.

Perhaps it’s because we never stressed academics that he’s interested in doing math and reading at an age where he should be focused on playing and getting muddy. Or maybe it’s just his curious mind. Either way, he constantly surprises us.

Preschool is for Playing

A version of this was previously posted on my other blog, Not the Typical Mom. I had something else planned for today, but, since my 4 year old starts his playschool program tomorrow, this is all that’s on my mind right now.

Okay, my 4 year old isn’t exactly going to preschool, but he’ll be out of my care for a little over 5.5 hours each week. Which really isn’t a lot, but is more than he’s ever been away from mom and dad. To say I’m scared and nervous is an understatement! But I know it’ll be good for him, so I’m trying to stay upbeat about it so he doesn’t become scared and nervous. (I always imagined I would be excited about my child’s first day of school, not that I would experience first day of school jitters all over again!)

When I was in graduate school for clinical psychology, I was lucky enough to take a highly desired child psychology seminar. Being more of a psychodynamic program, it was a psychodynamic focused class (think Freud), but it was really an amazing and thought-provoking class, especially since I was pregnant with my 4 year old at the time. The class could not have stressed the importance of play during the early years more than it did. I came away from the class thinking I was going to ensure my kids played as much as possible during their toddler years.

Play is important. It allows children to explore themselves and their world. They have the opportunity to re-enact what they see and hear and put the information in such a way that they can understand it. They learn to interact and socialize with other individuals, adults and peers. They learn to navigate the social waters, which also teaches them more about themselves in the context of others.

Knowing this, I knew I was going to send my kids to school. Not that homeschooling deprives children of socialization! I just freak out about the idea of being responsible for my children’s education and really, really, really want to have my own career.

But, back to sending my kids to school. In school, they’ll have the opportunity to interact with their peers and teachers five days a week. They’ll have five days to play and learn and socialize with kids their own age. Of course, I’m afraid of what my kids are going to pick up from them, but have to trust I’ve taught them enough to trust themselves and do what’s right for them.

In California, school isn’t compulsory until first grade. Which means I don’t even have to send my little 4 year old boy to preschool or Kindergarten! But I will. Because I think the socialization is important for him. Besides, he loves playing with his cousins when he sees them, so I know he’ll love making friends and playing with them.

I’m sending my son to a preschool-like program. I’m not entirely happy that it also involves prep for Kindergarten, but I have to hope he gets enough playtime to make it worthwhile.

Preschool is for playing. It’s for learning to navigate themselves and others in various social situations. It’s not for academic learning, but for learning about their social world. And that is why I’m putting him in this program. He can learn many things from us, his family. But I can’t teach him how to navigate making friends and making enemies, how to react to any number of situations, how to take direction from someone other than family members, and how to just be around other people. I can guide him through social situations, but, one day, he’ll have to do it himself, so why not now when the goal is simply to learn through play? It’ll make things fun for him and he’ll learn how to interact with lots of other individuals.

Preschool is for playing. At least, that’s what keeps me saying I want him to go. We’ll see how it actually goes tomorrow when the program starts.

But as long as he gets to play and interact with his peers, I’ll be happy. Not sure I can say the same for him.

I am Proud of My Toddler, But Not Because He Knows His ABCs and 123s

My toddler knows his numbers, alphabet, letter sounds, body parts and organs, etc., but I am proud he is becoming a kind, understanding child

My oldest recently turned 4 and I am freaking out that he’s going into Kindergarten next fall.

I’m not worried that he might not be academically prepared, which itself feels like a stupid thing to feel considering Kindergarten is supposed to be the starting place for receiving an education. I often find myself wondering why I bother checking to see if he’s ready to read considering I didn’t learn until 2nd or 3rd grade, but, apparently, kids going into Kindergarten need to be at least on the verge of learning to read. And school isn’t even compulsory in California until age 6! So, I don’t even need to send him to Kindergarten. But I am. Because that’s what I did and I think I turned out quite well. And he could benefit from being around his peers more often.

No, I’m worried because he will be out of my care for several hours 5 days a week. For hours a day, I will have no idea if he is okay, if he is happy, if he is hurt, if he is sad, if someone has hurt him. I worry because I am a control freak and he will not be under my care all day every day anymore. I won’t be the one making sure he eats lunch. I won’t be the one kissing his ouchies. I won’t be the one patiently and lovingly responding to him when he is sad.

But I trust him. I trust that I have actually taught him well enough about life, and trust that he and I can teach him about life over the next year.

My son was born at 34 weeks. I’ve spent his entire life wondering if he is okay, if he’s going to have any behavioral or learning problems when he starts school, if his brain is ready to receive letters and numbers and be able to manipulate them. While I read many other mom accounts of their 2 year old reciting the ABCs like a pro, I know my son didn’t do this until he was 3.5 years old. But that’s okay. Because he learned when his brain was ready.

My son knows the alphabet. He can count past 70 mostly on his own. He’s learning the sounds of the letters and is starting to show signs of interest in reading. He can do simple addition and subtraction. Learning simple math was his idea. It definitely wasn’t mine! He knows about the Earth and a bit about the continents and has some familiarity with different countries. He can pinpoint where he and various family members live on the globe. He is learning the months and days of the week. He knows his body parts and some internal organs. He has developed a love of science and everything space related completely on his own. He’s interested in machines and electronics and, most of all, robots. He’s trying to learn mixing which colors make which colors.

I’m so proud of everything he knows that will prepare him for school.

I am most proud of my toddler because he is aware of his world and others, not because he can do simple addition and subtraction

But, most of all, I’m proud of all the non-academic things he knows and does.

I am proud of my toddler because he can understand how his peers feel. He understands why someone is sad or upset or mad. He is learning to regulate his own emotional states on his own, learning to make himself feel better instead of relying on hugs and kisses from mom and dad. He is polite, saying please and thank you and asking in a nice voice. He does not demand anything (of anyone except mom and dad and sister). He is learning the art of trading, as he sometimes wants something his sister has and will then try to offer something appealing to her so they can trade. He knows when his sister is upset and when she is ready to be entertained by him.

There are so many things about life and people that my son understands. He can identify when he wants company and when he’s happiest being left alone. He understands himself as well as a 4 year old can. He can recognize how other people feel and how he can help make them better. He knows how to navigate playing with other children and is kind to them. He still needs to work at turn taking, but he knows to play nice. He will never be the kid on the playground who takes things from other kids (just his sister). He knows to ask when he wants something and to not throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get everything he wants. He is able to engage in someone else’s play scenario and add to it. He is thoughtful and kind, understanding and polite.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have his absolutely silly moments where he acts like a complete nutcase. He does. He also has days where he acts up, throws tantrums, and is more than a handful to deal with. Of course there are the bad days mixed in with the ones of pure joy. But that’s what childhood is, and he learns from those days. He learns what is okay and what isn’t. He learns how to manage his negative emotions and that there are rewards and consequences for his actions. But, at the end of every day, he still needs a hug and kiss from mom and dad to help him fall asleep.

I am proud of the little person he is becoming, with a beautiful, kind soul and brightness in his every movement

I am proud of my toddler not because he knows his ABCs and 123s, but because he is growing and nurturing a beautiful, loving soul. And while I’d like to think it’s because I’ve taught him well, I know it’s really because I’ve given him the tools and taken the time to explain things in ways he can understand so he can process and put things together on his own. He could have been a bratty, spoiled child (he was an only child who almost always got what he wanted, within reason, for almost 3 years). Instead, we’ve nurtured a kind, understanding soul and he has internalized many of the messages we have patiently repeated over the years. We may have had a hand, but he has chosen to be this beautiful child.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of him. And I would much rather nurture this soul than drill reading and math into his head so he is ready for novels and long division in Kindergarten.

Simple tips to help making baking with toddlers fun and more managable

Baking with Young Children Tip #5

In lieu of a daily question on Fridays this month, I’ll be giving a baking with young children tip. I’ve switched up Fridays this month to highlight dads, but I can’t bring myself to forego food entirely.

Baking tip #5: Have fun!

Doing anything in the kitchen with small children can be difficult. There are small people getting underfoot, small people demanding attention and to be picked up, small people screaming if they don’t get to help, small people littering toys that you must navigate like a minefield, small people who decide the time when you absolutely must get something out of the oven is the best time to have the largest poop ever, small people who want to try to touch the oven while it’s on and open.

It’s stressful. It’s difficult. It can be downright annoying. It’s not easy baking, or even cooking, with small children around.

I know. I’ve been there. It wasn’t bad with one child, but adding another suddenly made it twice as hard. Two little ones demanding two different things. Two little ones to keep away from the oven. Two little ones who want to play with everything and grab all the chocolate when I’m trying to make chocolate chip cookies for them.

But! I remember they’re small. They’re young. They’re exploring. They’re learning. And I want learning to be fun. So I try to have fun. I play keep away games when it’s time to open the oven, or hide and seek where I count really slowly. I give them measuring cups to play with. I let my older child choose something we can add in, like chocolate chips, nuts, candy pieces, coconut flakes, etc. I let him mix and teach him to mix in the flour slowly. I use the stand mixer and get to watch their eyes turn into saucers as they watch it go around and around. I take my time baking. If it takes an hour to get it into the oven, it takes an hour.

It’s so important to just have fun. My kids love baking. Not only do they get a treat out of it and it occupies us for a morning, but they enjoy helping me add the ingredients, mixing, and learning how to bake. Baking isn’t a chore to me and I hope to pass that on to them. Baking is fun.

So, have fun while baking!

Baking with Young Children Tips

 

Baking with Young Children Tip #4

In lieu of a daily question on Fridays this month, I’ll be giving a baking with young children tip. I’ve switched up Fridays this month to highlight dads, but I can’t bring myself to forego food entirely.

Baking tip #4: Utilize the measuring cups you aren’t using to entertain your little ones.

I don’t know what it is about those little measuring cups, but my kids are obsessed with them. I can’t open the drawer and take one out without having to give one to each of them. Of course, sometimes I have to negotiate with them so I also get to use the one I need. Which can get tricky, but the alternative is no measuring cup and that doesn’t usually go over well.

My toddler is easy. I put some chocolate chips into his measuring cup and he’s happy as a clam. We almost always bake after his morning snack and he doesn’t get any sweets as a rule before noon, so, on baking days, it’s like a little treat. He happily snacks on his chocolate and I get to stir in the flour without having to worry about a white cloud. He’s also always very enthusiastic when I say it’s time to bake…

My 1 year old is a little trickier. She always wants a measuring cup, too, and will whine until I give it to her. The easy part is she’ll take any of them. The hard part is putting her down with it. I’ve mastered baking while holding her, but sometimes it hurts when she decides she’d like to drum on me. Though, when I do get to put her down, she loves drumming on everything in the kitchen and then will wander away just in time for me to open the oven. And then I get to play hunt down the measuring cup. Oh well. At least she was entertained long enough.

I really don’t know why those cups are so popular with my kids, but it definitely helps make baking fun for them and they’re entertained long enough for me to do things like stir in the flour and open the oven.

Baking with Young Children Tip #3

In lieu of a daily question on Fridays this month, I’ll be giving a baking with young children tip. I’ve switched up Fridays this month to highlight dads, but I can’t bring myself to forego food entirely.

Baking tip #3: Crack those eggs into a bowl.

Seriously. If you’ve ever baked with young children, you know those round little ovals that roll everywhere are very tempting for little hands. And you’ve probably cleaned up a few broken eggs or more.

Since the eggs should be brought to room temperature and the butter should be softened before baking, I take them out while my kids are occupied, about an hour or so before we start baking. Instead of letting the eggs roll around, just crack them into a bowl! Then little hands can’t drop or knock them off the counter and they can even help add the eggs.

Hopefully this will save an egg or two out there. I know I’m tired of cleaning up eggy messes.

Baking with Young Children Tip #2

In lieu of a daily question on Fridays this month, I’ll be giving a baking with young children tip. I’ve switched up Fridays this month to highlight dads, but I can’t bring myself to forego food entirely.

Baking tip #2: Practice counting by using the smallest measuring up and counting each one. For two cups of flour, use a quarter cup measure and count to 8.

I know the rule to baking is to use exact measurements, so this might sound weird and perhaps you don’t even want to try it and risk the end result. However, I have been baking since I was a small child and neither my mom nor I have ever perfectly measured the dry ingredients. I have never leveled off the measuring cups and have never had a problem. People usually rave about my baked goods.

So, I don’t have a problem with using different measuring cups. Besides, my son likes to claim the biggest one, often leaving me to use the half and quarter cup measures.

He wants to make me use the quarter measuring cup to measure out 2 cups? No problem. I’ll make him help me count. However many quarter cups go into what needs to be measured out is the number he needs to count to. I get my dry ingredients measured and he gets to practice counting. Win-win.

Though if your child doesn’t want to count, I use a musician trick to counting. I play the harp and sometimes have had agonizingly long pauses before I play again. No joke, I once had to count a 30-something measure rest.

For the first measure (first cup), count 1 2 3 4 (if using a quarter cup measure; 1 2 if you’re using a half cup).

For the second measure (second cup), count 2 2 3 4 (if using a quarter up measure; 2 2 if you’re using a half cup).

The idea is that the first number is the number of the measure (or cup, in this case). That way you know how many measures (or cups) you’ve counted.

Though it’s easier if your child is agreeable and does the counting for you.

Happy baking!

A thorough guide to a day at Disneyland when you have young children, from preparing to getting around to leaving, plus a guide to the rides.

Guide to Disneyland When You Have Young Children

Guide to Disneyland When You have Young Children

 

As a SoCal mom, I’ve spent way too much time at Disneyland. Sure, I’d love to go to Disney World one day, but Disneyland is the original, the park Walt Disney himself strolled through, and the one that is only a short drive from where we live. Which made it oh so easy for my husband to convince me to take our kids to Disneyland 7 times and California Adventure once. Let’s not think about how much that cost now…though, thank goodness kids under 3 are free.

After 8 trips, I’ve learned a lot about how to prepare to go, how to get around, and what my family likes.

Dressing For Disneyland

Located in Southern California, the weather is generally nice. But, having gone literally every season, I’ve learned a little about how to dress.

Winter

Winter is kind of a joke here. Some years it doesn’t even get sort of cold until February. But, for us, anything below 70 degrees can be considered cold. That said, the early mornings and nights are when it gets really cold. The middle of the day can be a tad warmer, if the sun is out, but your best bet is to at least dress in layers, especially since the indoor rides (and their lines) are heated and, if you’re waiting for a long time, it can actually become quite warm. Though if you come from a colder climate, it’ll probably be pleasant during the day. At night it can plunge down into the 40s. And sometimes it rains. If we’re lucky.

Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall are a lot alike here. It’s warm during the day and cooler in the mornings and at night. Layers are a good option or dress for warmer weather (70s-80s; yes, even in November) and bring a warm jacket. Also remember that if there is a nighttime show or parade, you won’t be moving around as much, so it may be a little harder to keep warm.

Summer

Summer is just hot. It has gone over 100 degrees here, especially from July-September. It’s hot during the day. It’s hot at night. Well, if you’re lucky, it might cool down to the 70s. Dress for hot weather, but carry a lightweight jacket or sweater because the indoor rides are air conditioned and, when you’re standing in line for 30+ minutes, it can actually get a tad chilly.

Preparing To Go

If you’re going with young children, you will want to familiarize yourself with the park and figure out a master plan. The Baby Care Center is on Main Street right next to City Hall. Every bathroom has a baby changing area. Every land has at least one bathroom, but sometimes you’ll find yourself a bit of a walk away from one. The signs for them are also different depending on which land you are in, so be sure to consult a map.

When we go, I have a plan, but I keep it flexible because, you know, kids. They see a ride and they just have to go on it.

The first time we went, it was the middle of summer. I planned out our day by going around the park one way and going on all of the outdoor rides while there was still a chance of 70 degree weather. By the time we were finished with them, it would be lunch time and we could go back around the park in the afternoon to go on all the indoor rides and keep cool periodically. Since then, we still use this as a guide, but our son has his favorites that we must go on as we see them, sometimes twice. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is a real favorite even though he has never sat long enough to watch Toy Story in its entirety.

But do keep in mind that some rides have FastPass, some rides have hours long lines, and Fantasyland is definitely best done first.

What To Bring

You have young children. Think about what they usually need when you go out for a day. Snacks? Drinks? Change of clothes? Diapers? Whatever it is you usually have, bring it. Just don’t overdo it because you’ll get stuck lugging it around all day. But do bring a stroller. We always leave our diaper bag with the stroller, but I bring a small bag I can easily carry to hold my phone, keys, and wallet when we go on rides. We have never had a problem, though they often shuffle strollers around, so don’t expect it to be in the same place you left it.

The snacks and drinks are pricey in the park, so, if you can get away with it, bring your own snacks and drinks. Though my family can attest that the popcorn is really good and they usually have cute souvenir buckets, for a price, of course. If your child is prone to getting messy or spilling said snacks all over themselves, a change of clothes will come in handy.

If you’re staying for a nighttime parade, bring a big blanket. It’ll be your territory, so don’t bring a small one and try to squeeze a family of four onto it. I haven’t been to a nighttime show, so, unfortunately, I cannot give you any pointers. For the fireworks, you might start off sitting, but they will have you stand and squish together. Now would be an excellent time to have a stroller where you can put the kids and they’ll have plenty of space and won’t get stepped on. I wish I were kidding about that.

Don’t forget wipes. Even if you don’t have a baby, wipes are incredibly handy. They’re great for cleaning hands in a pinch and for wiping down tables and seats. Certainly, there is an excellent cleaning staff, but sometimes you just want to snag that table before it gets cleaned, especially if it’s noon and everyone in the park is starving. You’ll have to wipe it down yourself.

If you have a stroller, tie something to it, something bright and easy to see. When your stroller is in a sea of them, it’ll make it easier to find yours.

Sunscreen is a must, but, I have to admit, when we were there this past Spring, we weren’t actually in the sun for too long. Many of the lines were sheltered and a good portion of them were routed indoors if they could be. So, we didn’t use any. Because we were hardly ever in the sun. Wow, Disney really does think of everything!

Navigating The Park

If you’re parked in the Mickey and Friends structure, you will be taking the tram into Downtown Disney. You’ll pass through security and then get in line for the tram. Every row on the tram has its own line. If you have a stroller, you will likely need to fold it. But, if you wait at the very first or last lines, they usually have an area just for strollers so you don’t have to fold it.

When you’re in the park, watch out for people and strollers. They won’t always be watching out for you. Have a good idea of the layout because it’ll help you determine where to go next without having to cross the park multiple times. There are apps to help you find where you want to go and that also list the current wait times for the rides. We haven’t used it, but I’m sure it’ll be handy.

Why do Fantasyland first?

Only two of the rides here have FastPass (It’s a Small World and the Matterhorn Bobsleds) and many of the lines are agonizingly long if you wait until mid-morning to get into them. I recommend jumping over here first. The longest lines tend to be Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Snow White’s Scary Adventures (don’t ask me why scary is in the name. I haven’t been on it since it scared me when I was a little girl!).

This is followed by Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and Casey Jr. Circus Train. Their lines can be 40+ minutes, but that’s usually in the afternoon. Casey Jr. Circus Train can go a lot slower if one rather than two trains are running.

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View of a castle from the Storybook Land Canal Boats

The Mad Tea Party (spinning tea cups) and King Arthur’s Carrousel move mass numbers of people at each turn, so their lines tend to be shorter. It’s a Small World also moves at a good pace, but the line can be a little long, especially when it’s hot in the middle of the afternoon (the whole ride is slow and air conditioned, so it’s a good place to cool off!).

Outside Fantasyland

Outside of Fantasyland, many of the rides with the longest lines have FastPass, including: Indiana Jones Adventure, Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, (Hyper)Space Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (warning: this one jerks around a lot, enough to make me question the sagacity of taking my almost 1 year old on it, especially since there is no lap sitting allowed), and the Haunted Mansion. Some of these rides also have a single rider option, where the line is usually much shorter, but this option isn’t always available.

Some rides you just have to wait, such as Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (which can get really long, especially by the afternoon, but they put up several umbrellas to keep the line shaded), Gadget’s Go Coaster, the Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean, but, most of the time, they keep moving. I think of them as more of a shuffle-stop-walk kind of thing where the stop part is usually just a few minutes.

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“Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” They actually do say this.

Be sure to know what your children might enjoy most, check to see if it has a FastPass option, and check to see if it is in Fantasyland. Let this help inform where you go and when, but be flexible.

And if you need a break, the Monorail and Disneyland Railroad  are good options. The Monorail will take you to Downtown Disney, where you can get a stamp to re-enter the park, but you have to get off when it returns to the park. If you need a longer break, you can stay on the Railroad for as long as you want, but it is open and not air conditioned, though you’ll get an interesting time travel experience, which is great if your little ones like dinosaurs. You can get on at Main Street, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, and at the border of Fantasyland and Toon Town.

My best tip here is: eat during off-peak times. The lines will be shorter and you’ll be practically guaranteed a seat. Have lunch at 11am and then go on the rides that usually come with a longer line while everyone is having lunch. Have dinner at 4pm, go on a ride during dinnertime, and then nab a good spot for the nighttime parade (FastPass is available for the show) or fireworks.

For the nighttime parade and fireworks, you’ll want to secure your spot at least 2 hours ahead (2.5-3 hours on peak days). Not joking. Yes, that is an insane amount of time to wait when you have young children. But, odds are, they’re tired from a long day of fun. Or tantruming. Tantrums are unavoidable, especially if your child is tired. So take this time to wind down a little and maybe enjoy dessert. Or one adult can hold down the fort while another takes the kids on a last ride.

Also, random notice, but I have never seen an ant in the park.

Dining

First of all, dining in the park is expensive.

Second, if you do plan on dining in the park (don’t forget, there’s also Downtown Disney and picnic areas are available outside the park), there are two kinds of experiences you can have:

  1. Quick service: this means you either order at a window or take plates from various stations. Either it’s like ordering at a fast food place or you essentially serve yourself. Tables are on a first come, first served basis and these places can become crowded around peak meal times.
  2. Table service: this is like a typical restaurant. You can make reservations at these places, which can come in handy if you plan to eat at peak meal times.

A Few Things to Note

The Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square is definitely an experience. It’s in the same building as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the boats actually pass right by diners. Though, because it’s essentially in, and part of, the ride, it has dim lighting. Though it is an experience and can be fun, especially if you order drinks that come with light up cubes in them.

The Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland is a Quick Service dining option, but, if you’re a Star Wars fan, definitely look at the show times for the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (or sign up your child if they are between 4 and 12). There’s a stage here for the show. If you plan on watching it, make sure you arrive early as the seats with a good view fill very quickly.

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Sign up your 4-12 year old so he or she can experience a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader or the Seventh Sister.

If you’re interested in character dining in the park, it is available at the Plaza Inn on Main Street for breakfast only. We haven’t done this yet, but it always seems like fun whenever we pass by.

If You’re Looking for a Snack or Turkey Leg…

Stop by one of the carts/kiosks. These are located all over the park and usually open around 11am. You can find:

  • Churros
  • Fruit
  • Lemonade
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • The famous DOLE WHIP at the Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland
  • Assorted snacks
  • Turkey legs
  • Bottled beverages

Leaving the Park

I know. That’s exactly what every kid wants to hear. But it has to be done. And it is not fun.

If you don’t want to stay for any of the nighttime activities, just before they start is a great time to leave. Everyone is staying, so it’ll be easier to make it out of the park alive.

If you do stay, there are lots of helpful cast members everywhere to help direct you. But, basically, you are cattle and just have to follow the crowd. While you’re probably tired and just want out, so does everyone else. It may be hard, but just be patient. Walk slowly and watch out for anything with wheels. It’s really easy to be clipped by a stroller and, if you’re pushing one, watch out for the people in front of you. There will be light, but it’s still night, so it’ll still be a little more difficult to pick out people’s feet and legs. You’ll probably get rammed more than once, too. But walk slowly, follow the crowd, and be kind.

Okay, you’ve made it out alive. There’s some breathing space. Now you just have to get back to where you parked or the hotel you’re staying at. Wherever you entered is probably where you want to go. There are signs for hotel shuttles or they’re probably close enough to walk back to. If you park in the Toy Story lots, be sure to look for the buses that will shuttle you back. For the Mickey and Friends parking, you have 2 options: walk (about 10 minutes, half of it through Downtown Disney) or fight your way onto the tram. Good luck! We usually decide to walk.

Enjoy your trip to Disneyland!

FastPass