How to Handle a Toddler Tantrum at Disney World

When you go anywhere with little ones, one of the biggest fears you have as a parent is that you’ll be out in public when your little one will decide to throw a fit. And with little guys and gals, it’s always over the most ridiculous thing. My sons (who are a little older now) used to have a meltdown if I didn’t put their drink in the correct color cup. When this crazy tantrum happens at home I can handle it. I am prepared. This is my turf. You don’t get your way with a tantrum. But, what happens when you are on vacation? What do you do when your kid throws a fit at Disney World?

Sit back and let me tell you a story about my very embarrassing first-hand experience…

My two older kids are both boys. So when I found out I was pregnant with a daughter on the third go around I was so excited. Even with two brothers, her personality as a girly girl became clear when she was very tiny. So on our trips to Disney World visiting Minnie Mouse and Tinker Bell were obvious choices. And of course, DINNER AT CINDERELLA’S CASTLE!

If you have never been to Cinderella’s Castle for a meal I will walk you through how it works. You check in outside of the entrance. When they are ready for you, your party is called and you are escorted into the castle to meet Cinderella herself. You take photos and chat, and then you wait inside the stone castle entrance for your table to be ready.

My daughter, who was barely 1 on this trip, was at that stage where she wasn’t walking on her own. But she also desperately wanted her independence. While sitting in this crowded stone room with other families waiting on their table, she decided NOW was the moment that she needed to show that independence. She SCREAMED at the top of her lungs to be put down. She squirmed out of my husband's arms and took off crawling and screaming all around the floor.

So here we are. With a baby crawling around on a gross floor. Screaming in a crowded room (did I mention it was stone with high ceilings? Imagine the horrifying echo). I was mortified.

So what do you do in that situation?

First, try your best to PREVENT these kinds of meltdowns before they happen. I learned quickly that with little ones it is best to try and stick to your usual routine as much as possible. This means letting little ones nap when they are tired. Letting them eat when they are hungry. And being mindful that kids thrive on routine. So maybe this means taking a break at your hotel for a nap. Or it might mean carrying along a comfort toy so your child can fall asleep comfortable in their stroller.

I also learned that having distractions on hand is a great way to keep little ones happy. On our trips, I always wear my fanny pack (I LOVE my fanny pack). In my fanny pack, I keep a few diapers, a travel size pack of wipes, and what I refer to as my “baby distractions”. For my daughter, it is a few crayons, stickers, and a matchbox size car or toy. When I see that antsy look starting, or the fidgeting beginning I pull out a distraction and keep her occupied for a bit so we can get through the line, or meal, or whatever we are up to at that moment.

If you are beyond the point of no return, and your little one is in full meltdown mode, stay calm. In this particular situation, we were beyond distraction. So I grabbed my daughter. I apologized to the other families nearby (they were all VERY understanding. After all this is Disney, and most of the people there are with kids themselves). And I took her outside to cool off. In this case, she did end up calming down, and we were able to enjoy our dinner. But the reality is this might mean leaving the restaurant or line you are standing in. That can be tough when you are on vacation, but my feeling is this: I can do EVERYTHING and run my family ragged, or I can follow my family’s cues and do a little less and have a happy family.

If stepping outside doesn’t do the trick, you might want to consider finding a private area for child to calm down. The parks can be overstimulating, and the baby care centers are a great quiet place to chill, have a bottle, cool off from the heat, and reset yourself and your little one.

At the end of the day, little kids don’t care how much you plan. They will throw tantrums from time to time. Do what is best for you and your family, and have fun!

See you at the parks,
-Julie

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