Adorable little girl in glasses meets Cinderella

For kids, a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t just a vacation—it’s an adventure to another world.

Kids are often the most magical part of a visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Whereas we stodgy adults get easily frustrated with everything from mediocre food to renovations on our favorite rides (how many of us still haven’t forgiven Elsa and Olaf for spreading Norwegian winter cheer all over Maelstrom?), kids just want to have fun. Most kids are used to exercising their imaginations and playing pretend, and Walt Disney World is the ultimate playground to live out their favorite stories.

Want to be the coolest parent/family member ever on your next Walt Disney World vacation? It’s time to put away the smartphone and put on your pirate sword! Here are seven tips to seriously up your game at playing pretend with your kids at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

1. Embrace larger than life moments

Family meets Mickey outside castle

Image: Disney

I will never forget the first time we took our four-year-old niece to Magic Kingdom. Previous to that visit, I honestly had grown somewhat jaded towards Disney’s flagship park. Little did I know how much bringing a bouncing little princess could melt my crusty husk of a heart. The gates were just about to open, and music blared as cast members began the countdown. As the song crescendoed, the Walt Disney World Railroad steam engine pulled into Main Street Station with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and the whole gang on board. My niece lit up with joy, and these shriveled tear ducts started pouring happy tears. It was a truly magical moment, and we seriously played together for the rest of the trip!

While keeping a healthy pace is a good thing, know when it slow down and embrace magical moments at Disney with your kids. Let them ogle at the size of Cinderella Castle. Linger for a bit the first time they see Expedition: Everest, the Tree of Life, the AT-AT’s outside of Star Tours, or even the serpentine fountains at Journey Into Imagination. If you see your kid goes wide-eyed at something, stop and take in the magic.

The key to playing pretend is to embrace the story around you just like your kids are already doing. You see neatly trimmed bushes—they see a hiding place for an army of ninjas. You see murky ride water—they see a kraken that must be defeated. Pay attention and don’t be afraid to point things out to encourage this sort of natural daydreaming.

2. Have fun with character encounters

Kids meet Chewbacca

Image: Disney

Being an adult can be an awfully dull experience. We get stuck in the part of our heads that knows Disney characters are actually cast members—real people with real lives. For those cast members, however, the highlight of their day is often happy kids with good attitudes—little ones who get lost in the story.

Instead of treating characters like automatons (or actors) and rushing kids through for a fast autograph and picture, play up character encounters. Don’t be afraid to get them excited and fangirl/fanboy out a bit. Speak to the characters like they really are who they are supposed to be. If your kids gets freaked out for any reason, you can change tactics but start from a place of embracing the world where your little one really is meeting Belle, Star Lord, or Mickey. Treat Chewbacca like the noble Wookie he is. Attempt a whistling conversation with BB-8.  Permit your little one some verbal jousting with Gaston or Flynn Rider. For fans of Disney princesses, don’t miss opportunities for extra character time with experiences like the princess breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot (you’ll get a lot more time with the characters than you will at Cinderella’s Royal Table!).


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