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I strongly believe that anything can be a teaching moment. One of the reasons I love Disney World as a parent is because it is teeming with opportunities to learn. Your kids can learn math, reading, and other things at Disney World. But, you can also teach your kids some life lessons while there. These lessons are just as important as the academic ones because they give your kids the tools they will need as adults. Here are seven life lessons Disney World can teach your kids.
Lesson #1: Stick to the Budget
Let’s face it: a trip to Disney World is expensive. Most of us have to save and plan for that trip. And while we want to give our kids everything they want, most of us have a limited amount of money to spend on souvenirs. This is hard for children, especially when Disney designs almost every ride to exit into a gift shop! But that’s why Disney World is a great place to teach your kids to stick to a budget. There are several ways to save money on souvenirs. Regardless of which method you use, give your kids a budget for souvenirs and then help them stick to it. Making your kids stick to a budget will teach them the value of money, to appreciate their souvenirs, how to save and budget their money over the course of a trip, and to choose souvenirs wisely.
We have made my son stick to a souvenir budget on our last few trips. It’s amazing how quickly he switched from constantly saying “I want” to really thinking about what he wants. On one trip, he spent two days debating whether he wanted to spend all of his money on one big item that he had been eyeing or buy several smaller things that he liked. This experience teaches him about budgets in a way that my words can’t. This is a life lesson he will be able to use for years to come.
Lesson #2: Taking turns/waiting in line
One of the hardest lessons for little kids to learn is to wait their turn. But the ability to wait in line is such a necessary skill to have. Disney World is a great place to teach this message because you have to wait in line for so many things there. Disney has always done a better job than most theme parks at making waiting for attractions easier because of their belief in always entertaining their guests. However, recently, Disney has upped their game by adding interactive queues to some of the more popular attractions. For example, while waiting in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, you walk through the Darling children’s nursery. You can see Tinkerbell fly around the room and can play with shadows on the walls.
But, Disney’s best example of making waiting easier for children is Dumbo. Here, you enter a circus tent while waiting for your turn to fly with Dumbo and are given a pager. Inside the tent is an indoor play area where your kids can play and run around instead of standing in a line. They won’t even notice if they have to wait 30 minutes to ride!
When waiting in more traditional lines, help your child be patient by pointing out various things to look at while in line. You can also provide your own distractions, such as singing songs, telling jokes, or playing guessing games with your child. I Spy and 20 Questions are great games to play while waiting. Also try having your kids look for hidden Mickeys while waiting. By taking their minds off of the wait, you can help them to develop more patience. As they get older, they will be able to entertain themselves while waiting for things.
Lesson #3: Time Management
A universal truth of every Disney vacation is that there is never enough time to do it all. Managing your time wisely is crucial. This is hard for kids because they don’t have a good grasp on the concept of time. Being at Disney World is a perfect time to help them learn time management skills. Before your trip, explain to your child that you won’t be able to do everything. Have them make a list of the most important things they want to do. Together, develop a plan to hit everyone’s top priorities.
At least once a day while on your trip, reevaluate your plan with your children. Talk to them about how much time you have and what everyone wants to do. Discuss ways you can maximize your remaining time. It may be beneficial to divide and conquer. You will probably have to make compromises and prioritize. Use this opportunity to teach your kids about these skills. Reminding your kids that you have limited time to do things can be a very effective method to get them moving faster in the mornings! Because we know that we will be returning to Disney World in the future, we explain to our son that he has to save some things for later trips.
Lesson #4: Good Things Happen When You Get Up Early
This is my son’s version of the early bird gets the worm. While it is tempting to sleep in while on vacation, I would advise against it while at Disney World. You can greatly maximize your time by getting up early and getting to the parks before they open. If you can be through bag check and in line at the turnstiles when the park opens, you can beat much of the crowd. You can experience many popular rides and attractions during the first hour the park is open without a wait. This not only gives you more time to do other things, but also minimizing the amount of time in the day that your children have to wait in lines. There are many times when we have been able to do 10 rides within the first hour the park is open. This is one of those life lessons best taught by example.
Lesson #5: Watch Where You’re Going
One of the most basic and useful life lessons is to watch where you are going. There is nothing more frustrating than having someone bump into you because they are not watching where they are going. My husband and I are constantly nagging our son about being aware of his surroundings. This is another life lesson that is easy to teach at Disney World because there are so many other people around you. If you aren’t looking where you are walking, you are sure to run into someone. Explain to your kids that they wouldn’t like it if someone ran into them, and they should have the same consideration for others. I like to have my son walk in front of me while I guide him through the crowd. This shows him how to navigate through a crowded area without running into anyone.
Lesson #6: Don’t Dilly Dally
At least once a day I tell my son to quit dilly dallying. This is my way of saying quit dragging your feet and wasting time. More than once, while at Disney, we have walked up to a bus stop just in time to see the bus drive off. This is a prime example for him to see how taking 5 extra minutes to put his shoes on ends up costing us 20 minutes because we have to wait for the next bus. It makes him want to be more efficient with his time. At least at Disney, he doesn’t waste a lot of time!
Lesson #7: Stop and Smell the Roses
This is actually one life lesson my son taught me instead of the other way around! I tend to be one of those people who rushes through life checking things off of my to-do list. But, my son has fun stopping to play in a fountain or watching a duck. Sometimes, the most memorable moments at Disney World happen when you just stop and smell the roses. This is hard for me, but is something that I continue to work on with each trip.
Life lessons are something that we, as parents, are charged with teaching to our children. And, unfortunately, they are some of the hardest lessons to teach. In addition to being a lot of fun, Disney World is a wonderful place to teach multiple life lessons to your children. This list of tips should get you started. For more tips on Disney World with kids, see my safety tips for kids, how to go to Disney without a stroller, the perfect age to take your kids to Disney World, how to prepare your kids for Disney, and how to stop Disney meltdowns. Happy travels.
P.S. Want help planning your Disney World trip? Get our FREE Disney World planning tools, including our Day-to-Day Trip Planner and Trip Itinerary at a Glance, in our Travel Resource Library. See the box below for details on how to get the password to the library.