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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How To Keep Kids Safe While On A Walt Disney World Vacation

Is it safe inside here, mom?  Take a picture!

Mouseplanet.com’s Parent Panel offered various views and opinions about keeping kids safe at Walt Disney World, and while on vacation in general, in light of some recent incidents involving children at both the Resorts and on a Disney ship—click here if you want to read their discussion.  The Mouseplanet discussion continued with the husband and I strategizing about how to balance safety and still promote the boy’s confidence and independence.  Oh, what a fine line we parents walk;  almost like a gangplank!

Let me begin with a bit of a parent brag about our ten year old’s independence (I have no idea where it comes from –insert eye rolling here).  Two recent examples:  last week-end, I was working the concession stand as a volunteer at a local theater event.  The boy came too as he wanted to see the show.  I have him money for his ticket.  He purchased his ticket, held onto it until the theater opened, found his own seat (not the front row, but middle of the theater), and proceeded to watch the show.  I found him about 15 minutes after the show started and he did not want me to sit with him.  He was enjoying the show on his own.  I returned to the concession stand at intermission and then back to the theater when the money had been counted, only to be informed again, that he wanted to sit by himself.  Got it!  I could have dropped him off with ticket money and he would have been fine!  Then last night, he was invited to a birthday party held at a local bowling alley.  We pulled up in the car and he was ready to jump out and head in with a “see you later.”  I was several steps behind as I wanted to make contact with the parents and see if they needed anything.  Nope, he was good and I was dismissed.  Him not needing us is a good sign, I know, but each time there is a little heart twinge just the same.  I guess all those twinges now will make it easier when he leaves with the car, leaves for college, etc.

So, how do we balance the boy’s confidence and independence at the most magical place on earth that he is very familiar with and still keep him safe?

The Mouseplanet parent panel had a theme in it’s responses about swimming and that was not swimming alone.  Well, we would agree in most cases and we are sure that works well when there are siblings.  We have a singleton; a singleton who knows how to swim.  I remember when were in Moab, Utah, on our Adventures by Disney tour and the boy took off to the pool with us a few steps behind, and he jumped in to the amazement, concern, and worry of some of our traveling group already at the pool.  They looked to us as how to respond and we were just fine and so was the boy.  They were relieved when they knew he could swim.  Now, we don’t send him to the Disney resort pool by himself, but we may not be swimming right beside him either.  Is he within eye sight and ear shot?  Yes. 

Now, at the parks, he has been gradually gaining more independence, riding some rides by himself, while we ride too in another vehicle or seat.  If he asked to go by himself on say, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, we would most likely say yes and wait for him at the exit and only if it meant following Disney’s ride rules and restrictions.  When we go into a shop, I know he will stay nearby and we exit the shop together.  I am comfortable with him going to the restroom by himself while in a restaurant or when we take a bathroom break at the parks, having a designated meeting space of course.  And, I’m certain that tether of independence will continue to be stretched with each of our trips as he grows older.

Some other general things we do to keep him safe include:
  • A label on the inside of his shirt in the back with my cell phone number.  When is ready to have his own phone, this will go away I suspect.
  • Matching shirts—they really do come in handy.
  • The boy knows how to identify Cast Members and is comfortable asking them for help.
  • Designated meeting spot in case we become separated. 
  • The husband and I each have our phones just in case.  But honey, I can’t answer it when my hands are full carrying a tray of food.  Okay?
  • Familiarity with the parks, resort, etc. are very helpful.  When we leave Japan in EPCOT and the boy wants to go to Germany, we know he can get there on his own and we can follow.

Each family and parent has to figure out the balance for themselves and what works for their children.  If our child was less confident, then our strategies may be different.  Oh, growing up is so hard, no wonder Peter Pan was not going to do it.  I don’t blame him one bit!

Have your own safety strategies?  Let us know by posting a comment.

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