Disneyland is part of the heartbeat of our family. Before you even walk into our house, you can find hidden Mickeys and a Disney welcome mat outside. Enter our house and Disneyland decor is tastefully displayed on the walls and bookshelves. If you look carefully enough, you might even find the doorknob from Alice in Wonderland peeking out at you from one of our doors.
My husband has fond memories of vacations there as a child and is intent on imparting similar memories to his children. We recently returned from a four-day trip and I’ve realized that while trips to Disneyland are fun and exciting, they also teach my children important life lessons in a safe and forgiving environment. Here are the top 5 that come to mind:
This is pretty obvious. Mention Disneyland and after imagining characters and a giant castle, the next thing that jumps into someone’s mind are the crowds. Squeezing a double stroller through hundreds of people will give you an anxiety attack. Bonus points if you manage not to ram the back of someone’s leg. Anyway, because of so many people flocking to the Happiest Place on Earth, we spend a lot of time waiting:
Waiting for our turn to meet a character. Waiting in a 45-minute-long line to ride a 2-minute ride. Waiting for a show to start. Waiting for the parade to come by. Yes, it can be exhausting and trying, but the children learn that eventually they will get to where they want to go. If they have patience, the waiting is even easier to manage. They learn how to be creative with what they can do while waiting. They play clapping games with each other, word games, do some mental math problems, observe and comment on their surroundings, and excitedly discuss the trip thus far. Patience is one of the most important lessons learned in Disneyland, and this can translate well to other aspects of life. Patience is one of the most important lessons learned in Disney, and this can translate well to other aspects of life.
2. Restaurant Manners
Disneyland caters various types of meals for its visitors. There are quick-service meals, which are just walk-up to a counter and order, or there are sit-down restaurants. These restaurants are obviously accustomed to serving children (hello, we’re at Disneyland), but at the same time they are the type of establishments that can be found anywhere. Patrons are given menus, servers come by to fill drinks and take orders, and everyone is expected to sit at the table to eat.
The children learn how to use inside voices, read menus, communicate effectively to the servers, and sit and eat politely at the table with proper utensil use and napkin placement. Disneyland is a safe space to learn these skills because we aren’t given rude glares if one of the children spills a drink or excitedly gets a little too loud because the children at the next table are most likely screaming and running around anyway. I hope the servers get large tips.
3. Theater Etiquette
We love seeing theater shows. The characters and costumes and music enthralls my children (ok, me especially), and the acting and singing is of a high caliber. The children learn proper theater etiquette when we are there as they are expected to sit and watch the show, react with clapping and laughter at appropriate times, and remain seated for the duration of the show. We can also point out the kids who are misbehaving and tell our own what angels they are, really reinforcing that positive behavior. Competition to be the best is strong in the children
4. Money Management
Our children have a weekly allowance, plus they earn money in other creative ways. They are allowed to bring their money on our trip and budget it according to what they want. On this last trip, my younger daughter managed her money nicely and opted to buy two different toy sets. My older daughter spent much of her time analyzing the items for sale and comparing prices. Much of what she wanted was out of her price range. Instead of opting for a cheaper item that she didn’t truly want, she decided she would rather save her money than spend it. It also helps that she’s good at cajoling her little sister into sharing her purchases, so she didn’t feel too let down that she couldn’t afford what she wanted.
One of my biggest concerns as a parent is that my children will grow up to be entitled humans who feel they deserve things even though they haven’t earned them. Yes, my children do go to Disneyland quite often, but we try to instill in them a sense of gratitude for what they have and are able to do. They realize not everyone chooses to go to Disneyland like they do. They are very excited when they get the chance to go and grateful for the experiences they have when they are there. They remember the rides they go on and the characters they meet, which have a lasting impression on them. We also frequently discuss how the rides came to be, how much work and imagination went into doing the decorations and atmosphere, and how we can be thankful that somebody came up with these things for them to enjoy.
Disneyland is fun and exciting and we see many more trips in our future. It’s nice to know that my children are learning life lessons at the same time they enjoy the magic.