by Character Diva
Perhaps there is nothing more exciting for a child as the news that they are going on a trip to a Disney theme park. However, to help them be patient (not to mention save your sanity), you may wish to do a calendar countdown of some sort.
A quick search on Pinterest or Google will show you all kinds of creative and fun ways to prepare your family for your upcoming trip: surprise announcements, presents and baskets filled with toys, hats, various Disney memorabilia and other fun things for the trip, chains made from construction paper, Disney themed activities… the list goes on and on. But here’s what I came up with for my kids’ first trip to Disneyland.
Maybe it’s the former kindergarten teacher in me, but I knew it had to be on a calendar pocket chart. I found this one on Amazon.com that was very inexpensive, and I also rationalized that afterwards, I could always keep the calendar for my kids and use it to practice their numbers, the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays. (Not to mention save it for our next Disney excursion!) Disney Diva Tip: I liked using a month calendar countdown for the time factor… I felt that counting down any longer may become tiring and repetitive, or it may be overwhelming. Not wanting them to lose interest, I felt that 30-31 days would be a perfect length of time; and still long enough that they’d retain their excitement without driving me crazy of when we got to leave on our trip.
My next big thing to tackle was of course, finding what images to use for the calendar. I started with the Spectacular Six (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto), and then added some of our favorite characters (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Alice, and so on). You can even use all of the characters from one or two Disney movies, or if you have multiple children, you can let each of your kids pick their favorite movie, or help you decide on what characters to use. Remember, the more involved your kids are, the more likely they will take ownership of it and be excited to participate. Disney Diva Tip: I also tried to use characters from recent movies, or who I knew would appear at character meet and greets, in parades, or who had attractions based on them. I figured this would help my children (who were 2 ½ years and 8 ½ months old on our trip) familiarize themselves with the characters… or at least have a vague idea who they might be.
Most of the images I found through a Google search. There are plenty of sites where you can find free Disney clip art. Then I copied and pasted them into a word document. I made a table to attempt to keep them approximately the same size. However, if you look at how my images turned out, you can tell that they all aren’t the same size… but they were close enough. Then I printed them onto white card stock. Disney Diva Tip: I liked printing them onto card stock because I found it to be more durable than normal printer paper… not indestructible with two kids under the age of 3, but they at least survived the month.
Once I had the images printed out, I cut them and added them to the calendar chart. Then I arranged the numbers to count down from 30 to 1 and put those in front of the images. Also, on the top part of the pocket chart where you would usually put the month, I printed the words “Disney Calendar Countdown” onto card stock, and then used a paper cutter to cut that out. Disney Diva Tip: If you want to make things a bit more festive and on theme, there are many free, Disney themed fonts available online. I used a free Disney font that I found here.
From there, it’s pretty straight forward… every morning, we would check the calendar and see how many days it was until our Disney trip. (This is also a great way to practice identifying numbers with your child too. Who said a Disney vacation couldn’t be educational?) Sometimes my daughter would get carried away and want to turn over multiple characters, but for the most part, we stuck to our morning routine and a new character was revealed each day. Disney Diva Tip: There’s obviously no wrong or right way on how to arrange the characters, but for me personally, I saved the Spectacular Six for the end, with Mickey being the last day. You could choose to start or end with your child’s favorite characters too.
And when the trip is all over, what do you do with the cards? Well you can always throw them away, or save them for next time… or if you print off another set, you can make a card game out of them! Memory, Go Fish, Name that Character… the choices are endless. Disney Diva Tip: You can even take them on the trip with you and use them as flashcards and quiz your kids on who the character is. Depending on how long your plane flight or car ride is, it may be a welcomed break for you and your family.
So that was one way we helped prepare our kids for our first Disneyland family vacation. There are so many tips and ideas on how to prepare your child for their first trip, and many can be found on our site. If you’re wanting more DIY ideas before the trip, you may want to consider making an autograph book. You can also read about the pros and cons of buying them here, or other alternative, creative ideas here. If you’re travelling with a toddler, I recommend reading this article on How to Prepare Your Toddler for Character Meet and Greets, or if you are going to Disney World with a toddler, Dopey Diva offers some great advice as what things she recommends that they can do here.
How many of you have made Disney countdowns before? And what are some of the ideas that you did to help your family get ready for your vacation?