Montessori Away From Home: Family Theme Park Vacation

montessori trip family vacation theme park Disneyland. Girl in princess costume holding mother's hand.

Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.
—Walter Elias Disney
Going on a family vacation is an exciting prospect, especially when the destination promises to be the “happiest place on earth.” When planning a visit to a theme park like Disneyland, remember to think of the trip from your child’s perspective. It is a thrilling, high-energy, and stimulating experience — and a very different environment than your Montessori child is accustomed to at home or school. Consider how you can make your theme-park adventure fun for everyone in a Montessori way. Here are some tips to get you started, using Disneyland as an example.

Montessori Away From Home: Family Theme Park Vacation — Following the Montessori Child at Disneyland


  • Adjust your pace.

    You may have a detailed and down-to-the-minute plan on how to ride every ride in the park, but your child might decide that the carousel is the only ride he wants to try. Stop and look at the experience through your child’s eyes. The theme park is new and exciting for him, and it can be more than a little overwhelming. Allowing your child to set the pace will make the experience enjoyable for everyone.
  • Find a calm place.

    Montessori children are used to the neutral tones and calm surroundings of the Montessori environment, which is far different from the bright and, at times, overly stimulating theme-park atmosphere. Think of how you can provide some downtime for your child throughout the day if she needs to escape the sensory overload. Research some quiet places in the park where you can all take a break. Here are a few ideas of quieter areas throughout Disneyland:
    • The terrace on the French Market Restaurant in New Orleans Square is a nice, shady place to grab a bite to eat. As a bonus, the Disneyland Railroad station is right there, so your child can watch the trains come and go.
    • Pooh Corner is tucked away in the back of the park, just beyond Critter Country. This area provides plenty of room to get away from the crowds and rest on a bench under the trees. There’s also a meet and greet area for Winnie the Pooh and gang.
    • The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country has tables on the verandah where you can peacefully watch the boats go by on the Rivers of America.
    • The Mark Twain Riverboat is a slow, 20-minute ride away from the crowds. There’s just something about being on the water that everyone finds soothing.
    • Snow White’s Grotto may be full of fairies at times, but it provides a quiet, calm place right at the base of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
    • Grizzly Trail at California Adventure is a cool nature walk on the way to Paradise Pier or Pacific Wharf.
  • Get the wiggles out!

    It can take a lot of patience to wait in line for a ride, and often the wait times are long — especially for an excited child! To balance the time spent standing in line, give your child the opportunity to let off some energy and move his body. Take time to explore and play on Tom Sawyer’s Island in Disneyland or at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in California Adventure.
  • Do your research ahead of time.

    Before you get your little ones excited about riding roller coasters, check the height restrictions. It can be upsetting to a child to find out last minute that she is not tall enough to go on a ride. Also, know your child’s likes and dislikes. A child who is easily frightened will not like the Haunted Mansion, for example. Remember, young children can have a difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. What seems harmless to us can be terrifying to them. Be sure to inquire about features like Disneyland’s Rider Switch Pass that allows parents (and older siblings) to take turns riding certain popular rides that are not intended for small children.
  • Bring your own snacks.

    While there are is always a good selection of food to try at theme parks, remember to pack plenty of snacks for when you are waiting in line or if your little one needs a quick snack in between meals. Having familiar foods on hand is also helpful if your child is overwhelmed by all the new food choices.

Most importantly, remember why you went on vacation in the first place. Spending quality time together and sharing new experiences should always be your priority. Respecting and observing your child’s needs and accommodating individual preferences will help make your trip an enjoyable and memorable family adventure!
Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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