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The dilemma of naptime at Disneyland: Best spots for napping kids in the park

Taking a young child to Disneyland for the first time is a milestone for many parents.  It is so fun to see the wonder and excitement of a toddler reacting to the magic that is Disney.  What isn’t fun, though, is the meltdowns that can occur when over-tired and over-stimulated kids skip their usual nap.

Having a child take a nap in the middle of a Disneyland trip is a difficult task. It’s often not practical to leave the park in the middle of the day.  Unless you are staying at an adjacent resort, it can eat up a portion of your day to exit the park, get back to the hotel, and then re-enter.  Most people try to push through naptime, but that can have disastrous results as well.

As a mom of four living near Disneyland, I’ve spent many days trying to strategize how to get my toddlers to nap without having to leave the park mid-day.  Here are some of my best tips.

1. Find a slow, continuous ride that will lull them to sleep. I found that my kids were usually really resistant to the idea of taking a nap at Disneyland.  The mere mention of them resting usually backfired on me, because they didn’t want to miss a thing and would fight sleep with a vengeance.  However, there are a few rides that aren’t as stimulating at others where I could count on my kids drifting off and getting a little shut-eye.  My best bet was always to hop on the train that circles Disneyland.  You can stay on as long as you like, and similar to a car, the movement often helped them fall asleep. I’ve spent many an hour with a sleep child in my lap on the train around the park.  Another similar slow-moving ride is the Mark Twain Riverboat.

2. Watch a long show with comfy seats. I’ve had success getting my kids to fall asleep in the Great Moments with Abraham Lincoln show. It’s an educational show geared for older kids or adults (my sappy husband gets misty every time we watch it).  But for the small set, it will be over their heads and they may just doze off mid-show.

3. Catch some zz’s in the The Animation Courtyard.  If you have a park-hopper ticket, head over to California Adventure for this great spot where you can sit indoors as long as you want.  The continuous Disney movie clips projected onto the screens around the room are soothing, and you can lay on the ground here without raising eyebrows. I’ve been known to nap here, too.

Animation Courtyard

 4. Nap small kids in the Baby Care Center.  This only works if you’ve only got one child who is still nursing, but it’s an ideal quiet spot to nurse a baby or toddler to sleep, and you can stay in the comfy rocking chairs as long as you want. The downside is that only nursing moms and babies may go inside — siblings and partners must wait outside.

5. Stroll around the park. If all else fails, you can try the old “push them in the stroller until they fall asleep” routine. If you exit the park and turn right just past the buses, there is a nice, shaded path that runs parallel to the park.  I usually bring a light blanket to cover the stroller, so that if they sleep, I can keep it dark and head back to the park until they wake up.

What is your approach to naps and Disney parks?  Do you push through?  Do you head back home or to the hotel?  Or have you found some napping spots in the park that I am missing?

A big thanks to Verizon  for sponsoring this campaign. If you are planning a visit, check out the Verizon app for Disneyland, which includes maps, line estimates, and even menus to each restaurant in the park. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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Kristen blogs at Rage Against the Minivan.  You can also find her wasting time on twitter and facebook.

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Ten Best Disneyland Rides for the Preschool Set

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