Hey Disney Moms! What You Need to Know About Disney Character Meals with Small Children

Chef Mickey waffle, chef Mickey's waffle photo, Chef mickey's breakfast

I write once a month with a fabulous group of women known as The Disney Moms, and a big topic lately has been character meals. A Disney Character Meal sounds like a fabulous idea to book for a Disney vacation, but they can be really pricey and use up a couple of hours of time.  How do you know if your child is really ready to dine with Mickey and all his Disney buddies?  And what can you do to make sure you experience the joy of a Disney Characters Meal rather than the agony of Disney Dining defeat?  Here are five ways to make sure your child has fun, you have fun, and you walk away full and feeling like you got everything you wanted from the meal.

Chef Goofy, Disney's chef goofy photoWe see the Disney television commercials and we watch our Disney planning videos with huge anticipation.  All the children featured are full-body-hugging Disney characters and stuffing their mouths with delectable dishes in great restaurants. Memories are made, photos are taken, smiles are exchanged, and the vacation life is indeed lookin’ good.  But this isn’t always the reality, especially if your child is young and has not spent a lot of time around unusual looking costumed-adults. If you’ve ever seen a child flip out on Santa’s lap at the mall, then you know exactly where I am headed. Disney characters can be frightening for small children, and the word “small” doesn’t always indicate just the diapered crowd.

My sons, ages 12 and 13, took me to Chef Mickey’s for my Christmas present last December for our very first character meal. At the ripe old age of 42, Mickey finally came to my table, and we were all excited. I was probably more excited, because I wasn’t paying the bill, but that’s for another article describing how we sometimes vacation like our parents did (and my parents, bless their hearts, were cheap.) In the photo below, the little girl seated on her mom’s lap appears to be about four-years-old, maybe five.

We watched this family come into Chef Mickey’s, and everything seemed fine, until delightful Disney characters started visiting at tables nearby. When Chef Goofy, all six-feet of him in a large costume, approached her table, she let out an ear-piercing scream that stopped conversation eight tables away. When Minnie touched her chair, this child’s screams practically warped the ceiling beams of the Contemporary, and uh-oh, breakfast was over.  Her dad quickly removed her from the table and took her to a spot in a corner, far away from characters and her mother, her grandfather, and her grandmother. These three adults then picked at their meals and really looked unhappy, constantly glancing at dad and daughter composing themselves in the most un-magical of spots 30 feet away.

Character meals are some of the more pricey family dining experiences at Walt Disney World. You can click here for my review, with meal costs and menu items, describing if Chef Mickey’s is actually worth the Big Buck$ you’ll pay to dine with Disney Characters. I have no doubt that if this little girl and her dad were unable to complete their breakfast, (and no, they hadn’t come back when we finished gobbling up our Mickey waffles and doughnuts,) that Disney probably reimbursed their money. I frequently tout the Disney Company for going that extra mile to keep their customers satisfied. But mom, granny and pop-pop just forked out over $40 each for this character breakfast including the tip, and they didn’t seem to be experiencing the joy we almost demand from a meal so pricey and full of expectations.

Chef Mickey's buffet photo

So what can you Disney Moms, and Disney Dads too, do if you’re not sure how your child will handle the characters, but you really believe now is the time to start character dining?

1. Let your child take the lead, in terms of how close he/she allows the characters to get. You need to be accepting if your child wants to watch the character from far away. Don’t freak out if it becomes obvious there will be no photos of your child hugging Mickey. Is this about the enjoyment of the meal or really just a photo-op.?

Chef Mickey photo2. You can point out the characters from a distance,  and if your child doesn’t want the character to hug them, explain that to the character or Cast Member close by. Every child is different, thus certain characters may get different responses. Don’t assume because your child loved Goofy, that they are going to be totally fine with Donald. Being straightforward with the characters is the best option. Disney Cast Members are highly trained and have handled plenty of screaming children before. Well, hopefully not plenty!

3. If you know your child is hesitant about characters, seat them away from the aisle and ask the character to just wave at first. This will provide the child with a few extra moments to decide if he or she is ready for a big character hug.

4. Make sure you schedule your meal at a time of day when your child is most rested and happy, whether it’s breakfast or an early dinner after a good nap. A one p.m. lunch may not be your best option.

5. Relax, and try to set your expectations a little lower than Greatest Meal of Our Entire Lives. This way if something does go wrong, you can handle it so there are not two people freaking out at the same table. Maybe you should save the freak out for when the bill arrives!

A little conversation and pre-planning can take you a long way toward ensuring everyone in your family has a great time.

Thanks for coming along for a photographical ride, and we’ll see you in the Disney character meal buffet line! Save me a waffle…


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  1. I really love going to Chef Mickeys. I love Mickey waffles!!!!


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