December 2020

Background images of art of animation lobby, and photos of King Triton, dancing fish, and Ariel from the Little Mermaid section of the resort. Title text: Art of Animation. A Resort Rating for highly sensitive kids. from moms make it magical dot com

Disney’s Art of Animation: Resort Rating for Highly Sensitive Kids

Art of Animation for Highly Sensitive Kids

Are you considering staying at Art of Animation with your highly sensitive kids? Disney’s Art of Animation Resort has a soft spot in my heart because this is where our family stayed during our first trip to Walt Disney World with our kids! 

Disney hotels are divided into these categories: Deluxe Villas, Deluxe Resorts, Moderate Resorts, and Value Resorts. Art of Animation is considered a value level hotel. It’s usually a little more affordable than your deluxe level hotels, though the family suites run a little steeper than the standard rooms.

There are four themed sections of the resort: Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. Family suites, which sleep up to 6 adults, are found in the Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Lion King buildings. The rooms in The Little Mermaid area are like standard hotel rooms, and can sleep up to 4 adults.

Let’s take a look at some factors to help you decide whether Disney’s Art of Animation Resort would be a good choice for your highly sensitive kids!

title image of blog post "Will my highly sensitive child enjoy Peter pan's flight?"

Will My Highly Sensitive Child Enjoy Peter Pan’s Flight?

Have you wondered if your highly sensitive child will enjoy their experience on Peter Pan’s Flight? Peter Pan’s Flight is a classic Disney ride, which was an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World on October 1, 1971. It is located in the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom, right across from “it’s a small world”. It is a slow-moving ride where you board a “flying pirate ship” over London, and then to Never Land. The pirate ships are suspended from a rail on the ceiling, to simulate the sense of flying. 

Because it is a fairly gentle ride, there is no minimum height requirement. Infants and small toddlers, expectant moms, and older adults (if ambulatory) should be able to ride without a problem. I often see this ride and “it’s a small world” being recommended as some of the best rides at Magic Kingdom for very young children, kids who scare easily, and those who dislike typical thrill rides.

But what about for highly sensitive or sensory sensitive children? Let’s go through some of the attraction details to see whether your highly sensitive child will enjoy Peter Pan’s Flight, or totally hate it and freak out. 

14 Reasons why Disney can be hard for your highly sensitive kids. Photo of Ariel from Little Mermaid section of Art of Animation with two kids running towards it.

Top 14 Reasons Why Disney Can Be Hard for Highly Sensitive Kids

Are your kids easily overwhelmed? Do they get overstimulated quickly? Are they prone to meltdowns when their routines are out of whack? Do sudden noises and big crowds bother them? And… are you planning a trip to Disney World?! 

The most magical place on earth can feel like one of the most overwhelming and overstimulating places to visit, even for those who don’t identify as highly sensitive. It might not seem like the best idea to bring your highly sensitive child to Disney World, but it can be 100% doable once you have a better understanding of why Disney can be hard for them. 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information

Here are the top 14 reasons why a Disney vacation can be hard for highly sensitive or sensory sensitive kids:

7 Signs your child is highly sensitive, list.

7 Signs Your Child is Highly Sensitive

How do you know your child is “highly sensitive”?

Your Disney trip with your highly sensitive child deserves to be magical, and you can work on minimizing the meltdowns by planning ahead. But what does “highly sensitive” really mean? 

The word sensitive can have a negative connotation. Some stereotypes include: someone who is too emotional, has no coping skills, is fragile, weak, uptight, and has no “thick skin”. 

A more positive way to frame being highly sensitive is to say they are highly aware. Because of their heightened awareness, there is way more sensory input coming in via touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste than for your average child.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information

Here are 7 signs that your child might be highly sensitive or highly aware:

1. Loves routines

Highly sensitive children thrive with predictable schedules and routines. Since they tend to startle easily and don’t enjoy surprises, it is helpful to have a clear plan. K loves knowing our weekly schedule and discussing the day ahead. Now that she understands the days of the week, she feels more in control of what’s happening.

Example: Sunday is church. Monday afternoons is ballet class. Thursday after school is swim class. If there are any changes, she copes much better if we give her a heads up instead of springing it on her at the last minute.

Related: 18 Essential Items to Pack for Highly Sensitive Kids at Disney World

2. Notices Any Change in Odor

I am often getting dinner prepped in the late afternoon while J is napping and K is playing in her room. When she comes down the stairs, she is amazingly accurate with identifying what I cooked that day. She is the first to point out if something is stinky or if something smells delicious.

Highly sensitive children often have a stronger sense of smell and have the potential to be bothered by it more than your average child.

3. Prefers Quieter Environments

Loud, noisy, chaotic places can be too much for highly sensitive children. K is usually so busy taking in everything around her that it becomes really hard for me to even get her attention! She hears conversations around her, notices the crying babies, hears the slamming of doors, and recognizes songs playing in the background.

It is hard to focus in environments like this, and after being exposed to a high level of noise for awhile, highly sensitive children need a bit of a sensory break.

Related: How to Prepare Your Highly Sensitive Child for Disney World

4. Is a Perfectionist

Because K is so aware of everything, she also notices any “mistakes” or anything that is “out of place” in her mind. This makes her very particular about how things should be. It is a way for highly sensitive children to feel a sense of control, in a world where there is so much that is unpredictable and unknown. 

5. Has a High Level of Empathy

Highly sensitive children not only have a heightened “sensory” experience, they are also very attuned to others’ emotions. K is the first to notice if someone is hurt or upset, and she feels things very deeply. Even when watching TV shows or movies, she will get tears in her eyes if someone is sad, and she will cringe and turn away if there is a lot of conflict or fighting. Not only that, she will ask me a million questions afterwards to help her “process” what she experienced.

Related: 7 Reasons Why You SHOULD Take Your Highly Sensitive Child to Disney World 

6. Is Cautious and Takes Time to Process Before Making a Decision

Trying new things is hard for highly sensitive children. They need to observe other kids doing it first, think carefully about the pros and cons, and if they decide it’s something they want to do, they will proceed slowly and carefully. 

When we first started swimming lessons for K, she was not very excited about it. It took her months before she would even put on her goggles. And it took even longer before putting her face in the water. Swimming was a new experience with so many unfamiliar sensory sensations. But with patience and continued exposure, she became more confident and eventually was able to swim the length of the pool with no flotation device! Proud mom moment.

Related: 14 Reasons Why Disney World Can Be Hard for Highly Sensitive Kids

7. Notices Subtle Details

Highly sensitive children will notice the subtle details that most others will miss. It could be things in their environment; they will be the first to know if something was moved to a different spot in a room. 

They also pick up subtleties in other’s reactions, whether it is a change in facial expression or tone. 

For example, K was the first to ask about a scab on her uncle’s knee–something no one else saw. 

She is also the BEST at the game Color Brain (we have the Disney version), which is a game where you have to answer fun Disney questions with the correct colors. The color of Elsa’s cape during her coronation? The color of Buzz Lightyear’s hood? The color of Prince Philip’s cape? She got it all! Clearly, it is a game made for kids with great memory and who notice all the little details.

7 signs your child is highly sensitive, title image. Girl sitting and drawing. Moms Make it Magical.

Now that you know and understand some of the signs of a highly sensitive child, you can better prepare for your Disney vacation. You can try to accommodate some of their needs into your vacation plans, so that your kids will, not only tolerate, but ENJOY their trip to the most magical place on earth!

Less emotional and sensory overload equals fewer meltdowns. And fewer meltdowns means less stressed parents and families. A win for everyone!

If you’d like more information, you can find a simple “test” to see if your child might identify as highly sensitive right here.

Do you see any of these signs in your children? Have you heard the term “highly sensitive” before?

If you’re planning a trip to Disney World with your highly sensitive kids, you are NOT alone. Join me in my private Facebook group for exclusive tips and freebies, and find community with other Disney-loving families who have highly sensitive children. 

The Garden Grill Restaurant - a Restaurant Rating for Highly Sensitive kids. Photos of food, farmer Mickey, Epcot.

Should you take your family to the Garden Grill restaurant?

Restaurant Rating: Garden Grill for the Highly Sensitive kids

The Garden Grill Restaurant is a character meal inside The Land Pavilion at Epcot, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We last went in January 2020 and got to meet Mickey (in his adorable farmer outfit), Chip, Dale, and Pluto.

The restaurant rotates, albeit very slowly, and you will get to see some of the scenes from the Living with the Land ride down below.

Usually, character meals are loud and chaotic, and could result in sensory overload for highly sensitive kids. Garden Grill is different! Let me break it down for you.

Noise Level – ⅗

No, this is not your quiet date night kind of place. You’ll definitely hear other groups around you excited to see characters. But it is not insanely loud, especially given it is a character meal! An open kitchen and open floor plan seating usually means a high noise level, but the way Garden Grill is set up helps to lessen the sound.

There are two “tiers” of seating–the outer ring on the lower tier, which are booths, and then the inner ring on the upper tier, which are tables. We sat in the booths, and it really felt like our own little private dining area. You can’t see the people sitting in the booths next to you (unless you’re like J who likes to stand up and peek over at fellow diners), or even on the upper tier, since there is a half wall that divides those two levels.

Darkness – ⅕

Garden Grill is a brightly lit restaurant with plenty of pot lights, as well as charming lamps attached to the half wall between the upper and lower tiered seating.

It does feel a little “darker” when you pass through some of the scenes of Living with the Land, particularly the desert one. But it really isn’t so bad. Give your kids a heads up (remember, these kiddos often hate surprises!) and let them know that their surroundings may look a little different or a little darker at some points. We rode Living with the Land right before dinner, so I think the familiarity helped with the kids not being fearful during the meal.  

Crowded/Close Proximity to Others – ⅕

Compared to other character dining, Garden Grill is a smaller restaurant so it doesn’t get that crowded feeling like you might at 1900 Park Fare or Crystal Palace.

The seating layout, as explained above, also helps to feel like you have your own dining space. If you are sitting in the booths, you really can’t see any other diners so there is much less visual stimulation in that regard.

I highly recommend asking for a booth if you prefer a little tucked away space to eat your meal! And because the meal is served family-style at your table instead of getting up to a buffet, it really lowers the “chaotic” vibe compared to many other restaurants where you see diners, servers, characters constantly coming and going to the tables. 

“Scare” Factor – ⅕

So the only possible “scary” things might be: the characters (if your kids freak out about non-face characters, this would not be the place for you!) and the “dark” scenes from Living with the Land. But honestly, Mickey, Chip n Dale, and Pluto are so much fun! Because the restaurant is so small, they came around multiple times. And the “dark” scenes are really not so bad at all–and you’ll eventually move on to another scene. The scare factor is super low here. 

Food Familiarity – ⅕

We know unfamiliar food smells and textures can throw highly sensitive kids off. My kids are generally not very picky, but it always helps to have those kid-friendly staples that you KNOW they are going to eat no matter what.

A huge plate of mac n cheese and fries was part of the family style meal, which is always a huge hit for my kids. Other food items that the kids enjoyed were: mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey. All very “safe” and familiar choices.

Disney is also great at accommodating different families’ needs, so don’t be shy and ask your server what they can do for you! 

TOTAL – 7/25

How do we understand the rating? A lower score means less sensory overload, while a higher score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. Based on my experience, I would HIGHLY recommend The Garden Grill Restaurant at Epcot for highly sensitive kids. It is one of the best choices for a more low-key character meal.

Have you been to The Garden Grill Restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park? What was your experience? Click the image below to join in with the discussion about dining at Garden Grill with your highly sensitive kids, as part of my private Facebook group!