Souvenir strategy for young children

My DD (just turned 3) loves to shop and buy things. My parents take her to the dollar store pretty regularly and let her pick out a “treat.” I’m worried that when we’re in WDW she’s going to want to buy stuff at every gift shop we go in, and I’d like to have a plan for how we’ll handle souvenirs.

My DS could definitely handle having a set amount of money to spend, but I worry that DD doesn’t have the number sense to understand what it means to have $X and how spending $Y means you only have X-Y left. She can count up to ten but skips around after that. Side note - it really is cute to hear her little voice counting “nine, ten, twelve, seventeen, fourteen!” She sounds so victorious when she gets to the last number.

In theory I like the idea of taking pictures of what the kids like and going back on the last day to get the top 1-2… but then I remember that likely means spending our last day park hopping just to get to the gift shops where they sell the things the kids pick. I’d rather spend the time on attractions rather than shopping.

I’ve heard that you can return things bought in the parks from Disney owned and operated shops to your WDW resort gift shop. Is that true? And are most shops in the parks Disney owned and operated? I was thinking about giving DD a set amount, letting her buy the thingamajig(s) she wants till she runs out of money, and when she asks for a thingamabob telling her that she can get it (I’ll front the $) but she’ll have to return the thingamajig she bought earlier. It’ll be much easier to do this if we don’t have to worry about getting back to a park to make a return.

Do you have any other ideas for how to handle souvenirs for a young kiddo? Do you think it’s reasonable to give a 3 year old a set amount of money to spend? Or is she too young?

I made my kids certificates to use. They each got 1 a day for a snack and then they had 2 for things they wanted to buy on the trip. 1 was for up to $15 and 1 was for up to $30. I think my youngest was around 3 when I used them. They worked well and I found that they really thought about what they were asking for when they realized they would have to give me the certificate in exchange for whatever they wanted.


I think it would be more reasonable to say you can have X amount of items. We always sway our kids if the item is too expensive, etc. or a good ol “no.” When we brought DD she was 4.5 and she got two stuffed animals an a balloon. We didn’t include the mickey ears since we wanted those for her. Of course she wanted more, but no. We are at the park. That is your fun. Next month we’ll be bringing DD who is now 8 and DS who is 4. Again, they’ll be told they can get one or two things but then that’s it so make it worth it. We also try to limit it to things that they really can’t get anywhere else. Like my DD got the elsa/anna flip doll b/c you couldn’t buy that online. Anything they really wanted and was online, we held off and bought when we were home for birthday or Christmas gifts. That also allowed us to see if they were truly still interested :slight_smile:

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I’ve seen people do vouchers - 1 for a stuffed toy, 1 for a T shirt etc. I don’t think money has much meaning to a 3 year old.

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I agree. At 3, the concept of money and value is lost. I think your idea of doing number of items is a good one…but one addition you might make is to put a limit on the number of items AND a maximum price for what constitutes an item. That makes it easier for them, because all they have to know is that if you say you can pick any 3 items that are less that $25, and she finds that giant Minnie Mouse that costs $75, you can tell her that it is more than $25, so let’s find something smaller, etc.

As far as finding things…MOST things (not all) that you can find in the parks can be found at Disney Springs World of Disney. But for a 3-year-old, if you do the picture-taking thing and later can’t find the same item, just don’t show the item again, and only offer as options the items you CAN find. Unless she really had her heart set on a certain item, I have found that younger kids quickly forget all the things they liked. Even my 8-year-old son on our recent trip had changed his mind 3 times during the time we were on our trip for certain things.

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One option that might help if you want to go with the “pictures for later” strategy is to download the “Shop Disney Parks” app. Other than World Showcase merchandise, which is largely absent due to not being Disney retailers, you can find nearly all of the in-park items there, and it will tell you where you can acquire things. Useful to avoid crisscrossing the World on your last day. It also allows you to order most of the available items, and have them sent home for you, unless something is designated “in-person only” in which case you’ll need to trek to a shop that has it to purchase. Mostly, that’s only event-based stuff, like Flower&Garden Festival merch.

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Disney Character Warehouse NEW merchandise update 3/10/2018

If you have a car you might want to go to outlet mall to pick up gifts at a lower cost.
I’ve heard of parents going before hand and handing stuff to the kids while in the park to surprise their kids. You could also go there on the way home and let them run a muck.


I like the vouchers idea. You might want to do one thing at AK, one thing at MK, etc. or 1 stuffed animal, 1 princess toy, 1 light up, or whatever your DD’s interests and budget are. I wouldn’t want to do the take a picture thing bc then I would have to go find everything again. Also, at younger ages, my kids wanted the stuffed animal to ride in the stroller with him in AK, to wear his new shirt to meet Mickey, and to have his spinny glowing thing to walk around the resort at night. And if we didn’t get until the last day, I don’t think the items would have had as much appeal and enjoyment. At least for my crew.

I don’t like to look in every gift shop especially as rides empty out into them sometimes.
We had shopping built in so the kids knew we were going somewhere some time (MK Main Street, DS World of Disney, Lego, and Star Wars stores, and Epcot WS). That helped with the desire to buy so if it wasn’t a shopping time, we just looked quickly as we walked by and didn’t buy . My youngest is a super consumer but my other 3 not so much. Honestly he did better at WDW with his own gift card and limit of 1 item/park or DS store than he does at the dollar store. He was 5 last trip tho so a bit better to understand the concept of money and limits than a 3 yo.


We did some prep work before we went - explaining to the kids that Disney puts a gift shop at the end of every ride, but that we couldn’t go shopping in every store we found ourselves exiting through. We maybe over-prepped, because during our first trip with little kids they asked for almost nothing. I think that even at 3 they sort of “get” that Disney ain’t the dollar store. If you talk about it beforehand and set up some reasonable expectations, you can remind them of that conversation in the moment.

Another strategy is to do some shopping before you go. I snuck some new Disney shirts and other items into the luggage so that they had some surprises and new things when we arrived. That way we could buy ears and stuffed animals, but not clothes. We also brought glow sticks and used those in the evenings to avoid being asked for those light up spinny things or glow-with-show accessories. These worked great - I put a few in our park bag and gave each kid one or two at dusk:


The strategy that we use with DS8 (but have been using for years) is that he is allowed to buy 1 souvenir per park (we buy him a T-shirt from each because I want him to have one). We go through the park as we normally would throughout the day and he keeps his eye open for items he finds interesting. At the end of that day, before we leave the park we will make a special trip back to wherever he found the item that he had chosen for that park/day. That keeps him from impulsive purchases…works out pretty well for us and generally winds up fairly inexpensive.

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You know, that’s a really good point. Part of the magic of that Mickey stuffed animal when you get home might be remembering how you held it while watching the fireworks.


I don’t have kids, but my parents bought us stuff before hand at non-park prices and gave us something special each day. Ex. mickey socks or t-shirt, glow bands, stuffed animal, etc.

Might work, although maybe not for someone who is a shopper.

Good luck!

I have read on here where some buy things ahead of time and then Tinkerbell leaves them for the kids at night, so they wake to special surprise each morning. Not sure if that helps with your issue, but it sounds like a lot of fun to me!

We went when my daughter had just turned 4. On the first day I had her pick out an autograph book and she spent the whole week determined to fill it with autographs. Every time we had to go through a store I asked her what autograph we should look for and it distracted her pretty well.

The following year I bought a handful of cheap trading pins on ebay before we left and gave them to her day 1. Then she wanted to go in the stores to see what she could trade for instead of shopping. 3 may be a little young for this, but keep it in mind for future!


Do you know if you can use Disney gift cards at the Character Warehouse?

Thought I’d add what has worked for us. We too explained the whole every ride ends in a gift shop concept, and we promised the kids an afternoon in Disney Springs to shop to their heart’s content. We also had them earn Disney Dollars in the form of chores with the idea that more chores for less amounts could really add up. After three months, each kid had around $60. This money was all theirs to spend as they wish. For the first few days they asked for lots of stuff, but with reminders that they would be spending their own money that quickly ended. At Disney Springs, they actually spent the most of their money at the lego store and goofy’s candy shop, plus a few plushes and smaller Disney-only items from the main store. My girls were 5 and 9 when we did this. When my oldest was 2, we bought stuff ahead of time and presented her with it - she never knew the difference.

I was told yes because they are owned by Disney.


This may seem crazy…but at 4 we convinced my daughter that she could have a pressed penny at every single gift shop. She was so excited to go find the machine and make one and add it to her collections(she’s a collector of all things) that she didn’t really stop to see what other options were there…she was so excited to find that cool machine! :slight_smile: worth a try!


That’s genius.