UCF "Theme Park Nanny" spreads Disney magic during the pandemic

"Theme park nanny" Cyan Nardiello hugs Mai Mai Moody, her babysitting client for the week. Nardiello and Mai Mai spent the morning at Magic Kingdom going on rides, watching the parades and greeting characters as they walked by.

A UCF student continues to spread magic during the pandemic with her own theme park babysitting service at “the happiest place on Earth.”

Rather than babysitting children at their own homes, Cyan Nardiello, otherwise known as the "theme park nanny," spends her shifts taking care of her clients’ children at Disney World through her business, "Once Upon A Nanny."

"I know my service is unique and I know Disney can be a very stressful trip for people," said Nardiello, junior social sciences major. "I think everyone deserves to have fun and if I can help get rid of the stress for the families then I am doing my job."

After working at a nearby daycare for many months, Nardiello said she decided to quit and pursue a babysitting job with local Orlando families.

Nardiello said it was working with an Orlando client who sparked her imagination to come up with the idea of a theme park babysitting service.

“I came up with the idea of 'Once Upon a Nanny' when a little girl I was part-time nannying got a Disney pass for her birthday,” Nardiello said. “I took her and posted it on a local Facebook page for annual pass holders and it blew up.” 

Ever since her initial exposure on the Facebook page, Nardiello never went back to working in a daycare center.

According to the Career Explorer, the average wage for a Florida babysitter is $11.26 per hour, which is 63% less than the national average.

Nardiello said it is unfair for caretakers to not earn more money because they are putting their own lives aside to take care of another.

“The low minimum wage is not something I agree with,” Nardiello said. “I don’t think people realize how career babysitting is just as important as any other job that you can do because you are taking care of lives and you are helping raise children." 

Every week is different for Nardiello, whether it be new clients, different hours and even participating in brand new experiences around the parks.

For local Orlando clients who want to visit the parks, Nardiello will either pick-up her client from school or their parents will drop them off at any of the four theme park entrances.

“As a fun afternoon treat, I am able to take my clients on rides, see the parades and watch the night fireworks,” Nardiello said.

One day while working with one of her local clients, Nardiello said she experienced the most magical encounter she has ever had. As she was walking down Main Street, Mary Poppins invited them to ride the trolley train with her as she greeted guests. Nardiello said her client was in awe that she now had two nannies for the day.

"It's one of those experiences that my client will never forget," Nardiello said. "I didn't plan for it to happen, but that's the power of Disney magic."

For vacationing families, the process is a little different. Rather than dropping off their children at the theme parks, families can leave their young children with Nardiello while the adults are free to ride the more “intense rides” that children are not allowed on.

“I think it’s very important that parents get the same experience as their children while in the parks,” Nardiello said. "Disney magic is meant for everyone, not just children."

Jay and Ana Moody are Arizona residents who used Nardiello’s services for their most recent Disney World trip. Jay Moody said it was not a tough decision to hire Nardiello to help out with his two-year-old daughter, Mai Mai. 

“We wanted to get a little time to do stuff that we enjoy," Moody said. “Also, to make sure she can go about her day and have fun things to do and entertain herself but we get to knock out the big rides and then get to spend the rest of the day as a family.”

The Moody family said they were over the moon with Nardiello's service. Ana Moody said she was hesitant to hire Nardiello at first because she is a new mother, but in the end she couldn't have been happier with the way the trip ended.

"I have no words for her, she has been amazing," Moody said. "She gets along with Mai Mai so well and within ten minutes of meeting her we were already so comfortable."

Keaton Jensen is a Disney cast member who has worked in the theme parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports and now at Disney Springs. Jensen said having a nanny in the park could potentially help parents manage their children, but in the end it is all up to the guests' preferences.

"I am kind of split because part of me feels like it might take away from the magic, splitting the whole family and the kids have their own experiences while the parents have their own experience," Jensen said. "But on the other hand, it might be helpful for parents that feel overloaded and might lose some magic because they are so busy taking care of their kids."

Despite the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Nardiello continues to offer her services to local and vacationing guests. Nardiello said she makes sure to inform her clients of Disney World’s health and safety guidelines before and during their trips to the parks.

“I normally don’t have any issues with the kids following guidelines,” Nardiello said. “The children understand if they do take their mask off that they will have to leave and that’s no fun for anyone.”

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