Many of the emails I received after my
column last week were anecdotal accounts from readers. Because I know
that I benefit from hearing other people's stories and learning from
their experiences, I am sharing some of them here today (there is not
enough room for them all!) Like Sue Kruse
said in her recent email column, I too expected to receive feedback
telling me how wrong I was. Nope.
What I found were many readers who agreed with me and one who disagreed
with my previous column.
eMailbox for 3/1/01:
|In an unsigned email, one reader writes:
We prefer parks where parents and children can do things together.
DCA fits that description. Granted Disneyland has more, but then
it's been around a lot longer too. DCA is much better for family
togetherness than Magic Mountain, Knott's and even Toontown. Your
young child may not have much to do, but for my 6, 8, and 10 year
old, there is plenty to do, for all of us, together. I don't have
to sit outside the ride and watch them have all the fun. They
enjoy the farm play area (and you most certainly can climb into
the tractor), the other playgrounds, the movies (I do agree with
your warning about BUGS), the spinner rides, even Soarin' and
Screamin' and GRR. My kids love this park. Many of my students
(grade school teacher) have been and love this park too. Your
article should be titled "What is there for YOUNG kids to
do?" Perhaps when your child is older, you will see it
if you look at my columns carefully, you will notice that I do use
the term "young" children repeatedly. I'm glad that your
six- year- old enjoys DCA. It seems to me that this seems to be a
transitional age for children at DCA. Some will like it, some
won't. Many will be tall enough to experience many of the
attractions, others won't. DCA may be better for family
togetherness than parks such as Magic Mountain and Knott's, but in
my book, Disneyland is really the park that knows how to address
togetherness for the entire family. Disneyland does this better
than Magic Mountain, Knott's, or even Legoland, which heavily
markets itself as a family park.
One of the tractors at
About climbing on the tractors: I did
ask sources connected with DCA before posting that there would be
no climbing permitted on the tractors. I was told that they would
not be allowing children to climb on them, even once the park
opened. Several readers wrote to say that children are now allowed
to climb on tractors. This is better news for the younger crowd.
I don't mean to sound like I'm
"bashing" DCA. I did not say that it was a bad park.
What I said was that it wasn't good fit for us right now, and
shared my reasons why. I resist assigning age- specific guidelines
to my articles because every child is different. As with all my
commentaries, my purpose is to give share my opinion, and to let
you make up your own mind.
|To that end, Rob writes:
You and I have talked about parenting, so you know we tend to
agree quite a bit. This is one of those areas. I have talked to my
kids, who are quite a bit older than Matthew, and Sean (12) would
be interested in going on It's Tough to be a Bug, and Andrew (11)
would not. Now Andrew shares his mother's fear of spiders, while
Sean is willing to inspect a spider before stomping it into the
ground (unless it is a good and harmless spider). I would not take
Andrew on It's Tough to be a Bug, it would scare him. Now
sometimes Andrew likes to be scared. He loved the Mummy, but it
scared him at points. He has seen some very scary movies and has
come away grinning. But having giant spiders show up in a
personally threatening manner is just too much to expect him to
SO, what I am getting to is exactly what you said, if you have
any questions as to how your children will react, check it out
first. You as the parent will be the best judge as to whether
something is too intense for your child. No demographic exactly
matches Matthew, Sean, Andrew or any child out there. Only the
experience of the child's parent with that child is going to give
you any indication of how the child will react. That's why I feel
your advice in this case is flawless.
you, Rob. I know a 31-year-old, Gulf War veteran who refuses to
ride It's Tough to be a Bug! I'm not about to force him to go on
it, so why would I do the same to my child? It's not a
"bad" attraction, it's just not for everyone.
Also, this is one reason why I avoid
assigning specific age guidelines in may columns. Every child is
different; age- guidelines are not always flexible enough to apply
|Cathy, mom of two, wrote:
I just read your column a little while ago and wanted to
compliment you strongly for sticking to your guns on that one.
Kids should not be lied to. Or made to go on something they don't
like just for the "experience". So many times I have
seen parents in line with little kids at Haunted Mansion and they
tell them it is not scary and is just fun. Well, we all know that
is not true for a child. I feel like telling the child the truth
right then and there.
I remember being at DL one day and a man and his small son were
standing over by Ariel's area and looking up at the Matterhorn.
The dad was pointing up at it and yelling at the boy and the boy
was crying and just looking terrified. I felt so sorry for him.
Anyway, people have such differing opinions -- lots of times I
think their opinions just conveniently coincide with the fact that
they desperately want to go on the ride themselves. I'm sure you
will probably get lots of mail on this one. I'm proud of you for
not fudging even a little bit. And the little kids would all be
proud of you too.
I think this goes along with the
adult-oriented concept of "I paid $43 to get into this park
and we're going to get the most for our money!"
I believe that children are never too young to go to a Disney park
with families who want to take them. (OK I have to believe that;
Matthew started visiting Disneyland at a very young age!)
However, I also believe that adults who do not want to make
accommodations for taking children to the parks, for whatever
reason, should make arrangements for their children so the parents
can visit without them. There's nothing wrong with going to a
Disney park and leaving the children at home or with a sitter,
especially if everyone will be happier with that arrangement. I
would rather go without my children than force them into
situations for my convenience.
And for the record, even though it is
not a common occurrence, we have done this in the past. Just last
month, Matthew had a slumber party with Grandma while Mom and Dad
attended the DCA Preview Merchandise Event.
Hello and what a fantastic and informative column. Richard...
hrumph... some people.
My wife and I will be bringing our 4 year old daughter to WDW
in June for her first time. Can't wait!!!
We rented Bugs Life one night on the old satellite dish. During
the opening scenes my daughter said "I'm scared daddy."
No problem, we turned it off. Just because its rated G doesn't
mean small children will enjoy it. We watched Snow White and I had
forgotten how scary it was since it had been like 25 years. The
witch scared her but she told me not to turn it off, which
surprised me. I did fast forward through the witch parts though.
We will not force her on any ride. If she doesn't want to
ride-fine and like you eluded to -- we will long for these days
once she's grown. If this trip is a success I expect we will
return year after year so there will be plenty of time for It's
Tough To Be a Bug. Besides, there's a ton of scary stuff in
everyday life that kids will be exposed to soon enough. At her age
I figure let her enjoy this time of childhood bliss.
Thanks again for your insight... oh and if you know of any
other rides and / or attractions that may be to frightening for a
4 year old, please let me know. I know about Alien Encounter and
read about some guy who took his 5 year old inside. From what I
understand its terrifying... even for an adult.
you'll have a wonderful time in Orlando! As for "scary"
rides, I don't know that I have a lot to add in addition to It's
Tough to be a Bug! and Alien Encounter. I'm always cautious of
"dark," such as the Fantasyland rides, Haunted Mansion,
and Pirates of the Caribbean.
As I've said before, however, every
child is different! Matthew went through a period where the taking
animal heads in Country Bear Jamboree scared him. Normally I would
tell people: hey, Country Bear Jamboree is a great show for kids.
When we're unsure of a show, we find a seat near an exit.
My husband and I are going to be visiting Disneyland in the
Spring with our two year old. We are familiar with the rides but
we don't know how our little boy will react to them. We aren't
planning to take him on any that we know will frighten him but we
will want to let him try as many as he can.
Do you have any suggestions about what we can do if he freaks
out in the middle of a ride? My husband, at the age of two,
screamed all the way through It's A Small World. If this runs in
the family I'm concerned that we'll be ruining the ride for the
other people who are near us. Does this kind of thing happen very
this is going to get me some interesting email, but I'll say it
anyway: Gina, when it comes to my child and the public, I do my
very best to make sure that he is well-behaved, polite, and not
forced into situations that he is not capable of handling. That
said, I'm not a mind reader. Sometimes, Matthew picks the most
unpredictable moments to announce to the world that he's two. If
I've done everything that I think is appropriate, I just don't
worry what anyone else thinks.
Knowing that "it's a small
world" is a ride that many small children enjoy (Matthew
loves it, by the way,) I would go on it. If Matthew decided to act
out, I would hold him, probably put my hand on his mouth to muffle
the screams if that will not cause him more harm than good (I
don't want to hurt him and I certainly don't want to inhibit
breathing, just lower the decibel level,) and ask him to calm down
in a soothing voice. If he doesn't, there's not a lot more I can
do, is there? If that causes stress to my fellow guests, I can
apologize and feel bad, but it's not up to me to "make it up
to them." This is the "risk" all of us take at
theme parks; we have to put up with the other people there!
I don't know how often this happens on
"it's a small world." I'm sure that it happens
throughout Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Being aware of rides
that would be obviously scary, and taking appropriate steps to be
courteous of other guests, frankly, is all a parent should be
expected to do. I think in some cases, unfortunately, parents
don't even do that much (see the other reader stories today.) The
Disney parks are generally family parks. When guests ride family
rides, they run the risk that families will be on them!
The treasure room from
Pirates of the Caribbean
Another thing I do is to not tell
Matthew that something is not scary, when he is scared... Matthew
loves Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, but once we're on it
and it gets dark, he sometimes gets apprehensive (but not scared
enough for us to not go on the ride.) What I do is I give him
words that help him know what is happening, and for him to name
his "reality." For example, Matthew understands tunnels
(he loves trains) and on Pirates, the caves remind him of tunnels.
When we're on the ride and he says tunnels, I say, "Yes, it's
like a dark tunnel." As we approach the drop, it's very dark
and I tell him "We're going to go down a slide! Here's the
slide. Here we go." I let him know what is happening in a
calm voice but, I try not to spoil the "magic" at the
One advantage to children this size is
that they still fit well on our laps! My husband or I hold Matthew
(we hold on to Matthew on all rides anyway) and let him know we're
there to protect him. For young children, that's still their
|Several readers shared their experiences and
opinions. Michael writes (and beware, there are some spoilers here
on the Bug show at DCA):
This will be real quick since I'm sure you're getting a flood
of response from your article, but I just wanted to say that I
agree that this attraction is too intense for young children. I
had the opportunity to watch this show this past weekend, and I
counted at least 8-10 young children (some infants) who were
literally yelling and screaming in horror as the "bug
spray" filled the room, the lights went out, and then the
bees and spiders came out. While the spiders do look mechanical,
for a young child, it must be horrific. Being in the dark with bug
sounds surrounding you is also something that wouldn't rank highly
on any kid's list of "fun things to do".
Comparing this to the Haunted Mansion or Snow White isn't fair.
Even as a youngster, I have never found the Haunted Mansion to be
overly scary, and it is done in good taste and in many cases,
humor. You never feel like you're not in control of the situation.
Snow White is also fairly relaxed... I thought the train tunnel in
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to be scarier than anything in Snow White.
The above- mentioned segment of the Bug's Life show is sheer
terror, though, which doesn't belong in a Disney park. I love this
show, though... the interaction with the audience is better than
anything I've seen in a Disney park... if it had the hydraulic
seating movement of Honey I Shrunk The Kids, it would be even
better... but the bugs running under the seat effect is a welcome
You know, the last time I was in Orlando I saw "It's Tough
to Be a Bug" in DAK, and I have to agree with you on the
point that it may be too intense for younger guests.
I wrote about what happened:
How to Traumatize Your Child in One Easy Step (Don't
listen to them when they tell you something!)
My friend and I settled in to watch the 4-D movie
"It's Tough to be a Bug," located in the base of the
Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Before the movie had
even started, the four-year-old kid in the row in front of us
was starting to freak out. "I want to go now," she
told her parents. Their response: "We'll go in a minute,
honey." (I can only assume that they thought their kid
would get into the movie once they saw that Flik, the hero from
"A Bug's Life," was in it. They were wrong.)
The lights went down and the movie started. The kid's
anxiety kicked into overdrive. When she realized her parents
weren't going to just take her out of there, she used the
strongest weapon in her arsenal -- the one phrase that must have
always gotten her taken out of anywhere. She started screaming
(and I do mean screaming) "I have to go to the bathroom! I
have to go to the bathroom!"
Her parents' response? "We'll go in a minute,
honey." (At this point I had to conclude that her parents
were just being lazy and / or selfish, because even I could hear
the naked terror in the girl's voice...)
Then the acid- spitting bug comes on screen. It spits. The
audience gets (lightly) sprayed with actual water. The kid,
because she is standing instead of sitting on the bench, gets a
full blast. She totally loses whatever control she had left and
just starts screaming incoherently! "Aaaaaaaah! Aaaaaaaah!
Aaaaaaaah!" (And these were gut- wrenching sobs to hear...)
Thankfully, one of the cast members operating the
attraction came over to the family and tactfully said, "If
you'll follow me, we can get your daughter to a bathroom,"
and the "Mother of the Year" finally takes her now-
scarred- for- life child out... Seriously, that kid's parents
deserve to have to pay for years of their daughter's therapy!
goodness for great cast members! That CM did that child and the
other guests both a favor.
|Mike C writes:
I want to thank you for a well- balanced, insightful approach
in your article. As a father of four (now aged 26 to 15), I have
always felt it was important to guide my children through their
life experiences... not dismiss the experiences with off-handed
remarks to try and create an immediate answer or immediate
Life does not always provide immediate answers and, as far as I
am concerned, it is healthier to work through situations with
personal reflection, honesty, and conversation with someone who
listens well. True comfort and feeling safe comes when someone
senses that they have been heard and understood. At that point, a
person can work through their issues.
For a child, learning this process not only engenders a deeper
trust and love for their parents, but it sets them up to handle
adult life with personal strength and integrity.
well put, Mike. I'm sure that your four children benefited greatly
from your parenting.
I agree with you that if something is scary for a child, you
don't try to "fix it." Richard's suggestions (telling
children the bugs are pretending and therefore trying to be funny)
disrespect the child by denying and invalidating her / his
experience of the presentation.
Basically, this qualifies as "talking down" to them.
It's parents trying to force themselves on their children,
something that just causes resentment later on.
Matthew (great name, by the way,) contributed:
Just wanted to drop you a note and say that I agree with you
100% about "It's Tough to be a Bug." And I speak from
This last Sunday, 2/18/01, my family and I decided to take part
of California Adventure. Now my family consists of myself, my
wife, Kahlan, my two year old daughter, Haeden, my one year old
son, and Connor, my six week old son. And yes, you read that
correctly... I have three children under three. Anyway, Kahlan and
Haeden both adore Bug's Life to death. I swear I have had to watch
that DVD close to a hundred times already. And we were also
traveling to CA with Hollie's (my wife) aunt, who insisted that
"Bug" was not that scary. I mentioned your column to my
wife, who quickly said, "But my Aunt says it's not
scary." But I am getting ahead of myself I think.
First off, we saw the Muppet 3D show, and the adored that show.
In fact I enjoyed that show much much much better then Bug, but
not my wife. Anyway, Haeden sat through the whole show with the
glasses on... Amazing that a one year old will keep the glasses on
for the entire time. Kahlan, I had a harder time with, she keep
taking the glasses off, not understanding that you needed them to
see the screen. But towards the end of the show, she realized that
she could see the picture with glasses on and thought that was
just the Bee's Knees (do bee's have knees?). Overall, a great
experience for me and my kids.
After such a great experience with Muppet, we thought the will
adore Bug. Especially given the fact that they have never seen the
Muppet show, but have seen Bug's Life over and over again. So we
sat down, and it started out great. Haeden and Kahlan both kept
their glasses on, and thought the Flik animatronic was neat. In
fact Haeden tried to grab the butterfly at the beginning. But
after that short quiet beginning, everything went south. After the
spider came out and did the first acorn explosion, Haeden grabbed
his glasses and threw them off his face, as if thinking that will
make it all go away. Kahlan didn't seem to mind to much, but after
Hooper showed up, she was buried in my lap the entire time. She
clutched on to me like if she let go, the bugs we surely get her.
It was a horrible experience for my children. Although, Connor
didn't mind. He slept through the whole thing.
Overall I don't recommend taking small children to see Bug. In
fact you know which attraction (which I don't know if you can
classify it as an attraction) my children loved the most? It was
the animation building. I sat down in hub of the building and
watched the entire loop of clips playing on the screens and the
lights playing on the floor, especially the clock from Big Ben
during Peter Pan.
Mike M writes:
I liked your article about what's scary for kids and wanted to
share my experience with my 3 year old son Beau.
We took him to Disneyland when he was still 2 last year. When we
took him on Pirates and the Haunted Mansion we told him it was
going to be scarrrrryyyy, but not to worry because it was just for
fun and he was in no danger. Somehow, that just seemed to work
with him. He actually told another little boy we didn't know who
was crying in the Mansion stretching room that "It's OK, it's
just for fun" and went on to make the other little boy (who
looked to be 4) start laughing. He would go on the rides and be
"scared" but in the way you want to be scared. After we
got off the ride he begged to go back on again.
The main thing I wanted to accomplish was to have him separate
what is REALLY scary and dangerous, from what is entertainment and
designed to scare in a fun way. I also didn't want to spoil a
child's view on things and not ruin the magic of being a child. He
still believes Mickey Mouse at Disneyland is the SAME one he sees
Just wanted to share... Keep up the great work and tell Al hello!
MP is the best site out there.
responds: Thanks for writing, Mike!
Al adds: Thank you for the kind words
Mike - MousePlanet is a team effort, we have lots of folks who
help make this happen every day for our readers. I am always in
awe of what they accomplish. :)
AMEN to your recent article on "guiding" our
children. I know a lot of people who say that my wife and I are
"Overprotective" of our son. Our answer back is that we
are not being overprotective, merely that we are trying to help
him avoid situations where he might become hurt. We know that we
cannot be with him 24 / 7 and prevent every little mishap, but why
not try to avoid ones that we can!
The Haunted Mansion
Last December, we visited Disneyland over a long weekend. We
basically let our son call the shots in terms of "where are
we going to next / what are we doing?" At one point, *HE*
decided that he wanted to go into the Haunted Mansion. We were
fine, until we got into the front door, it was dark and the music
started. He'd had enough and wanted to get OUT of there. So we
left... no big deal, right? Well, one of the "smart
mouthed" CM's at the door just *had to comment* ....
"Yeah, you'd better go back to Fantasyland *WHERE YOU BELONG*
and keep practicing on the kiddy rides...."
I was so upset that I didn't get their name (I should have, and
if I had I would have gone DIRECTLY to City Hall and written up a
report) ..... C'mon....the child is only 4 years old. From the
outside, the house is very non- threatening.... he had NO idea
what he was in for (although we've talked about all the
attractions with him)..... Although he "knows" the
Ghosts aren't real.... it was really scary enough for him just to
go into the entry hall.... I would NEVER force him to go in or on
something that he wasn't ready for.
When he first went at age 2, he HATED all the dark rides in
Fantasyland. This past trip, it was a problem to get him away from
them... so I know things will change, and one day he'll be
dragging ME into the Haunted Mansion. I just wish that some people
(and some CM's) could keep their opinions to themselves sometime.
Great column. We *will* be visiting DL / DCA this summer, but
since we'll be at the DL Hotel we can hop if we get bored / tired
guests is completely uncalled for, especially towards a child. I
guess not all CM's can be as well composed as the Animal Kingdom
CM that Andrew described earlier. And I believe you're right, your
son will be dragging you on those rides before you know it and
you'll wonder, "gee, where did the time go?"
Thanks for the as-always informative article... I don't have
kids, but as the resident Disneyland expert in the family I feel I
need to know about what special needs my friends with kids or
littler members of my family might face. I really enjoy taking
little kids to the park, like my little cousins and friends kids,
and I feel very honored that these people think enough of me to
allow me to be responsible for their children for a day. As a
result, I feel I'm responsible for knowing what content a ride has
and how sensitive the child would be to that.
For the reader who implies that all kids can handle "It's
Tough to be a Bug", I say this: If you aren't concerned about
what impact this show might have on your child, at least be
considerate of the other people trying to watch the show. Just
last week I witnessed a child become hysterical during the black
widow portion of the show. The parent took the child immediately
out of the theater, but I could just imagine a parent trying to
explain to a child that it was really funny over the screams...
Sorry, but not possible.
Personally, I think the show is just perfect for someone like
my 9 year old little cousin. If I had taken him on that when he
was four, he would have demanded to leave the park as he did after
Mr. Toad at that age. At any rate, I think your warning was
perfectly clear and well qualified.
Thanks as always.
you remind me of my sister who spoils her nephew to pieces, but
has great care-taking and child raising instincts (fortunately for
all of us, she's graduating from medical school in May and seems
destined to be accepted into a highly respected pediatric
My son is very lucky to have her as an
aunt and it sounds like your cousins and your friends' children
are lucky, too!
Wanted: Your questions and feedback! They will
help me plan future columns! Write me at: AdrienneK@mouseplanet.com
Send your Adrienne's
eMailbox / Parenting in the Parks questions or comments to:
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submitted to the Adrienne's eMailbox column become property of this
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family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site
Not all questions may be
responded to, but all will be read so I can have an idea of what you all
think out there.
For more information
about Character Meals at the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World, visit
the following links:
Restaurant Resource - Character
Note: A new character
meal, Breakfast with Chip and Dale, is now available at the Storytellers
Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. As with the other Disneyland Hotel
and Paradise Pier Hotel character meals, priority seating arrangements can
be made for this breakfast by calling: (714) 956-6755
Parenting in the Parks: Meeting
In this column, I gave
my own reviews and descriptions of the Character Meals at Disneyland.
Parenting in the Parks: Birthday
Parties At Disneyland
This column describes
how to arrange a party inside the park itself, at Redd Rocket's Pizza
Walt Disney World
Restaurant Resource - Character
This page provides a
list of each WDW Character meal and the characters who typically appear at
each meal. There is also a table available at the bottom of the page for a
quick reference guide.
experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp
counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she
started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew
visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The
Happiest Potties on Earth website.