Easing Into the Big Rides

by Jenna Kahl, contributing writer

Trying something new can be scary, and taking a first turn on one of the "big kid rides" at a Disney theme park can be a rite of passage for big and little fans alike.

As a parent of a little one that is getting bigger by the minute, discovering new rides and attractions at the Disneyland Resort that she can ride has become a reoccurring theme. Learning from experience, taking the time to prepare can help alleviate anxiety and second guessing for everyone in the family.

Below are some helpful strategies to help ease little ones into new Disney experiences.

Let me start by saying that just because a child might be tall enough to ride an attraction doesn't mean your child will enjoy that experience. If you know your little one is startled by loud noises, the dark or higher speeds then perhaps waiting until next trip would be the best bet.

Do Your Research

Measure your child prior to your trip to the Disneyland Resort. I would suggest you have them wear the shoes that they will be wearing in at the park in the event that they are very close to the minimum height. The Disneyland Resort website contains comprehensive details about each ride and attraction so you can find height requirements and other details, such as whether Rider Switch passes are available as well. Keep in mind, if you are traveling with older siblings that might want to accompany a littler sibling on a ride, many rides have a minimum age at which the older child must be to sit with the younger child.

Even if its "meant" for a younger audience it may not mean they are ready. Photo by Jenna Kahl

You must be 40 inches tall to ride Jumpin' Jellyfish. Photo by Jenna Kahl

Get Them Excited

This may seem counter-intuitive, as it is Disneyland after all, but I live with a 6 year old who thinks the "massive" slides in Pirates of the Caribbean will send our boat flying out of control. We have had some luck, however, preparing both of our girls through the use of video and music. If you look online or through iTunes, you can find the Disneyland Resort soundtrack, it is a little outdated, but it includes the music and, in some cases, voice overs for the rides, some lands, and other experiences. We started by listening to the entire soundtrack on the way to and from school with my husband or I describing the songs of the rides that our daughters couldn't or wouldn't ride.

What to Expect

We then started watching online videos of the rides before our trip and talking about what to expect, listening to how the music fits, and trying to build excitement. Family friends of ours also suggested, for larger, scarier rides, such as Space Mountain, to let your little kids hear the music and talk them through the number of turns etc (for Space Mountain its three left turns, five right turns and a final left turn).

Something Fun

If you need a little something more in the distraction department, try getting creative and going on a "treasure hunt!" On Pirates of the Caribbean, set up a competition to find the most treasure chests; Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, who takes the silliest attraction photo; or, for Radiator Springs Racers, the winner of the race gets to pick the next ride.

Silly attraction photos make great memories. Photo by Jenna Kahl of her Aunt Bev.

Don't underestimate the power of Disney films and characters either. Simply highlighting the story or the characters that your little ones may meet on the ride is a get way to encourage a nervous rider. Literally "finding Nemo" was just enough to get our 2 year old comfortable enough to endure the tight squeeze of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

If you are not ready to venture into the world of "scary," rides I tell parents time and time again that the Disneyland Resort is for kids, and there is always plenty to do. Even the Mad Tea Party can be toned down (no spinning for this girl). Some safe bets are "it's a small world," The Many Adventure of Winnie the Pooh, the Disneyland Railroad and Ariel's Undersea Adventure.



  1. By amyuilani

    A note about measuring your children: It doesn't matter what you see in your at-home or doctor's office measurement. Disney CMs have the final word, and if they determine that your child is too small to ride, he cannot ride. It also doesn't matter if he rode before. That CM's measurement is all that matters at that moment. Do not try to argue or bargain with the CM. Her job is on the line if your child is injured because the safety restraint couldn't hold your child the way it was designed to. A CM will also not allow floodgates to open with parents whose kids are also too small who think they can ride because your kid did. If your child is borderline, accept that he may or may not make the requirement at the park, and accept that he will probably be measured every time he approaches the height check. Just be patient and let the CM do her job.

  2. Discuss this article on MousePad.