Friday, August 22, 2014

Disney Experience: Introducing Kids to Roller Coasters

By: Melissa

“But what about the roller coasters?”

Let’s face it. As much as we want to experience Disney through the eyes and hearts of our kids, some of us are itching to ride the rides, too. My husband and I really enjoy roller coasters, so the idea of going to Disney and not riding any of the “big” rides wasn’t even an option. We just had to figure out how to make it work. And better yet, how to help our son enjoy the rides we both love so much.

Introducing Kids to Roller Coasters

Honestly, at Disney, there are a lot of rides that kids can go on, even if they don’t like “big” rides. It’s Disney, for crying out loud - it was made for families. But we knew we wanted to ride things like Space Mountain, too. And our son, having just turned six, was going to be tall enough for most of the coasters. We knew about Rider Switch, and planned to employ it when necessary, but we really wanted Caedmon to enjoy the rides too. We had to figure out how to introduce him to them in a way that would work for him. We’ve heard lots of stories from friends about introducing their kids to rides, both good and not so good. We desperately wanted to land on the good side.

(Honor was just two at the time, and as a little daredevil, we weren’t concerned about her on rides at all. Turns out that she loved everything we rode, and her favorite was the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Or, “the horsey ride,” as she will forever call it.)

You see, our son is a processor. A thinker. A detail-oriented guy. He wants to know exactly what to expect, good or bad. He can handle just about anything as long as it’s not a surprise to him. He’s kind of our own little Captain Cautious. But as long as he knows he’s safe, he will let loose and have fun. So, here’s what we did:

1. We talked about going on rides. We made sure that he understood that the rides were safe, even though they might be dark and/or loud. There are rules we have to follow (using the safety bars, staying seated, keeping our hands and feet in, etc.) that help make sure we’re all safe. And that all the “things” in the rides (pirates, space aliens, etc.) are pretend.

2. We promised we wouldn’t make him ride anything he didn’t want to ride. (And stuck to it.) But we explained that because Mom & Dad really enjoy big rides, one of us might go ride something without him, and that would be ok, too.

3. We watched YouTube videos and talked about specific rides. There are great YouTube channels that have point-of-view ride videos. Just go to YouTube and search “Disney World rides,” and you’ll have plenty to choose from. A few months before our trip, we started talking with Caedmon about the rides we wanted to try, and showed him videos (we’d pre-screened them to make sure they were kid-safe). Everything he watched, he said he wanted to try.

4. We started small. Our first park day was at Magic Kingdom. We hit Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin first, and both the kids loved it. We rode it twice, in fact. We continued to build up from there, riding things we could ride together, and they could (partially) control, like Astro Orbiter, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Dumbo. After an awesome morning of fun rides, Caedmon’s first taste of a “real” roller coaster was The Barnstormer. He loved it. We got a Rider Switch pass, and he actually rode it twice – once with Chris, and once with me.

5. We gradually worked up. After Caedmon rode The Barnstormer twice and begged to ride it again, we knew he could handle Splash Mountain. He rode it a couple of times, and we moved on up to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We sprinkled the more calm rides in between, giving him a break from the bigger rides now and then. Rider Switch was awesome – Honor was too young to ride the big rides, so I could wait with her while the guys rode, then I could ride with Caedmon while Chris waited with Honor.

6. We gave him a second chance. The day we were at Animal Kingdom, we asked Caedmon if he wanted to ride Expedition Everest. He wasn’t sure about a ride that went backward, and said no. Later in the morning (after riding Kali River Rapids four times), he changed his mind. So we went. He wasn’t quite sure he liked it the first time, so he rode it again. That was enough for him, but he did it. And wants to ride it again next time. If we hadn’t given him the chance to change his mind, he wouldn’t have ridden it at all. That wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I’m glad we were able to let him ride when he decided he wanted to.

Ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for your family and what you think your kids can handle. If you’re still trying to plan your rides or are wondering about height requirements, the Disney World website lists each ride, along with a brief description and minimum height. There are also numerous charts/lists floating around the internet. Here’s one that I like. (Basically anything not on that list doesn’t have a height restriction.)

Have your kids been introduced to “big” rides? How did you do it?

As always, please feel free to comment, email, tweet, or Facebook us with any questions! We love hearing from you.

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