This past weekend I was talking to someone about Walt Disney World and what is the “right” age to take children. My kids both started going to Disney World when they were 18 months. Do they remember those trips? No. But, we sure do.
They developed great memories for their aunts, uncles and grandparents who have gone with us on each one of the trips. The kids have great memories of grandma riding It’s a Small World with them and having dinner with the Winnie the Pooh characters when they were about 8 years old.
So, they may not remember all of their trips but I would not give up a single one of those trips when they were little. We still love to tell the story of how on my daughter’s first trip her favorite things to do were to get ice from the ice machine and standing in the spray at each one of the parks. Or how my son was terrified of the giant hockey masks in All-Star Movies on his first trip and we had to walk around the back of the buildings to get to our rooms because he was scream and refuse to go anywhere he could see them. We are all able to laugh at these stories and they add to the stories now about their favorite things they remember.
But, what is there to do for little ones under 5? That depends on the temperament of your child and their size. I have seen little ones tackle Big Thunder Mountain without fear but melt down in The Haunted Mansion. Knowing your child’s tolerance for dark rides and characters can really make or break your trip. Once a new ride scares them and you may have trouble getting them to try anything after that one ride.
Over the next few weeks I plan a series of blog posts on different things to do with littlest visitors in each park starting with Magic Kingdom.
Below are some movies or television shows to watch with your children prior to going to Magic Kingdom to help them understand the stories and characters they may see on the rides and shows and maybe even in person:
- Winnie the Pooh’s Grand Adventure
- Little Mermaid
- Peter Pan
- Beauty and the Beast
- Toy Story
- The Lion King
- Monsters, Inc.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
The more familiar they are with the stories and characters the less likely they will be afraid of certain story elements in the rides and shows. Plus, you will know which rides to avoid if there are any definite fears. My 14 year-old daughter still will not willingly go on the Haunted Mansion ride because it scared her so much when she was younger despite all our reassurances that it was Mickey magic.
Rides and Shows that are pretty good for little ones of all types (little to no “scare” factor)
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Jungle Cruise
- Country Bear Jamboree
- The Hall of Presidents – may not hold their interest but it is a great place to cool off and for little ones to nap
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- It’s a Small World
- Mickey’s Philharmagic
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Prince Charming Regal Carousel
- Mad Tea Party – you do not need to spin the cups if you don’t want to
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Astro Orbiter – a high in the sky ride similar to Dumbo
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress – may not hold their interest but a great place to cool off and little ones to nap
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – you are inside a brightly colored video game. A few dark moments as you start and move between sections.
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Character Meet and Greets – Most children like the face characters but some are fearful of costumed characters. Mickey, in Celebration Hall, is the only costumed character to talk so that may scare some children.
- 3 pm parade/Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes – Wishes is a fireworks show and our autistic son could not handle it until he was older.
Rides with dark sections or some scary Characters that may scare some children:
- Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid– Ursula makes an appearance during the beginning and your car rotates backwards and gently lays back as you go “under the sea.”
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – the Goddess with the red glowing eyes can scare some small children
- Pirates of the Caribbean – starts entirely in the dark with a short drop down a small water flume in darkness
- Splash Mountain – stand outside the ride and look at the drop. There are also smaller drops prior to the big drop in darkness.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – not overly scary as far as characters or darkness but moves FAST and tends to be a bit jerky in its movement.
- Haunted Mansion – Dark ride with lots of spooky noises and voices
- Peter Pan – The only reason I place this ride here is that the car is suspended from the ceiling and if you have a small squirmy child this ride can be scary for you for fear of having them fall out. This ride does have the pirates and crocodile make an appearance.
- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – the darker section of the rainstorm and floating feeling of the ride may scare some young children.
- The Barnstormer – a short first rollercoaster for many children. A few dips and turns but mostly gentle.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – a fast-moving and rocking side-to-side roller coaster. Brief sections in the dark.
- Tomorrowland Speedway – this one is here because it is personal to me. I HATED this ride when I had to drive the car. I kept bumping into the rail and people were yelling at me. If your child is not tall enough to ride alone help them steer.
- Stitch’s Great Escape – show mostly in darkness
- Space Mountain – roller coaster in darkness
So, this is a fairly comprehensive list as of today of the different rides and attractions for the littlest guests at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. The biggest piece of advice is know your child’s tolerance for dark or scary things and you will have a great trip by not pushing them into places they are fearful and having them resist any rides or shows for the rest of your vacation.
*Transferred from Earning My Disney PhD. Originally published July 29, 2014.