Encouraging Kids in Disney Parks – Out of their comfort zone (and on the rollercoaster!)

Encouraging kids to get out of their comforts zones...and into the rollercoaster!

I think it’s equally important to encourage our children to try new things while still remembering that new things might make them scared or nervous. And you certainly don’t want to ruin an entire Disney day because you pushed too hard getting them to ride something new and they got too scared. Kids aren’t going to want to try anything new after an experience like that.

I can remember clearly the first time my parents tried to get me and my brother on Big Thunder Mountain. I was crying and my brother had a death grip on the chain at the entrance!! But after the first ride, well, we jumped off and got right back in line to go on it again! My parents knew us and they knew that we could handle a bit of encouragement. Only you know your kids and how far you can push them so use your best judgment.

Encouraging our kids to get on a rollercoaster!

Excited (toothless) smiles!

At 7 years old my kids were tall enough to ride every single thing at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. They loved Dumbo and Jungle Cruise and still enjoyed singing their way through Small World but were eager (yet a bit anxious) to try out the zippy roller coasters like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. They had rode Gadget’s Go Coaster in ToonTown the year before and loved it! The Go-Coaster is a perfect first coaster to test your kids on if maybe they’ve never been on a coaster before. It’s a short, speedy little ride so it’s over very quickly. We had set the stage for adding more coasters to the mix on this trip.
Gadget's Go-Coaster in ToonTown. A perfect first roller coaster!

Gadget’s Go-Coaster in ToonTown. A perfect first roller coaster!

California Screamin’ – hindsite is 20/20. 
The first day in California Adventure I decided that the very first ride they should try out is the fastest coaster in the parks, California Screamin’, which also happens to go upside-down!
Ooops…Not sure that was my best strategy, thinking back!
Since I was pregnant at the time, my husband rode with each child individually, starting off with my stepdaughter Alonna. She looked very confident at the start and judging from the smiles when she got off the ride, I’d have guessed she had a great time!
Same thing with my son Ian, though his expression at the beginning of the ride (before it had even begun to MOVE) was slightly more terrified! However, when he got off the ride he was all smiles and excitement.
They haven't even taken off and already he looks terrified!

They haven’t even taken off and already he looks terrified!

My husband Daniel told the true story. He said that both kids had frightening reactions during the ride that I’d never had guessed at. He said my daughter had filled her cheeks with air, like she was holding her breath, then said to him that she was going to throw up! Daniel said he swears that my son passed out! He said Ian’s head dropped down and that he was patting his chest and that my little guy rolled his eyes around to straighten up but that he looked pretty out of it through the entire ride.
YIKES! Yeah, judging from their happy expressions a few minutes later I really never would have guessed that this ride wasn’t really as the kids were portraying. They were fortunately in good spirits about it and probably equal parts excited for the new adventure and nervous to try again. This would come up again later in the day when encountering new rides, Alonna was extremely hesitant to try them for fear they would be too much like the first.

Live and learn, you have to build on the day, not start with the fastest coaster in the park right out of the gate!

We moved on and other rides along the pier like Toy Story Mania in 3-DSilly Symphony SwingsJumpin’ JellyfishGolden Zepher were more appropriate. She didn’t like Mickey’s Fun Wheel, likely because they chose a cage that slid back and forth each time the wheel turned a notch. I don’t blame her…I don’t like it for the same reason!
Silly Symphony Swings

Silly Symphony Swings were more her pace.

Bug’s Land had some slower paced rides that they loved but once they moved over to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Alonna was having nothing to do with that, so Danny and Ian rode alone. That was Ian’s first time on that ride and he actually loved it. I think Alonna was put off by the “spooky” aspect because she didn’t want to ride The Haunted Mansion or Indiana Jones either. A few minutes into the queue of each ride and she wanted to leave.
Soarin’ Over California was a success, both kids really loved it. Alonna was nervous though when the preview video watched before the ride mentioned that we would be flying!
Another Disney day!
Slow and steady was the way to go with our kids. Pretty soon they were ready for speed.
The next day at Disneyland, we started off less vigorously, sticking to the slower rides in Fantasyland (like Peter PanCasey Jr. Circus TrainIt’s a Small World and the Carousel). Small world was a favorite of course, I think Alonna would have rode that all day! We built up speed a bit with the Teacups MatterhornRoger Rabbit’s Car-toon Spin and Gadget’s Go-Coaster.
We kept things very casual and if they didn’t want to ride a particular ride, there was no pressure. We know our kids and they don’t respond well to pressure. By the end of the day, Alonna in particular was picking up steam and ready for action. All of her earlier nervousness about fast rides was disappearing and she happily jumped on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. In fact, they ran off the latter ride and went right back in line to ride again!
In the past, my son had been hesitant to try faster rides. I’d tried cajoling but it seemed the more I pushed, the more he dug in his heels. It wasn’t until he was really ready to ride them did he try and of course, enjoy them.
Rocket Jets
My advice-
Get familiar with the Disney websites and look at all photos and videos that you can. Look at the height charts and see what your child will be able ride during your trip. Watch videos online of any questionably scary or fast rides/attractions that might make your child balk.
Bottom Line – 
Not pressuring your kids or forcing them to ride anything they aren’t quite ready for is key to having a great trip. Do the proper research so you are prepared in advance but listen to your gut about what’s really appropriate for your own child. Remember it’s the Happiest Place on Earth!

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