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Tips for Success with a Timid Child at Walt Disney World

My five year old, Grant, is a VERY timid child.  He comes by this naturally, as I have a fear of all things tall and fast!  After having success in Walt Disney World with Grant on both attractions and meeting characters, I wanted to share some tips with others who might also have little ones with big fears.

Preparation:

There is a lot you can do to get your kiddos ready for all that awaits them on a Disney vacation, here are my two biggest tips.

  1. YouTube videos:  These are AMAZING tools.  Sit down with your child a few times before your trip and watch 'ride through' videos of the rides you are interested in on YouTube.  These videos got Grant so excited about riding the Disney rides, and tipped me off as to what he was most interested in (boat rides).  There is a ride through video for most every ride.
  2. Meet non-Disney characters:  Go to a local sporting event (or other location that applies) if you can and get some face time with the mascots.  This should give you a good read on how your child feels about huge, fuzzy friends.  If your child panics, you know not to plan your trip around character breakfasts and meet and greets.  When you are at Disney, let them see the characters hanging out in the parks from afar.  Even if the child was afraid of your local mascot, there's a chance if he sees his buddy Mickey, he'll warm right up.
Planning & In the Parks:

After you have scoured YouTube, you should have a good idea of what your child might enjoy ride/meet wise.  Use this information wisely.  Make your FastPass+ selections with these rides in mind.  Yes, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP+ is coveted, but if you make that your first FastPass+ of the morning and it scares your child, you may be sunk the rest of the trip.

Make sure your first few rides are slow and well lit.  I'd suggest the a few of the following in Magic Kingdom :
  • it's a small world
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant or Magic Carpets of Aladdin (both can be controlled to stay lower to the ground)
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Walt Disney World Railroad
After your little one has conquered these, my next tier of suggestions would be :
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
  • The Many Adventures of Winne the Pooh (there is a surprisingly dark and somewhat scary part of this ride)
  • Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid
Along the way, you will be able to take stock of how your child is reacting to different elements of each ride, and make decisions about how far they might be willing to step out of their comfort zone.

If your little one wants to try some faster rides, I would suggest starting with either the Barnstormer or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  There are two different schools of thought here.  The Barnstormer is the typical 'kids coaster,' however it is fairly jerky and you don't feel the most secure.  Seven Dwarfs will give you a smoother ride and give you a more secure feel, but is faster and longer.  That's a personal decision.  Perhaps let your child decide when watching the YouTube videos at home.

A few other great rides for timid kids include:
  • Living with the Land (EPCOT)
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends (EPCOT)
  • Gran Fiesta Tour (EPCOT)
  • Spaceship Earth (EPCOT) - with the caveat that this is a bit dark at times and my timid kiddo got a bit flustered)
  • Toy Story Midway Mania (Hollywood Studios)
  • Kilimanjaro Safari (Animal Kingdom)
Remember, there is so much to do at Disney even if your child is a bit timid.  There are plenty of shows throughout all of the parks that will keep them smiling (and your feet happy) in addition to the kid friendly rides and wonderful character meet and greets.  The best thing to do is to follow your child's lead and not set your thrill ride expectations too high.  Also, don't forget to take advantage of Child Swap so that the adults in your group can enjoy the large thrill rides on your vacation!

Amy H.

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