How to Ease Your (Scaredy-Cat) Kid into Theme Park Attractions You Know They’ll Love!

by Aug 24, 2017

I love Disney, have always loved theme parks, and when I was younger I loved huge coasters. So, it’s no surprise that my oldest is into roller coasters now. The bigger, faster, loopier the better! But it hasn’t always been this way. Mayya is 10 years old now, we started going to the Disneyland® Resort when she was 4 and her sister, Safiya, was 2. My youngest has always been a daredevil, never afraid to try anything. If her sister was afraid, well she was definitely not! During that first trip to Disneyland® we spent the majority of our time in Fantasyland® where they could enjoy all the attractions. There was one benign attraction that Mayya didn’t want to go on, it was Peter Pan’s Flight. Peter Pan’s Flight is a dark ride and you can’t really see into it from outside. All she knew was these driverless boats were disappearing somewhere and that was scary! I tried to explain to her that it would be fun, it’s not scary at all, it’s just like the movie that she’s seen a hundred times. “NO!” she said, she had put her foot down. I was determined to get her on it, I knew she’d love it. I carried her through the line, telling her how fun it would be as she cried. I’m sure everyone thought I was a horrible mother! We all rode Peter Pan together, and guess what? She loved it!

While I don’t recommend this approach, it worked for us. Over the years she was reluctant to try other new attractions as she grew tall enough to ride them. Next it was the Haunted Mansion, too scary for her. We tricked her into that one, telling her it was just a tour of a cool mansion. This time we were at Walt Disney World® and the Mansion looks different from Disneyland®’s on the outside. Once in she realized what we were doing, but got on anyway and loved it too. I didn’t know then, but you can ask a Cast Member to skip the scary entrance to the Haunted Mansion and get right on the attraction. Then there was Splash Mountain® Attraction, it took 2 years of bribing to get her on this attraction. We even got her onto the log boat once, but she quickly jumped off to the exit on the other side. Though once she rode it, it became her favorite ride. She would ride Splash Mountain® all day if we let her. It’s going to be under refurbishment while we are there this fall and she was very serious when she said to me “If Splash Mountain® is closed I do not want to go to Walt Disney World®!” She then wrote a letter to the Walt Disney World® Executives asking them to please consider reopening it in time for our trip because she loves it so much!

There are still a couple of attractions my kids won’t ride and I’ve since found a more effective way to help them get over their fear and at least try the attraction.

  • Before your trip let your children watch the POV (point of view) videos on YouTube of the attractions. This will show them exactly what to expect in the attraction. This works great for my kids! Type the attraction name into the YouTube search bar.
  • It may take a few trips and additional years for your child to be ready for an attraction. Start talking to them when they’re younger about how much you love the attraction and how fun it is. Show them the ride.
  • I know I did this, and it worked for me, but don’t force your child on an attraction they are scared of. It may make them less likely to try new, “scary” attractions in the future.
  • Have the child stand in line with you for the attraction, let them know they don’t have to ride if they still don’t want to when they get to the front of the line. A lot of attraction queues are interactive and have interesting details. Point out the other kids their age who are going to ride, point out the kids their age or younger who are getting off the ride who are not crying or scared, “Look they had fun!”. If they are still not wanting to ride, just let the Cast Member know and they can escort you to the exit.
  • Some attractions at Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® have Rider Switch where the entire party can ride the attraction while one adult waits off to the side with the child who doesn’t want ride or is too small to ride. Once your party gets off the attraction, the adult who waited can switch with an adult who rode. Taking up to 3 people with them, they can get directly on the attraction. Let the Cast Member at the ride entrance know you are doing Rider Switch. This option can be used in standby or FastPass+ lines. Attractions that offer rider switch are:

Walt Disney World®

Magic Kingdom®

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®
Splash Mountain® Attraction
Space Mountain® Attraction
Stitch’s Great Escape
Tomorrowland Indy Speedway


Test Track® Presented by Chevrolet®
Soarin’ Around the World
Mission: SPACE® Attraction
Frozen Ever After

Disney’s Hollywood Studios®

Star Tours® The Adventures Continue
The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM Attraction
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith

Animal Kingdom

Avatar: Flight of Passage
Kali River Rapids® Attraction
DINOSAUR Attraction
Primeval Whirl® Attraction
Expedition Everest Attraction


Disneyland Park®

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Gadget’s Go Coaster
Indiana JonesTM Adventure ©Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Space Mountain®
Splash Mountain®
Star Tours—The Adventures Continue© Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

Disney California Adventure Park

California Screamin’
Goofy’s Sky School
Grizzly River Run
Guardians of the GalaxyTM – Mission: BREAKOUT
Jumpin’ Jellyfish
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters ©Disney/Pixar
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Radiator Springs Racers
Silly Symphony Swings
Soarin’ Around the World
Tuck and Roll’s Drive Em Buggies

Universal Orlando ResortTM

All the rides use a Child Swap system and some have Child Swap waiting rooms. Tell the greeting attendant at the line entrance you’d like to use Child Swap and they will tell you what to do.

  • For the older scaredy-cat kids, sometimes bribery will help. Maybe offer them an extra souvenir or an ice cream treat if they conquer their fear and try the ride.
  • My kids are very competitive. One will ride The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM, but not Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith, and vice versa This trip they are challenging each other. Mayya will try The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM only if Safiya tries Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith. They have both agreed, let’s see how this works out!
  • If it’s characters your children are afraid of, try visiting the face characters (characters like the princesses who don’t have their heads covered in a costume). The Talking Mickey at the Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater experience seems less threatening when his mouth is moving and he’s talking to you.

Encourage your kids to try something new, have fun as a family and don’t get discouraged when they won’t ride an attraction you know they’ll love. There is plenty to see and do, just revisit that attraction when they are more willing. Everyone will be happy and you’ll have a memorable trip!

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