Category — c. How Old/Tall Your Children Should Be for WDW
(A slightly different version of this first appeared in WDW Magazine.)
This site exists to help first time visitors to Walt Disney World who may never return make great decisions quickly. The home page has a Summary of Instructions built to do just that.
And since I opened the site almost six years ago, the most controversial—and most misunderstand–instruction has been the third one:
“…if this may be your kids’ only childhood visit, consider going when your youngest child is at least 8 or 9, and your shortest child at least 48 inches tall.”
It’s the “who may never return” words that drives this instruction: Will–or might—this be your only Disney Word visit?
So it can be hard enough to plan a first visit to Walt Disney World, and here I am asking you to figure out how this visit might fit into your other future vacation plans too? What’s up with that?
Well, if you want to have the best first visit, it really matters.
There’s an enormous Disney World fan community that can’t imagine going only once.
Yet plenty of families can’t imagine how they could go more than once.
- Some just can’t see how they could afford a return visit.
- Some could afford another visit, but have too many other vacation goals—Yosemite, New Orleans, Cleveland—to see how a return visit could fit.
- Others could afford another visit, and could make the time…but just can’t say before they visit for the first time whether or not they’ll ever return. This group won’t know whether the value is there for a return visit until they go the first time, because—if you’ve never been there—it’s astonishingly hard to imagine the scope and fun of Walt Disney World.
If this might be your family’s only trip, and you want to see all the best of Walt Disney World…well, that has big implications for how old and tall your kids should be, how long you should stay, what you do each day you are there, when you should go, where you should stay, and all kinds of other issues.
If this may be their only childhood visit, wait until your youngest child is around 8, and the shortest around 48 inches tall.
Why? Because Walt Disney World is not designed for children.
It is designed for children and their parents.
Among Walt Disney’s frustrations that led him to the concept of Disneyland—which set the tone for all the other Disney parks that followed—was watching his daughters enjoy rides that were too dull for him.
That lead him to a park design that children and their parents could each enjoy together.
As a result, much of the best of Walt Disney World has a level of sophistication, and of physical and emotional demands, that will escape, or worse, overwhelm, children younger than 8 or so.
Disney World itself is only half of the equation—it requires the other half, your child’s mind, to complete the experience of the place.
The play world of kids is grounded firmly in what they understand of the real world, and a kid with an understanding of the real world below that of the typical eight year old just won’t get as much fun out of Disney World as a more sophisticated and experienced kid will.
Height is the second issue. A couple of Disney World’s best rides require kids to be 48 inches tall, and several more of the best require a kid to be at least 44 inches tall. Some of this is for safety reasons, and some is a way of marking that a ride just isn’t for the littlest kids.
Now don’t get me wrong—kids of any age can enjoy Disney World.
But if this may be your only trip, why not wait until they are old and tall enough to fully enjoy all of the best of Walt Disney World?
In contrast, if this is just the first of several trips, then bringing younger and shorter kids makes much more sense. Having things go over their heads is not an issue, because they can see and fully get those attractions on a later visit, when they are older.
But little kids do bring along their own set of issues. You have to match what you do to their interests, stamina, and routine schedules…or tantrums may result!
This tends to lead to much shorter days, and fewer experiences per day, than with older kids. Not an issue if you can catch what they missed later on another visit…but frustrating to the parents—who, since the parks were designed for them too, will want to see and do more than their kids can take!
But if you push your little kids too hard…well, the most miserable people one sees in the parks later in the day at Walt Disney World are the parents of small children, and the second most miserable group is their kids…
If you don’t push them too hard, littler kids who will be returning are also easier to schedule for.
- The first visit can be just a few partial days at the Magic Kingdom.
- A later visit can add to revisiting the Magic Kingdom (your kids will never tire of revisiting the Magic Kingdom) mornings at Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
- Still later visits can pick up the more sophisticated rides and shows at all the parks.
So a core question—one that really affects almost everything else—is whether or not you will be able to return.
And that’s why you need to think about this now.
December 22, 2013 4 Comments
Magical Blogorail Teal is writing this month about Education and Walt Disney World.
When the Magical Blogorail Teal gang started talking about education and Walt Disney World, my first thought was why not have kids spend nine months of the year at Disney World and only the summers in school?
Yes, this is kinda nuts, but there’s a point buried in it: a week at Disney World, when viewed in the long run, can be a lot more educational than a week in school.
Rather–at least to me–the aim of education is to help develop a free person prepared to pursue happiness.
Classroom skills are critical to this—especially reading, writing and math. And a week out of school can hurt older kids with these unless you are careful to work with your teachers to make sure your kid keeps up (more on this later).
But there’s other dimensions to the aim as well. Enabling a free person to pursue happiness requires not just skills but also values and substantive knowledge, all aimed toward a life of autonomy, mastery, and purposefulness.
A key way to get from here to there is to help kids become fascinated by topics which will help them develop in these dimensions. This is because fascination is the most powerful motivational force we have.
And there’s lots of opportunities to develop and build fascination at Walt Disney World.
Since this site’s recommended weeks are all during the typical school year (because that’s when prices and crowds are lower) most families will need to take their kids out of school to take advantage of them.
Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not, given the educational promise of Disney World.
DISNEY WORLD AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Younger kids may simply enjoy Walt Disney Word purely in its direct presentation, and have as their educational experience what they learn about family life.
They can enjoy Disney World both in their direct experience of it and as a human-made artifact.
Almost any element of a liberal education can be tied to something about the presentation, design, management, history, or details of Walt Disney World.
Epcot and the Animal Kingdom present directly many potential topics of fascination—from marine biology to animal biology to conservation to car design to high-speed rail to why France and Morocco are different but related.
The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios don’t stick such possibilities so directly front and center…but there’s still tons of things at them that can fascinate.
At these two parks in particular the opportunity is to understand the range of human capability by investigating the parks as designed and managed objects.
The basic questions that can help you get your kids there are “why?” and “how?”
To give just some “why” examples…
- Why are there names in the windows on Main Street?
- Why do some rides have FASTPASSES and others not?
- Why are some rides filled and others half-empty?
- Why are cast members so much more friendly and helpful than most other employees your kids may interact with?
- Why are some fireworks shows not on every night?
- Why is Disney World in Florida and not in our home town?
- Why is that building/structure designed to look the way it does?
- And that one?
- Why does the street look the way it does?
- etc., etc.
Walt Disney World is the sum of a set of human choices, insights, and actions, some long ago, and some constructed in the moment in front of you.
Anything you see there represents the totality of these choices, insights and actions as manifested in this moment, and the “whys” and “hows” of all of them are open to fascination.
YOU GOTTA WORK WITH YOUR TEACHERS TO GET YOUR KIDS READY TO GO
Some teachers may have no expectations about work to make up for the missed days and not get behind the class, but most will, and the older your kids are, the more important this work will be.
Involve your kids in preparing for the time away from school, but take responsibility for it yourself. If there’s work to be made up, your kids should do as much as possible before you leave. While my itineraries have time off in them, schoolwork is not how you want to spend it.
While different teachers may have different preferences for how they handle kids away from class, the absolutely wrong answer is to expect them to do everything to prepare your kids for being away.
Instead, make it your key priority to help them out. Find out how they like to handle make-up work, and then work with your kids to respond to these preferences.
For example, put together a typical calendar for class—what subjects are covered what days, what typical homework assignments are given, what known tests are coming and when papers and projects are due, so that all the teacher has to do is mark it up.
Teachers–I particularly welcome your comments on how families can help with managing time out of school. I’ve taught, but only at the university level, and my challenges there (hangovers) were different. Use the comment form below!
FINAL PREPARATION TO TAKE YOUR KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD
The final step is to prepare yourself.
Your goal is to enable fascination by learning a little more about some ‘hows” and “whys” so that you can engage with your kids as topics come up.
The easiest way to do so is advance reading in Disney websites or guidebooks that focus on not only “what” but also why and how. This site fits, as do a number of its recommended books and recommended websites.
MORE ON EDUCATION AND WALT DISNEY WORLD FROM MAGICAL BLOGORAIL TEAL
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail is The Disney FAITHful.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
August 23, 2011 10 Comments
MORE ON HOW OLD AND TALL YOUR KIDS SHOULD BE FOR THEIR FIRST VISIT TO AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
This page brings together to one place key links to help decide whether your kids are old and tall enough for Disney World on this site.
Kids of any age can have fun at Walt Disney World; age and height are important if this trip is not only your first one, but also potentially your only one.
It’s part of a series on navigating this site.
LINKS FOR HOW OLD AND TALL YOUR KIDS SHOULD BE FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD
April 17, 2011 2 Comments
WHAT YOUR KID CAN RIDE AT WALT DISNEY WORLD AT VARIOUS HEIGHTS
Some of the key rides at Walt Disney World have height requirements.
These exist for a combination of safety and “age-appropriate” reasons.
Of the rides that have height minimums–most don’t–the least is 38 inches, and the highest is 48 inches.
The graphic below contains all the key Walt Disney World rides with height requirements.
It groups rides by minimum height.
That means that you can quickly see what your kids might miss at various heights.
Click to open it; when open, click again to enlarge.
LINKS FOR HOW OLD/TALL YOUR KIDS SHOULD BE
- How Old/Tall Your Children Should Be
- What if They’re Too Short/Young?
- Taking Your Too Short/Young Kids Anyway,&*#$@!!
- Ride Height Requirements
- The Comprehensive Guide to Rides
- Rides That Might be Skipped
April 21, 2010 2 Comments
This chart (click thumbnail to open; when open, click one or two times again to enlarge) groups all rides at Walt Disney World based on two points of view:
- Vertically from the eyes of pre-school kids: best loved, to be avoided, or neither;
- Horizontally from the eyes of kids in the third grade or older, and their parents: skippable, favorites, or neither.
Groupings are based on ratings by age from a number of sources, on height restrictions, and on “scariness.”
April 3, 2008 No Comments
Every ride at Walt Disney World is worth trying.
But not at the cost of your sanity.
April 2, 2008 1 Comment