Tackling Your Kid’s First Roller Coaster: A Guide for Eager Parents

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog

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Wondering how to tackle the fears and nerves associated with your kid’s first roller coaster? Disney World’s mild coasters are the best way to start. Check out these tips for promoting a positive roller coaster experience.

“Front row. No hands.”

That was my dad’s roller coaster mantra. He was all about the thrills, and it was crucial to him that his three daughters share in that joy.

Fortunately, I possess—or, at least, I used to possess—the thrill-seeking gene and took little issue with his idea of topsy-turvy fun.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rounds a corner at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Photo by Cliff Wang

My younger sister, on the other hand, might recall her childhood differently; I have the frantic photos to prove it.

When it was time to introduce my own little one, Sagan, to the world of twists and turns, though, my stomach dropped more than it does on Space Mountain.

I wanted her to love roller coasters the way I did, and I knew it was even more important to my dad. But I also knew—especially from witnessing my sister’s hysterics—that Sagan facing her first roller coaster hill could go terribly, terribly wrong.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help promote a positive roller coaster experience. Here’s our guide to experience your kid’s first roller coaster in a way that they’ll remember positively.

Start Small

The Barnstormer coaster at Disney's Magic Kingdom park

Photo by Laurie Sapp

Even if your child is over 48”, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to head straight for the big leagues. My recommendation to family and friends has always been to start small and work your way up.

If you start with the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and your kid has a terrible experience, they’ll be less inclined (ha!) to try another roller coaster— even a tamer one they just might like.

I recommend a progressive approach. I’d start with an easier roller coaster at Disney World, like The Barnstormer or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, then Big Thunder Mountain, then Space Mountain.

If your little one is doing well with those, they might just be prepared to board a stretch limo with legendary rock ‘n’ roller, Steven Tyler. Or, they might not. 

Soon, we’ll have even more coasters to tackle, including TRON and Cosmic Rewind. If it’s a newer ride, test it out yourself first before exposing your young child to it. Just to be sure.


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It’s Not All About Size

A coaster train sails through the Barnstormer billboard at Disney's Magic Kingdom park

Photo by Laurie Sapp

The Barnstormer is the perfect entry-level roller coaster at Walt Disney World and only requires riders to be 35”, but that doesn’t mean every 35-inch child is mentally ready to ride.

While I completely understand eagerly measuring every centimeter until your little one meets the height requirements (I even have a growth chart with Walt Disney World attractions labeled on it for my daughter), there’s more to consider than inches.

A child stands in front of a height chart with Disney World Coaster Heights printed on it

Photo by Dani Mortiz-Long

Sagan hit 35” at two years old and rode her first roller coaster, The Barnstormer, when she was just under two-and-a-half.

She was eager to make her papa proud and ride a roller coaster, so she happened to be ready when she finally hit the height marker. That hasn’t been the case for every ride, though.

A close up view of a height chart with Disney World Coaster Heights printed on it

Photo by Dani Mortiz-Long

For example, she was 39” when she decided to give Slinky Dog Dash a try (the height requirement is 38”), and, even though she chose to ride it, she wasn’t a big fan.

So, we’ll be sticking to the calmer Toon Town-turned Storybook Circus classic for the foreseeable future—even though she’s now tall enough to tame the wildest ride in the wilderness, Big Thunder Mountain. Which leads me to my next point. 

No Pressure

Sagan and her papa after their first ride on The Barnstormer.

Photo by Dani Mortiz-Long

The biggest mistake I see parents make is layering on so much pressure to achieve perfection that they ruin their Disney vacation. Trust me; I get it. Disney vacations are expensive—particularly if you’re coming from out of town—and not everyone can take returning to the Most Magical Place on Earth for granted.

But this kind of pressure often results in overly pushy parents and overwhelmed children. Spoiler alert: not a great combination.

So, while I get the desire to experience the Magic Kingdom’s mountains or brave the Yeti aboard Expedition Everest, it’s really not worth traumatizing your kid over your vision of the ideal vacation. 

The good news is: You can practice roller coasters anywhere, not just Disney. Whether it’s a Cedar Fair venture, a Six Flags park, or, yes, even Universal, there are theme parks around the world to visit, and you can practice roller coasters there (much bigger ones, too) before your Disney trip.

Keep It Fun on Your Kid’s First Roller Coaster

A view aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

Photo by Ernie Carr

My approach to introducing new attractions is to keep things light. Remember, you’re at Disney World to have a good time—so why spoil the fun by taunting your kid or pushing something on them? Instead of reverting to the age-old “you’re a baby if you don’t …,” offer an invitation to your kid and be willing to take no for an answer.

If they’d like to give a roller coaster a try, great! If not, that’s OK too.

More than likely, they’ll come around eventually and, in the meantime, there’s plenty of not-so-scary attractions that are truly fun for the whole family at Walt Disney World. (Hello, Pirates of the Caribbean!)

This article is dedicated to my late dad, Tom Moritz Jr, who taught me the meaning of courage and bravery. I will forever cherish your lesson of “front row and no hands” as I take on my life—the greatest ride of all.


What was YOUR first coaster at Walt Disney World? Tell us over in the comment on our Facebook page!


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Written by Dani Moritz

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Dani has been visiting Disney Parks since she was two years old. She’s part of a DVC member family, a WDW annual passholder and former Cast Member, and the kind of Disney fan who still cries when she watches the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Since having her daughter, though, her favorite Disney title is Disney mom, and she’s loving sharing her love of the mouse with her toddler—who almost loves Walt Disney World as much as she does.
Dani Moritz

Written by Dani Moritz

Dani has been visiting Disney Parks since she was two years old. She’s part of a DVC member family, a WDW annual passholder and former Cast Member, and the kind of Disney fan who still cries when she watches the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Since having her daughter, though, her favorite Disney title is Disney mom, and she’s loving sharing her love of the mouse with her toddler—who almost loves Walt Disney World as much as she does.