Need help getting my nervous 5-year-old excited for DLR

WishUponAStar3

Believer In Big Dreams!
Joined
May 23, 2011
As a diehard Disney fan, it kinda breaks my heart that my almost-5-year-old son is so nervous and a bit reluctant for our DLR trip next weekend. 😭 Because of the pandemic, he's barely been to any amusement parks and in general is nervous in any new social situations. When we finally ventured out of our bubble, we took him to Legoland last month thinking he would love it since he is so obsessed with Legos. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of going on the Ninjago ride first, which was very loud with scary 3D creatures like snakes, etc, and he was bawling the whole time--I felt so bad!! We had to spend the rest of the day trying in vain to get him excited about even the most kiddy rides, and he basically didn't enjoy anything other than the gift shops at the end. I thought we would maybe hold off on amusement parks for awhile longer, but when our closest friends invited us to join them at DLR for a special birthday next weekend, we couldn't resist! I'm just anxious for it to go a whole lot better this time, and for him to have fun and love it and not be anticipating the end of every ride, as he was at Legoland. I'm happy to let the adults and bigger kids do the intense rides without us while I stay back with my son and 6-month-old daughter, but I'm hoping he will at least want to try the rides we can all do as a family.

Have any of you experienced and overcome anything similar with your kids? Any tips for getting my son excited and over his nerves before we head off on our trip next weekend? I've tried showing him a few Youtube videos, and while he seems interested, afterwards he says "I'm not going on the ride though!" LOL. Worst case he doesn't want to go on anything, at least we'll still be in the magical Disney environment and we have a few special extras like Plaza Inn character breakfast and WOC dessert party. But ahh I would just love to make this a success and show him the magic!
 

PalmettoPath

WDW Since 03/72
Joined
Feb 1, 2011
Not the same experience, but in this scenario when you don't want to force rides, there are other things you can do that we love and that might be okay for him, like Tom Sawyer Island and Redwood Creek Wilderness Explorer Camp. Those are a couple of fun ways to maybe break the ice a little ;)
 

gelatoni fan

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 18, 2018
I agree with the previous poster that Tom Sawyer Island and the Wilderness Explorer Camp may be good options. For rides, I think Storybook Land is a good place to start and then level up to It's a Small World, then the other Fantasyland dark rides. But don't force it either. I have seen my fair share of crying children on Peter Pan.

Also, what characters does he like? If he watches Disney Junior, maybe do the Disney Junior Dance Party and if he knows Pixar, do that Dance Party in Tomorrowland. A full day of character greetings and shows is OK.
 

Jason2015

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
I'd agree with everyone. Don't force the issue on rides or shows. My oldest was very hesitant the first few trips to DLR. Would basically just do the Merry-Go-Rounds (loved the Autoripia) and then enjoyed the parade and shows. Everything else was too fast or too scary. We found that if we didn't stress and try to push things he didn't stress and we had enjoyable times. Eventually he grew into other rides. (But still won't do the Incrediacoster even though he has a pilots license at 18 and flies acrobatic planes-can't explain that one)
 

SOCALMouseMommy

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 5, 2017
I would tell him he does not have to ride anything he doesn't want to. He may choose to ride some things if you take the pressure completely off ... or he may not and that's fine! There are so many fun things to do at DL that are not "rides," and although the Disneyland Railroad, Mark Twain, Sailing Ship Columbia are considered rides, they are pretty low key for a nervous kid.

Like a PP mentioned, we LOVE going over to Tom Sawyer's Island to explore but be careful in the caves as there are some "scary" elements in there (skeletons that pop up, scary pirate voices, etc.). All the outside things are relatively fear free.

You can also ride the Main Street Vehicles, including the horse drawn trolley, which is always a hit with my kids.
 

FeistyDisneyMom

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Start with something like the train that goes all the way around the park, so he can get an overview. Then some of the family friendly rides, like the carousel, maybe dumbo if the height doesn't scare him, tea cups if spinning is ok. Avoid the dark rides - he'd probably have enjoyed them before the ninjago experience, but that'll still be fresh in his head and it can psych kids out. Maybe the canal boats and small world. I'd avoid PotC, but it is closed anyway. The two ships (Mark Twain, Columbia) and the Tom Sawyer Island might be great for you. The other transportation oriented rides could also be good - main street vehicles and monorail.

If you are going to DCA, you can try the carousel there, plus emotional whirlwind, and the cars land rides if he is tall enough for RSR. Even Luigis and Mater should be fine - and he can always watch and then decide. The Pixar Pal Around non-swinging cars is very tame, but can be intimidating for youngsters because it is so tall. Wilderness Explorer camp should be fun for him to run around and explore.
 

Matrixleos

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 3, 2021
@WishUponAStar3 spend a night with your son this week before your trip looking at YouTube videos of every ride at Disneyland. Make it a fun occasion with popcorn and give him some ownership by telling him he'll get to pick what rides he wants to do or not by watching these videos. I'm sure you don't want to spoil certain aspects for him but if he's scared, sometimes the scariest things to kids are the unknown. Having him in the safety of your house watching how the rides are should take some of that anxiety away.

Watching these POV videos on YouTube of all the rides should even help build up anticipation for him to actually ride it in the park. If something looks too scary for him, skip that attraction in the park. Knowing ahead of time, of which rides he likes or doesn't like would definitely help you navigate your park days better.

I would start with the fantasy land rides. You might want to skip him watching Snow White (some scary scenes with the evil witch) and Mr. Toad (weird enough ride experience for adults, let alone a 5 year old), if he's paranoid, those rides won't help. Good Luck!
 

Malcon10t

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 21, 2006
Don't force him. My grandson was very similar prior to covid. His older sister was a ride junkie from 2yo. He was nervous of any ride HE considered fast. We were eventually able to get him on the swings. And he would ride Soarin and Monster's Inc. But even on the carousel, he chose a bench over a horse.
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Fast forward to post covid - My son and DIL adopted 2 siblings that are in the middle of the 2 bios, and so his brother is very outgoing and rides everything. The first trip with everyone, older brother looks at younger bro and says Come on, its fun.... And you could tell he was nervous, but he wanted to impress new brother, and now we can't get him off rides.

If you are with his friends, just follow his lead. He might be willing to try with friends his age there.
 

SpringBreak

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
All the suggestions above are great. Here are a few more:
1. Familiarize your child with the stories tied to the attractions. If he knows, the story, he may be more excited to go on the attraction. Public libraries have most of the stories in book form. Or watch/re-watch the old films. Libraries have these too. Or on Disney+. Good ones for Disneyland include Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Tom and Huck, all the Toy Story films, Cars, Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Frozen, Monsters Inc., Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, & Alice in Wonderland.
2. Go on attractions that provide your son with a sense of completion/mastery...Autopia (driving!), Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (shooting Zurg!), Frontier Shooting Arcade, Crockett Canoes, etc...
3. Go on attractions that have characters/stories your child loves. For example, there is no way my 4 year old will ride any of the mountains, but he will ride Star Tours because he loves Star Wars. But build up slowly to these more intense attractions
4. There's nothing wrong with enjoying all the "minor" attractions...the railroad, the carrousel, the Enchanted Tiki birds, the boats, TS Island, character meets, parades. Use rider switch as needed for more intense rides.
5. Always ask you child if he wants to try something. He may surprise you.
6. If you have time, go back to your hotel for a break. Giving your child some time to swim, nap decompress, and have a snack in a quiet environment may make him a little braver in the evening for round 2.
7. Finally, I'm a huge proponent of bringing healthy snacks to the park for little kids. Several days of heat, disrupted sleep, and junk food is hard on little bodies. I treat Disney like a long day of hiking, and offer a small "healthy" snack (nuts, jerky, cheese stick, etc.) with water every hour or so. I find it helps a lot with my kids' moods at the parks.
 

Mike_M

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 8, 2008
Lots of good suggestions in here.

My kids are much older (both are late teens) but I can remember some of the earlier trips when things didn’t go as planned. The coasters were particularly scary to my kids and HM was an especially anxiety provoking ride.

But they do, over time, grow more brave and less prone to concern. There isn’t a single ride either of them won’t go on now and they love HM (almost) as much as I do.

I guess what I’m getting at is that IMO, DL is one of the best places to work on conquering fears because there is a happy ending around every turn. If they are scared or nervous, it’s ok. There will always be the next trip (or the one after that) where they can try again. I wouldn’t worry about this first trip souring the whole park for them if they get scared. Our kids see how much we love the park, and they learn to love it too.
 

DizMe

Here we gooooo...
Joined
Jun 4, 2007
So much great advice here! I have a daughter who, when she was young (age 4-6), would ride almost anything. However, she was scared to death of all but the face characters (she'd scream and run away from them) and she was very frightened of fireworks and loud booms (like cannons, etc). She was also terrified of the self-flushing toilets. She would chew on her sleeve because she got so anxious and we actually ended up buying her a "chewy" thing that we hooked on the zipper of her hoodie.

While you can't always anticipate what things will cause fear and anxiety in kids, you have a pretty good idea from your previous trip. That should help you navigate things!

BTW, she is now 21 and worked as an entertainment CM at DLR until Covid :D
 

Malcon10t

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 21, 2006
Go on attractions that have characters/stories your child loves. For example, there is no way my 4 year old will ride any of the mountains, but he will ride Star Tours because he loves Star Wars. But build up slowly to these more intense attractions
Also, my grandson WOULD ride Smugglers/Rise/Star Tours. Why? We presented them not as a ride, but they were a show. And he liked the shows, just hated the rides.
 

SPSRAS

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 25, 2015
For our daughter the thing that helped the most was my promise that I absolutely would not take her on anything scary. We promised that Disney was for fun. We did all the slow easy rides- carousel, storybook boats, casey train, winnie the pooh but stayed away from snow white and toads. By the next trip she went on everything even space and btmmr as she knew Disney wasn't scary. So for us - it only took the one trip of taking it slow and easy with no pressure and she loved it ever since. And of course that is the point of Disney isn't it - not how many crazy rides you can do but having fun as a family! And she is begging me to go back every 5 minutes! (so not sure about making it so great for her but anyway)
 

SFMommy

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 21, 2011
I think you should focus on the rides that he can see first. Then he can watch for a while and decide to try it or not. It gives him some control and might make him feel more comfortable.

DL:
Train
Monorail
Casey Junior Train
Storybook Canal
Carousel
Tea Cups
Dumbo
Astro Orbitor
Autopia
Mark Twain Riverboat
Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island

DCA:
Mater
Luigi
Inside Out Whirlwind
Jumpin’ Jellyfish
Mickey’s Fun Wheel

I would definitely avoid all of the FL dark rides…they are DARK and sometimes SCARY! I think the first dark rides I might try would be Monsters and Winnie the Pooh.

Good luck! And have fun!
 

clallen72

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 5, 2022
We have a list of dark "children" rides my kiddo to this day does not like and refuses (she is now 10): Ariel, Winne the Pooh, Pinocchio,. Roger Rabbit. And I will never hear the end about how "awful" Mr Toad was. How could I have done that to her? I am unforgiven for that one. We like to go through the site list and rate them for the next trip: Must do it, like it, meh, not really, and no-way. And not just rides, the activities as well.
 

Pluto468

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 11, 2020
You already have a lot of great replies, I just wanted to add that I agree with others that it's a good idea to let your son know he is in charge of what he does. If he doesn't feel like he HAS to go on rides he will feel empowered. The first time I took DS he pretty much just wanted to ride Small World and a couple other Fantasyland rides. He liked Tom Sawyer island, too.

Watching videos is a great idea. Maybe he will see something that looks like fun.

Are there any movies he likes that are connected to the rides? Like if he's a big Cars Fan he may want to try radiator Springs.

The train, Mark Twain and Main Street vehicles would be fun and a nice way to ease into just riding anything.

Also, as you said, even if he doesn't want to go on any rides, you'll have a great time because you'll be at Disneyland :) There's so much to do there besides rides.
 

DLgal

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
Stick to outdoor rides that he can see.

Casey Jr. Circus Train
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Carousel
Dumbo
Teacups
Railroad
Mark Twain Steamboat
Tomorrowland Rockets
Autopia

If he starts to feel brave:
Small World
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Buzz Lightyear ASTRO Blasters
Winnie the Pooh

If you are also going to DCA:
Maters Tractors
Luigis Rollickin Roadsters
Golden Zephry
Jumpin Jellyfish
Silly Symphony Swings
Inside out Emotional Whirlwhind
Pixar Pal A Round (non swinging cars)
Jessie's Critter Carousel
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (SUPER fun for this age)
 

Lumpy1106

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 2, 2010
Have another kid.

We'd take DS (our 1st) to DL all the time. He would ride the Fantasyland rides but would not go on anything more exhilarating than that. He would sit and watch BTMRR for HOURS. Enter baby sister - as soon as she was tall enough she would ride on EVERYTHING. That did it - he wasn't going to allow her to upstage him.
 








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