11 Best Disney Rides for Small Children
You must be at least this tall to ride.
These words were among the most dreaded of our childhood, right there with “It’s bedtime,” “You just wait until your father gets home,” and “WHAT DID YOU JUST DO??!!” Disney theme parks enforce height requirements for the safety of children.
Kids resent this protection, of course. Standing on one’s tippy toes to reach the line for the height requirement is a rite of passage. Until they reach that point in the maturation process, however, they’re stuck on the kiddie rides. At Disney, they won’t even care as long as you pick the right attractions, the ones that will entertain them enough to distract them from disappointment. Here are the top eleven Disney rides for kindergarten-aged children.
Alien Swirling Saucers
Let’s set a couple of quick parameters here. The average age of a Kindergarten student is five years old, and the average height of a kid that age is 42.5 inches. As a buffer, I’ll set 40 inches as the minimum height for all attractions listed here. Anything over that is ruled out by default, as it’s not ideal for kids. Similarly, any attraction like Haunted Mansion that has some scary moments won’t make this list.
Alien Swirling Saucers is a clear choice for children due to its appearance and ride experience. It’s styled like a car driven by a three-eyed alien, which will grab your kid’s attention immediately. During the ride, they’ll gleefully crash into you thanks to the odd mechanic that thrusts guests from side to side. Kids love having an excuse to bump into mom or dad or a friend. It’s a violent but safe attraction that will have everyone laughing by the end.
The beauty of being a child is that when you get into a miniature red airplane, you can believe for a time that you’re really flying the Red Baron. It’s a skill ordinarily reserved for Snoopy and maybe Woodstock. On the Barnstormer, Goofy aka the Great Goofini will convince kids that they’re soaring through the air, even as they ride the gentlest of roller coasters. It won’t be their favorite Disney thrill ride, but any coaster makes a kid feel more adult.
It’s a Small World
Let’s be real. This list would feel incomplete without It’s a Small World. For more than 50 years now, this ride has exemplified everything that Disney theme parks represent. It’s multi-generational, inclusive, enlightening, engaging, harmonious, and energetic. To kids, it’s a boat ride past dozens of animated puppets who laugh and play while representing educational aspects of their country. It’s happiness. No need to overthink it.
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Since 1983, Figment the Dragon has been one of the stars of Epcot. He’s the rare Disney intellectual property created especially for a theme park attraction. And his misadventures and shenanigans have entertained children for more than 35 years.
While Figment fans believe that the current version of the ride isn’t as good as the original, their passion for the character is telling. Kids gravitate toward the imaginary dragon at a young age and maintain that bond well into adulthood. Journey into Imagination is basically the perfect ride for a kindergarten-aged child.
Anyone who lives near a zoo or has taken their kid(s) to a county fair understands why Kilimanjaro Safaris is a must. Children gravitate toward animals, mystified by the behavior of other living creatures that aren’t human.
This safari ride gives tykes more than 20 minutes to watch animals frolic in their natural habitats. They can see natural predators and prey become friends and playmates in an environment where food is plentiful enough to ignore the nature of the food chain. Kilimanjaro Safaris is like a drive-thru zoo, and it’s different every time. So, your child won’t get bored with it. The excitement will be new and fresh on each safari.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This roller coaster isn’t the fastest or most stimulating one on this list, but it’s another child-friendly thrill ride. It has a second reason that it appeals to kids, too. Since Seven Dwarfs Mine Train features dark ride elements as well, it has two phases.
Children love the swaying motions of the special ride cart that swivels back and forth. In between these moments of excitement, the mines where the Dwarfs work are full of two other things that kids love: shiny objects and cartoonish audio-animatronics.
The gems on display in the mines are so gorgeous that they can hypnotize adults, much less kindergarten-age children. And the antics of the Dwarfs delight everyone. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a fabulous ride that has something for everyone but is especially enjoyable for kids.
Slinky Dog Dash
Kids have tablets now, so the age of the Slinky as a toy is likely over. When youngsters see the Slinky in roller coaster form, however, they lose their collective minds. As the anchor attraction at Toy Story Land, Slinky Dog Dash is intended to grab attention and appeal to a wide range of park guests. Its target audience will always be children, though.
The modest height requirement of 38 inches reflects this philosophy. Kids will love every second that they spend being pushed and pulled along the track, and that moment where the roller coaster comes to a complete stop…well, it will blow their minds. It’s the best roller coaster in the world for kindergarten-aged children.
Look, children love to get soaked on rides. Even if they didn’t, they would adore Splash Mountain. It’s one of Disney’s best dark rides for children anyway. It combines several elements that we’ve already discussed like kid-friendly audio-animatronics and adorable animals. It also has a fair share of cartoon violence implied, which will go over well with the kids, too.
Plus, the songs are all of the singalong variety, causing people of all ages to hum the tunes long after they’ve boarded the ride. Even without all of these other elements, Splash Mountain would still have a spectacular finish that will leave kids soaking wet and giddy with happiness.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Poor Nemo’s sense of direction is terrible. That kid keeps getting lost, forcing the entire colony to search for him. It’s the basis for one of the most popular animated movies ever, and the premise translates marvelously as a theme park attraction.
Technically, The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a storyline sequel to Finding Nemo, one that comes before Finding Dory in the timeline. The details really don’t matter, though. What’s important is that kids enter a Clamshell ride cart and sail underwater, seeing vibrant cartoon characters swimming in the ocean.
The ride experience is purest Disney, immersive and gorgeous with a great soundtrack to boot. Your child will love all of it, especially the East Australia surfing current scene with Crush and Squirt.
Kids can’t drive automobiles. That’s the law. Even though videogames and toys simulate the experience, there’s nothing quite like the real thing…or at least a closer-to-life-sized version of the real thing. Going back to the earliest days of Disneyland, Autopia’s appeal was unmistakable to children. It was such a dominantly popular attraction that Imagineers built three different variations of it that they sprinkled across the theme park.
Even today, in a world where Go-Kart tracks are a part of any tourist trap on the planet, Tomorrowland Speedway still resonates with children. The next time that you’re in line for the ride, pay attention to the makeup of the other people standing in the queue. You’ll see that it’s one of the youngest-skewing attractions at all of Walt Disney World.
Toy Story Mania!
Carnival games entertained kids for generations before videogames showed up and stole their thunder. The genius of Toy Story Mania! is that it combines the two premises despite the generation gap between them. It’s a videogame-based dark ride where you pull a cord to pop balloons or break plates or toss rings.
All of this should sound familiar because these are carnie games that you played as a kid. Now, they’re modernized as part of a theme park attraction. It’s the best of both worlds you and your children alike. You can share stories from your childhood while they wipe the floor with you at the videogame aspects. In my opinion, Toy Story Mania! is the best children’s attraction in the world.