Two year old at WDW - Too scared to ride?

I am going to WDW in September and it will be my son’s first trip. He will be 2 years, 9 months at the time. I’m worried he won’t ride anything!

Lately at our local amusement park he acts excited for a ride, we wait in line, then he doesn’t want to do it after we board. He will ride the trains and the little trucks that go around a track.

I got him on the baby ferris wheel and he was good for about 30 seconds before he started screaming!

I’ve shown him some videos of some of the Disney rides, but he just keeps saying “I want to meet Mater” (We’re staying at AoA in a Cars suite. The only thing he said he wants to ride the pirate ship (Peter pan).

Any tips or am I overthinking it? I’m hoping if I can get him on one ride, he will calm down a little bit.

We went to WDW in May and my younger DD had just turned 3. She didn’t want to ride anything! We managed to get her on a couple of rides at the beginning of the trip but each time she spent the entire ride saying she wanted to get off, and she actually ended up getting a bit upset so we didn’t force the issue for the rest of the week.

That said, we still had the most amazing trip! DH and I took turns riding with DD6 and we reconfigured our TPs to focus a lot more on the characters which both girls loved. We also did a bunch of character meals which were fun. And there is so much to see and do, aside from the rides. DD3 loved the shows, though she still wasn’t crazy about anything too loud or dark (think the Scar parts of the Lion King show, and the drummers in the Tiki room). We spent a lot of time in the resort pool which she absolutely loved!

I think the best decision we made was not to force it too much. That really took the pressure off all of us. When anyone asks DD3 what her favorite parts of Disney were, she says “the pool and the buses”. Haha!

I saw my nephew, who’s a little older than your son, during a trip to Disney World last month. This was not his first trip and he found a lot that he enjoyed, but rides weren’t really his priority. His favorite activity seemed to be watching the model trains at the Germany pavilion in Epcot. He also enjoyed watching the monorails and steam trains (notice a theme, here!). He also enjoyed play areas (usually) or sometimes just running around in circles or sitting on the ground playing with his toy monorails. My sister ended up getting him on a few rides a day + we did child swap on a couple attractions, but it was a different, much more meandering pace than when we’ve taken adults only trips.

If there is any advice I can give you, it’s not to force it or think you can suddenly calm their fears. If there’s one thing that gets me, is a parent that keeps reassuring their terrified child that they’ll enjoy it and the child then screams or cries the whole ride. There are three reasons I consistently gripe about this. One, it ruins your experience as you’ll be comforting your child instead of enjoying the ride. Two, it ruins everyone’s experience around you. I always keep in mind that other people in the park spent just as much as I did and I try my best not to interfere with their experience just as I hope they remember the same for me. Three, the chances of you being able to calm your little one’s fear enough to get them back on anymore rides after one they hate are slim to none.

Just my two cents on it. Obviously I’m no professional but I’ve seen plenty of the “oh they’ll love it once they get on” scenario not working out in the end. If it comes down to it and he decides he doesn’t want to ride, just remember you’re at the most magical place on earth and there are plenty of things to do that will keep you all entertained!

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Thanks for this. I’m definitely not opposed to waiting in line then abandoning ship if he just doesn’t want to do it. I don’t believe in Disney World being a terrifying experience at all! I hate being scared, so I would never force him to do something he didn’t want to do.

That being said, I am hopeful that if I can get him on ONE ride (Small world or peter pan, maybe?) It will convince him to ride a couple more.
If not, we’ll be riding the railroad on a loop around the park and playing in the fountains.
I just want to have a good time - which is centered around HIM having a good time -and was looking for people with experience with little ones that are scared.


I would think if he’s riding small track rides at other parks, he’d for sure ride at least Small World. Peter Pan definitely isn’t scary but I know some kids just don’t react well to the darkness of the attraction. It’s compact and dark and I think they don’t trust that something won’t pop out. Small World, in contrast, is very bright and colorful and the show buildings are very large. I would start with that and see how it pans out and work your way up from there. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time.

For our first family trip, when DS turned 5, he was largely fearless, rode lots of stuff, had a great time. We ended up all coming down with the flu during that trip, though, and decided to go back later that summer. That second trip, suddenly DS was scared of everything. It made no sense, and it was, well, irksome. It made no sense that he would be scared of things he’d ridden 6 months before. He’s hugely into Star Wars and really enjoyed ST his first trip, but broke down in hysterics in the line on our second visit, for example.

So, what I’ll say is that, if it’s a problem, it’s an intractable problem. I would suggest showing your kiddo Youtube videos of some of the rides to prepare him and get a sense of what might trigger fear. However, if it’s a problem, you may need to focus on shows, meet & greets, and rides like Dumbo. You may want to be prepared to ride swap. FWIW, the anxiety seems to build the longer they stand in line for the ride, so you might be able to get on a few things with FP that might otherwise cause panic if kiddo has a lot of time to stand in line worrying about it. There seems to be no amount of calm, rational, supportive talking that can overcome it if they balk at rides.

Thanks! I agree with the line thing, he’s not good with patience. I definitely think snacks might help (lightning mcqueen goldfish crackers are a huge hit right now).
I’ve been showing him videos, and he doesn’t seem to be interested in Dumbo at all, but he loves the looks of Peter Pan (I want to ride the pirate ship, Mommy!) Definitely FPP Peter Pan.

A lot of kids that age are afraid of rides.

I’m going to ask a question that might be considered heretical on this forum: Are you sure you want to take your son to Disney World at this time? Are there older siblings that you are making the trip for?

If the trip is primarily for your son’s enjoyment, and he’s not going to enjoy it (and you have every reason to believe that is going to be the case), you might be wasting your time and money at this time. Work on it at a local amusement park, and then when he’s ready for Disney, you’ll all have a better time.

I am taking my 5YO, 9YO, and DH to Disney in November. None of them like rides. I LOVE rides! So every one asks me why I am choosing to spend so much money on a Disney vacation for “them” when they probably won’t enjoy it and isn’t the vacation really more for “me”. No! This IS for them! My husband has never been to theme parks and I believe Disney to be the ultimate Childhood Odyssey.

I think it is easy for most people to assume the best part of Disney is the rides. And being a lover of rides, I would agree. But I am truly excited about this vacation above all of my other trips to Disney because I am looking forward to experiencing all of the amazing things I’ve overlooked in the past in my haste to get to the next ride!

I am putting many of the “tame” rides in my touring plans and we’ll just see how it goes. The test ride for us will be NRJ in Pandora and then KS in Africa. I want my boys to be willing to stretch beyond their fears, but I also want them to feel safe. I think that they may do better on Disney rides than they do on fair rides because I can sit with them on Disney rides. On fair rides, they’re on their own. Maybe your child will feel more comfortable that way too.

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What about TSMM? Has lots of bright colors and big toys when you are in line so it does not look scary. You could also say that its like a game. Maybe just don’t wear the 3D glasses…

I actually believe he will have fun even if he’s not a big rider. He’s excited to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. He also is typically very easily entertained, so I don’t think it’s going to be hard to have fun.
We’re watching a lot of the movies that have WDW attractions - Aladdin, Peter Pan, Toy Story, The Little Mermaid, etc. and I think that will help. He’s already talking about riding carpets with Aladdin since we watched that, so it’s a start.
Thanks for all the advice. I do appreciate it, but I would never think about cancelling my trip because he might not want to do rides.
I really am not worried about having fun- it’s Disney - imagination is everywhere. It’s worth the price for him just to get to “meet mater and mcqueen” at AoA.


We took our son to WDW when he was 2.5 years old and it was magical. The trip was much different than my previous experiences because I had never been to WDW with kids, but it was fun in different ways. We met oodles of characters, watched parades, enjoyed the Dapper Dans, rode the carousel and went on a ton of other kid-friendly rides. Dumbo, It’s a Small World, the PeopleMover, interacting with town square Mickey; it was great! DH and I rider swapped on several rides so neither of us would miss out on the headliners we wanted to ride, but I can truthfully say that the kid stuff was the highlight of the trip for me and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

And don’t forget the transportation; buses, monorail, train, and several types of boats… all of these are excellent entertainment for young kids! :slight_smile:

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At 20mo we enjoyed seeing characters with faces (not princesses), train, peoplemover, carousel, and other small rides. At 2.5 we LOVED “roller coasters” but did not enjoy dumbo/carpets or dark rides like Peter pan (though Pirates was ok). Adapt to what your kid seems to like…no biggie, still plenty to see and do.