When Will My Child Be Tall Enough to Go to Disney World?

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I’m a strong proponent of bringing even the very youngest children to Walt Disney World. My twins made their first Disney visit at nine months old and we had a blast meeting characters, riding It’s a Small World, and splashing in the resort pool. There is, however, a substantial subset of vacationers who choose to wait to visit Disney World until their child is able to experience ALL the rides. What does this mean exactly? And how does this impact your ability to book a vacation in advance.

Some potential WDW guests may have a misconception that there’s not much to do at Walt Disney World if you’re not “tall enough.” Let’s debunk that right away. A peek at the official online Magic Kingdom map shows 40 attractions at the Magic Kingdom. Filtering by height and clicking “any height” results in 31 attractions remaining. So, 3/4 of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom are available to anyone, regardless of height, even babies and toddlers. Among these are favorites like Pirates of Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The situation is similar at the other WDW theme parks, with many attractions available to all.

But those guests who want to wait to visit WDW also have a point. If you’re making just one trip to Disney World, you may want to make sure as much of it as possible is available to your children.

There are several attractions at each theme park that, for health and safety reasons, do require participants to be a specific height to ride, with height requirements ranging from 32″ (Alien Swirling Saucers at Hollywood Studios and ride-alongs at Tomorrowland Speedway at Magic Kingdom) to 54″ (driving at Tomorrowland Speedway).

If you plan your visit for when your child is 40 inches tall, you can have them ride with you on every attraction at the Magic Kingdom other than Space Mountain. Waiting until they’re 44 inches tall will put everything at the Magic Kingdom within reach, and all but two attractions at the other theme parks (plus a few big slides at the water parks).

Take a look at the standard growth charts for U.S. boys and girls, published by the CDC.

I’ve plotted points on the growth charts where WDW height requirements intersect with the 50th percentile age of reaching that height. For example, on the boys’ chart, the 44″ Space Mountain height requirement will be reached when approximately half of U.S. boys are age 5 1/2. The vast majority of even the smallest boys will be tall enough for Space Mountain by age seven. The girls’ chart is similar, varying by just a few months in most of the relevant places.

Working with your health care provider, you can make an educated guess about your child’s likely growth curve to see where their path aligns with Disney’s requirements. Nothing is guaranteed, but knowing approximately when your son or daughter will be tall enough to participate in a particular attraction can help you take advantage of hotel or ticket pricing for a trip that’s a year or more away.

Of course, even if your child is technically tall enough for an attraction like Space Mountain, he or she might not yet be emotionally ready for it, but that’s another story.

What are your thoughts? Is it worth it to wait until your child is tall enough for all the attractions, or is it better to go sooner rather than later? Let us know in the comments.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

8 thoughts on “When Will My Child Be Tall Enough to Go to Disney World?

  • January 21, 2019 at 10:54 am
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    Another consideration is the rider swap changes. Our kids are 4 years apart and the older one is also much taller for her age. On our last visit in October we had our first experience with the new, totally inconsistently applied rider swap procedures. Our 39.75″ daughter completely lost the plot waiting in the designated area right next to Splash Mountain (not the play area!) because there they said you had to wait and go immediately after.

    We ditched even trying to use rider swap for the rest of the trip. We split up our fastpasses and the family for a big portion of each day.

    Previously, one of us would just take the short one on a nearby ride and then we’d come back later in the day for the swap, either while the little one napped or while she got to look in a shop or get a treat. It worked well enough. The changes made it a lot harder to deal with the height differential.

    If it had been our only trip, I really would have regretted not waiting for that 40″ that opens up most rides.

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    • January 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm
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      Yes, all your points are really good. The question for many families is not just “when will my child be tall enough,” but when does it make sense to go, when multiple kids are involved?

      We just did a Disneyland trip with kids at 7, 4 and 1, and honestly rider swap was pretty useless, since you can just keep pulling fastpasses at DL, and getting a later return time (with FP) is better than an immediate return time (with RS).

      A ride like Soarin’ takes maybe 30 minutes with the FP wait, and with Disney rider swap you always at least have the FP wait. So it doesn’t make sense to ride Soarin’ back to back. The kids would understandably rather have more variety.

      A family with kids at 7, 4 and 1 should be Disney’s sweet spot, but the changes to rider swap make us less likely to go to WDW.

      Reply
  • January 21, 2019 at 11:54 am
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    That height requirement infographic is great(!), but it could use a quick update. Mission Space Green’s requirement is 40 inches; Orange’s is 44 inches.

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    • January 21, 2019 at 1:29 pm
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      Updated. Thank you.

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  • January 21, 2019 at 12:40 pm
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    Rather than wait until they are tall enough for the attractions, if it was going to be a holiday of a lifetime, I would wait until my children were old enough to remember the holiday. However, how many people think it’s a holiday of a lifetime then keep coming back once they’ve got the bug. We went on a holiday of a lifetime in 1991 and are still going back practically every year! If you intend making multiple trips, take your children at any age and height – you can have an amazing holiday at WDW without going on any of the attractions. Also WDW is not just for children – everyone can have an amazing time. Although my husband and I had been before, we first took our daughters when the youngest was 7 years old and have been with grandchildren when they were younger than that. Depending on who we go with depends on what we do and we have a wonderful time each and every time. The days of being thrown about on roller coasters are over for my husband and me (we don’t particularly enjoy them any more) and we probably only go on attractions that only shorter children can ride – but there is so much more happening at the parks (and the resorts and other places in WDW) than the rides and there is something for everyone. So on balance I say – go as soon as you can – you will probably be back again and again and when your children are older and taller they can experience more attractions.

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  • January 22, 2019 at 8:17 am
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    Things to keep in mind if your child is border line for height, they get messured with shoes on. A comfy pair of walking shoes will add some height. On the flip side children can also go through a sensitive to loud sounds phase right around that 38-40″ height. So consider comfy shoes AND child hearing protection 🙂

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  • January 22, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    Thanks for this Erin. The CDC height curves were a thoughtful addition. Your articles are consistently great.

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  • January 22, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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    We’ve been with our children 3 times with varying heights, so we just adapted. I agree, however, with the above post regarding the rider swap – we last went before the change and I am seriously concerned about the impact of the changes. Our daughter is very undersized (not even really on the growth chart) so we also had to take her to other rides while our son (who’s only 20 months older) went on rides so she wouldn’t get too upset about not being able to ride.

    We’re planning another trip for this August and it still looks like she won’t be 40″ (barring a serious growth spurt – which she’s never had in her life). She will be 5 1/2 when we go, but still won’t be able to hit those 40″ rides that she’s been waiting for for years.

    Some of the height requirements are particularly frustrating since they seem to be based more on age than actual height, with Soarin’ being the perfect example. The only understandable reason for the height requirement being what it is would be the average age at that height so that children will understand not to squirm and potentially fall from the seat while it’s up high. Our son rode when he was barely 4 years old. Our daughter still won’t be able to ride when she’s 5 1/2. Other requirements are age based (7 years old to ride alone), so there is some basis for age-based requirements. Disney should allow Guest Services to issue exemptions for certain rides (Soarin’, maybe Star Tours, etc.) where there’s more to the requirement than simply height necessary for the proper restraints, etc. I really feel terrible that my daughter will once again be left out of so much that our son wants to do. They’re also really close siblings, so it’s sad that they aren’t able to do so much together because of her height limitations despite doing so much else together whenever possible (they’re only one grade apart in school too).

    Reply

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