Disney World with Little Ones: How Young Is Too Young To Roam?

Photo via https://flic.kr/p/7yGeH2

I recently came across an interesting image (but not the exact one above) on Facebook of an admission ticket to Disney World from the 1980s (when WDW consisted only of EPCOT and Magic Kingdom).  The back said “Children under 7 years must be accompanied by an adult.”  Let me get this straight…in 1987, before cell phones were a thing, you could drop your little one off, say “see ya!” and allow them to visit and use transportation between the two parks. Whoa, how times have changed!

According to a few Disney fans on Facebook, guidelines were rewritten because some locals were using the World as childcare with no means of contacting them if their child was sick or injured. Crazy!  One of my many thoughts on the topic: Can 7 year olds these days read maps, not get lost, and be entrusted with the responsibility to meet back at a certain location at a given time?

Disney’s website now states “children under age 14 must be accompanied by a Guest age 14 or older to enter [the parks].”  A USA Today article I read said that Disney implemented this in March 2013 due to the desire to have a consistent answer when by parents about the allowable age of admission, and not in response to any particular incident. I didn’t see guidelines regarding children remaining supervised once a family had entered the parks.  It seems as though 27 years ago, children were trusted with more independence and responsibility. Likewise, parents trusted other people more than they do today. While I could never fathom letting my now 4.5 year old out of my sight at Disney World ANY time in the near future, I find myself pondering how much parenting perspectives have changed since I was a child and wonder if children were generally more mature then, and/or if adults were just a whole lot more trusting of others.

I posed the question (on FB) about what age Disney guests would allow/trust their children to wander off unsupervised and the response was largely the same – around age 12-14.  A bit of a debate stirred around children benefiting from being trusted with freedom and responsibility as well as the mindset that “Disney is a family vacation, why would we even want to go separate ways?”  A handful trusted their mature 10 year olds and others wouldn’t feel comfortable letting their older teens out of sight.

Regardless of your mindset on the matter, I suppose if we allow 16 year olds to drive a vehicle and go places on their own, we should certainly be able to trust 14 year olds to behave appropriately and not get lost in what is perceived to be one of the safest and Happiest Places on Earth. I can see how locals or families who visit Disney often would feel a heightened sense of comfort and security. 

What’s your take?

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Candice was raised in east Tennessee. While in college, her best friend dragged her to a Walt Disney World College Program recruiting session at the University of Tennessee and the rest is Disney history. In the Fall of 1999, Candice became a quick service food hostess for Sunset Ranch Market and Fantasmic at Disney-MGM Studios – or what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While soaking up her time as a cast member, she met Ryan, a neighbor and a fellow college programmer who worked as a custodial host at Epcot. Four years later, Candice moved to the Midwest and married that boy from across the hall. They now live in Greenwood, Indiana with their two little boys. The Disney-loving foursome took their first family trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2013 and Candice is eagerly planning their return. Candice also works full-time at a community mental health center and enjoys taking photographs and blogging at Mommy in the Midwest.

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One Response to Disney World with Little Ones: How Young Is Too Young To Roam?

  1. Gaylin says:

    Seven seems way to young to be left alone at the parks!
    14 does seem like a good age but I have seen pretty young kids roaming by themselves, I guess if they are familiar with the parks that is somewhat okay. I also worry that there are so many more predatory humans these days, I don’t think I would let my kid wander off alone until they were over 16 or so.

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