It is important for amusement parks to post height restrictions on some of their rides for safety (and sometimes psychological) reasons. Reasons vary from the design of the restraints, intensity of the ride (or water slide in waterparks), to the design of the layout.
Safety aside, some kids see them as either a defeating experience or a motivator to eat more calcium and vitamin-rich foods.
There are many stories from parents, adults who were kids themselves, and even amusement park workers regarding their experiences about height requirements. They range from angry fathers fighting override operators why their few inches-short child can't ride a roller coaster or their own kids being crestfallen about bypassing it for the same reason.
Splash Mountain, Magic Kingdom, 1994
Riding a Ride Kids Want One of the Reasons for Wishing to Be Tall
It's a true statistic, most kids who have the guts to brave even a log flume or a mine train-car roller coaster desire to be tall. What I mean is that they want to be tall enough to ride. A survey by United Kingdom's Thorpe Park in 2014 showed that some kids wished that they'd rather be taller than older. (Again, sometimes a height restriction is a measure of maturity.)
The Defeating Feeling of Being Too Short
For most kids, being too short to ride a ride is defeating for them. Some of them think that it's the end of the world when they discovered that after al the anticipation and excitement for the ride.
Carmella M. Mikol, a nurse, wasn't a stranger to how most kids feel when they weren't tall enough to ride.
In one of her studies, she watched a father whose son is eager to ride a roller coaster measure him as she queued up for it. When the son discovered that he was too short, he began to cry. His mother comforted him, telling him that net year he'd be tall enough, but that didn't console him much. He forlornly looked at the coaster with red, puffy eyes as he and his family proceeded to another ride.
The ride operator saw another father with a child, and he asked him to measure his height. When he did, he told him the child was too short. The father was adamant that he is riding with him, but the ride operator told him that he had to ride without him. So the father and son left.
Sometimes, going on a ride only to discover that the child is too short for that can lead to altercations, mostly between parents and ride operators. A former Disneyland Cast Member remembered measuring kids before riding Indiana Jones Adventure when it required Guests to be 48 inches tall. There were three places to measure them.
He encountered a woman whose daughter was going to ride with her. He measured her and refused her on the ride. The mother swore at him, claiming him that he was racist and didn't allow her child on the ride. He shut down the ride and kicked her out of the park.
The discovery that the child is too short for a park's attraction sometimes gets parents down too. Some of them spent a great deal on the trip only to find that stature minimums got in the way of enjoying themselves.
Love the Height Check Sign in Front of USF's The Simpsons Ride!
Scanning the Cheats
In 2009, another UK theme park, Alton Towers, scanned shoes to deter parents from cheating kids into rides they are even a few decimeters too short for them.
"Children are understandably full of excitement at the prospect of riding our roller coasters, so we of course understand the disappointment they feel when they are measured and are too short to ride," a park spokesman said.
"However, our height restrictions are in place to ensure the health and safety of all our guests, so whilst this ban may appear extreme, we are confident it will reduce the number of desperate attempts to gain a cm or two."
Desperate and Deceitful Attempts
Noting how crestfallen kids feel when their statures are insufficient enough to board a park attraction, parents come to great lengths to have them meet them almost immediately to immediately.
For girls who are too short for even a kiddie coaster, parents wear platform shoes, go-go boots, or high heels. For the little guys, they do so likewise with loafers with high soles, cowboy boots, and even sneakers with filp-flops glued onto their soles (though the latter applies to all genders). Some parents keep whatever closed-toe footwear kids are wearing, but they stuff the insides with tissues, condiment packets, or even ice cream bars.
Sometimes, hairstyles play a role in making or breaking the signs dictating how tall parents' kids have to be to ride together as family. From high buns, hats (which can easily get lost when riding, as they are loose articles), and mohawk hairdos, they go to great lengths to please them.
Another Splash Mountain Pic from 1994
Amusement park experts and workers are not pleased with those measures. Former Walt Disney World Cast Member Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider had seen it all when he operated Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom.
"Lifts in the shoes? Seen it," Niles recalls, "Spiked up hair? Nope, not gonna get 'ya through. Standing on your tippie toes? Um, feet flat on the ground, please. Begging, pleading, crying? Actually, we are the ones trying to help your child here."
About the hairdos, former Disneyland Cast Member Sara Neitzert prefers it very much if kids' hair is worn in a non-extreme, hatless style. "Tall hair, high ponytails, and hats don't count," she notes, "Your child will be asked to remove his or her hat or flatten their hair when they are measured."
This Kid's Having fun Even if He's too Short to Ride Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal's Islands of Adventure!
What Parents Can Do
Here are some ways to have kids measure up to the stature requirements that ride operators implement and to prevent disappointment.
Suggestion: Have your child or youngest child at least be 50 to 51 inches tall.
Most of the rides that are hot-ticket start at 48 inches and somewhat a few of those rides go up to 54 inches. Some pediatricians, amusement park experts, and parents suggest having your child to be at least 50-51 inches tall.
They suggest this height because a child loses up to an inch in the evening because standing in line compresses the spinal discs in the vertebrae. When he sleeps at night, the discs expand. Another thing is that sometimes park measuring sticks are off by a few inches. Thus if he wants to ride a ride that requires him to be 48 inches tall and he's 50 inches tall, he would still be able to ride.
Must be Taller than Goblin-Size, or at Least 48 Inches, to Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal's Islands of Adventure!
Dave Shute of Walt Disney World Resort planning website yourfirstvisit.net also agrees a bit. He suggests parents to have their youngest kids be at least 48 inches tall (as well as 8-9 years old). So a child who will be 48 inches tall at the time of his or her visit will be able to experience all rides at the theme parks.
Simply put, keep your child's expectations in mind regarding stature.
"Measure your kids before you go," Neitzert urges, "Keep in mind that your measuring tape and the parks multiple measuring sticks could always be off by just a little. If your kid is so close it's hard to tell if they will make it, check their shoes and make sure they have on the ones that make them tallest. Some sneakers can add as much as an inch to your child's height and they will always be measured with their shoes on."
Sometimes, height measuring sticks can be off a few fractions of inches or centimeters here and there, thus a height of 50-51 inches is suggested. If you can't, I suggest a height of between 45 and 49 inches tall for younger kids.
Show your child all the rides
That's right - ALL OF THEM. He might want to ride something that has a height requirement. If he chimes in and wants to ride the ride, ask him if he wants to. If he does, proceed to measure him. If he doesn't meet the height requirement, tell him to find if there's another ride he likes that welcomes his height.
While in the park, don't tell the party why you're splitting up a bit because your child is too short.
Just tell them that you're riding some rides with the shortest child while the others who are tall enough ride the bigger ones.
"If you have more than one child and one can ride and the other cannot, consider splitting up for a little while," Neitzert says, "Don't tell the kids why, because the smaller one might be disappointed. Just tell them it is their chance to get one parent (or friend, or relative) all to themselves for an hour. This way the taller one can still ride the big rides and the little one won't be disappointed."
Use those height requirements as motivation for growing healthfully
If your child queued up for a ride only to find he's too short or that he wants to ride a particular ride while planning for a year but he's even a few inches shorter than the requirement, use those experiences as motivation for healthy living.
There are ways to foster healthy growth. Get them enough sleep (most kids need 10-12 hours). Go on family walks and do activities that include walking or running on the ground. Weight bearing exercise can help a child grow.
Serve them foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. The next time your child wants a soda, ask him, "Mmmmm, that soda tastes yummy, but do you know that a big glass of milk can help you grow tall so you can ride the roller coaster?" Most likely, he'll favor milk over the soda.
Take swimming lessons as a family
Going to the waterpark? Go to the local pool as a family and learn to swim together. Not only it would save lives, but it would help your child ride the slides with plunge pools, whether he is tall or not.
Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, Universal's Islands of Adventure, Circa 2006
Amusement park trips need planning, with your child's height being one of them. Height restrictions are there to keep park patrons safe, but you can lessen or prevent disappointment by planning ahead.