How to Handle Height Signs

Height Sign for Dr. Doom's Fearfall
Height signs are a necessary part of any theme park. Roller coasters and thrill rides have mandatory height requirements for the safety of all riders. Despite how it may seem, these restrictions were not put in place to torture the smaller members of your family or incite tearful temper tantrums. They are there, quite simply, to make sure that everyone leaves the park as healthy as they were when they came in.

Having spent an extensive amount of time in theme parks, we've seen both the good and the bad of parent reactions to height signs. In the vast majority of cases, situations surrounding these height restrictions can be managed with smart parenting. Children typically feed off of the emotions of the party as a whole - and parents in particular. If you follow these steps, you can navigate height signs easily.

Measure Before You Go

It's helpful to have some general idea of how tall your child is before you leave for your vacation. To stay on the safe side, measure your child barefoot. Practice standing up straight and tall so he'll be prepared for being measured at height signs within the park.

If your child is within half an inch of a particular milestone, don't promise him anything in this height range. If he looks like he's just over 38" tall, by all means get excited about those attractions in the 36" range. When it comes to the 38" attractions, maintain that you'll just have to see when you get there.

Measure Outside the Ride

The entrance to The Incredible Hulk Coaster 
If you have a child who may not meet the height restrictions for a certain attraction, always look for the height sign outside the attraction and have a team member measure your child there. A team member will usually stop you to measure, but on a busy day you may be able to sneak into the queue. This will just result in a major disappointment further down the line if your child is too short. They will be measured before getting on the attraction, and if they don't meet the requirement, you'll be sent to the exit regardless of how much time you wasted standing in line. Always check first.

Don't Interfere with the Measuring Process

Encourage your child to stand up tall and hold his head straight for the measuring process, but do not get down on the ground and begin measuring yourself. This is the team member's job and your interference only makes it more difficult. Your child's head must hit the height stick in order for him to ride. No matter how close he is, if he doesn't touch he won't be riding.

Don't celebrate success until the team member lets you know that your child is indeed tall enough to ride. Too many times parents see a child that is very close and begin clapping and cheering far too soon. This just accentuates the disappointment if the child cannot actually ride.

Keep Your Cool at All Times

If your child is too short, don't scream, argue, sigh audibly, or make a sad face. Don't do anything to indicate that this is a bad thing. After all, it's no one's fault that your child can't ride. Smile, thank the team member, and head excitedly to the next attraction. Congratulate your child on standing up tall and holding still to be measured. Many children who are too short for an attraction don't even fully comprehend what they're missing. If you don't let on, they'll never know.

Make the Wait a Treat for Too-Short Riders

There's no need for your entire party to skip every attraction that your child is too short for. At the Universal Orlando Resort, you can all wait in line together. Use this wait time as a great opportunity for that family bonding that you always hope for on vacation. Keep your eyes open for some of the cool decorations and theming that you find in the queue. Play word games. Do what you can to enjoy this time.

Child Swap Wait Area for Spiderman
When you get up to the ride, at least one member of the party must wait with the shorter rider in a special child swap waiting area. In some attractions, such as Shrek 4-D and Spiderman, you'll have a television with cartoons to watch. These areas are often air conditioned and offer a comfortable place to sit and rest for a few minutes. When the first round of riders gets off, the individual who was waiting will get right on the ride without waiting in line again. As long as one person stays with the child, others can ride twice.

Bring some special treats to keep young children entertained while they're waiting in these areas. Keep these treats for the shorter children only, so they get to play with something fun that's just for them.

If one of the adults in your party is passing on the attraction completely, this individual can take the child to another attraction, or off to explore some gift shops while others ride.

Understand that Every Case is Unique

Though it doesn't happen often, from time a time a child will get onto a ride once but be stopped a second a time and deemed too short. You may hit the height sign for one ride that says 38" inches but fall too short of the next 38" ride. Measure for each and every ride if your child is in that delicate area where they're just barely hitting a certain height. If you can't ride, just move on.

Can you complain and ask for a manager? Sure. Do you have the option of complaining to Guest Relations? Of course. It's up to you how far you want to press the issue, but keep in mind that your attitude sets the tone for the rest of the party, and you can always shrug it off, move on, and find something else to do. There are so many options that you should never be lacking in choices for every member of your party.

The Bottom Line

Height signs can be a hassle for everyone involved, but they are there to protect you and your children. If your child is even a fraction of an inch too short, there's no need to risk their safety for a minute or two of thrills. Carefully research the kid-friendly options in your park of choice so you have plenty of safe alternatives up your sleeve for small children.

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