Letting your children venture out on their own in a public space can be scary. The bigger the space, the scarier it is. How do you know when your child/children are old enough for some freedom at Walt Disney World?
At Walt Disney World children under 14 must be accompanied by someone 14 or older. Keeping that in mind, you know your child best. Listen to your instinct and do what you think is best. Now if you feel they might be ready, and they are at least 14 years old, here are some things to consider.
- Do they follow directions without direct supervision?
- Do they know what to do if they need help?
- Can they identify a “safe” grown up in a public place?
If you answer yes to those, then your child might be ready for a little vacation freedom. Here’s how we started with our boys:
- You must go with a buddy, or sibling.
- Start small. Our boys were allowed to wait in line, and ride something on their own. We waited near the exit.
- At the hotel, we allowed them to venture into the pool and on the slide while we watched from a lounge chair. Both of my boys are excellent swimmers, and I still kept my eyes on them. They just felt like they had freedom.
- After my boys had demonstrated the maturity and responsibility needed, we let them go to the lobby and wait for us if we weren’t ready exactly when they were.
- They were eventually allowed to go to the food court of the hotel, get breakfast, and bring it back to the room.
- Their favorite was the scavenger hunt type activities in Adventureland. It’s a smaller area to try out freedom. There is a defined purpose (find the treasure using the map). You can sit at a table and keep them in your sight, while they feel like they have freedom.
At the time, Harley was 14 and Harrison was 12. Next time, we may allow them a few hours on their own. When we do allow them to go on their own for longer periods of time, we will add some safety features.
- Cell phone- must be turned on, have sufficient battery power, and have sound and vibrate activated.
- A designated, specific meeting place – say at the entrance of Gaston’s Tavern. You want somewhere contained enough to easily spot your child/children.
Keep in mind you are training your child. You are teaching them how to be safe and responsible in a large public area. It’s important to start small with a “safety net” near by. We also debrief after some freedom time. We ask the boys the following:
- Did everyone behave?
- Was your brother kind?
- Did you return to the designated location at the correct time?
- Were you where you were supposed to be?
If the answer is yes, we celebrate! Mickey Bars all around.
Again, you know your child best. Do what you feel is right for you and your family.
To read what another travel expert shares about visiting Walt Disney World, check out The Educational Tourist
Want to know more about other than park activities? Check out More than the parks
Disclaimer – I am not a safety expert. I am just a mom who’s been there and learned what worked and what didn’t.