Safest Riding Position for Kids

Girls in an amusement ride

Kids need a stable riding position to safely handle the motion and intensity of amusement rides

In general, the safest way for kids to ride is in a seated position with feet braced on the floor and hands holding on. Think of it as the five points of attachment:

  • Butt on the seat,
  • Both feet on the floor, and
  • Both hands holding on

Teach your children to ride this way when they're little and they're likely to be safer riders as teens. While children are still young, though, it's the parent's job to make sure that kids stay safely positioned until the ride is over and it's safe to get off.

Kids who are too small to reach the bracing points or fit securely in the restraint should ride with an adult

Family rides where small children sit with dangling legs offer less stability for tots. If the ride has bench seats, parents can ride next to young children to make sure they don't slide or tumble into an unsafe position.

Carousel horses deserve special mention in this category. Despite the leisurely pace, there can be a significant fall height and the slippery fiberglass horses aren't the most stable platform for very young children. Parents should board with toddlers, even if an additional ticket is required, and stand next to their child's horse.

Children this age are quite impulsive and may decide to imitate the roller coaster crowd by waving both hands in the air as their horse crosses the imaginary finish line, or they may simply decide they've had enough and get off while the ride is still spinning. Some carousels provide loose leather straps that buckle around children, but these are not reliable restraints and can, in some cases, create a secondary hazard when falling children become caught up in the strap. Hands-on supervision is always best for toddlers, no matter how tame the ride looks.

Rides where patrons lie prone in a flying position, such as the Kite Flyer, are a risky choice for younger kids even if a parent rides with the child. The rider positioning isolates parents from the child they're supervising and the restraints may fit loosely on smaller children while restricting the movement of adults. If a child starts slipping out, there may not be much a strapped-in parent can do to intervene in time. Parents should steer young children to rides where a stable riding position can be achieved.

Children should sit on the seat, not on your lap

Never seat your child in your lap on an amusement unless the ride operator explicitly tells you it's safe to do so. If the ride has restraints, that position could cause the bar or belt to put too much pressure on your child's small body. If the ride doesn't have restraints, the extra elevation provided by your lap may put your child in a position where an unexpected twist or turn could cause the child to slip out of your hands and out of the car.

Rides for young children should have restraints that fit kids securely

The Goldilocks effect, where the one-size-fits all seats and restraints of a family ride are built large to accomodate adults, can leave small children under-protected. If a child's feet can't reach the floor, he won't be able to brace himself properly against changes in direction or speed.

If your little Goldilocks winds up on a ride where the restraints are sized for Papa Bear, she may slide into an unsafe position due to centrifugal force, or a sudden change in speed or direction.

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