We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How to Survive a Theme Park with a Toddler

Little girl riding a car in amusement park
Predrag Popovski/Shutterstock

Summer’s coming, and that means warmer days and Saturday mornings are luring you away for a day of fun in the sun at a theme park.

If you’re heading out to enjoy some rollercoasters and funnel cake with toddlers in tow, you’ll want to take some extra precautions to make sure you avoid major meltdowns (from parent or child!).

Before You Get to the Amusement Park

Having a winning theme park trip starts before you get there—here’s how to prepare.

Plan ahead: One of the best things you can do to help nip meltdowns in the bud before they ever happen is to get online and check out the theme park you’ll be visiting. Many theme parks list attractions with thrill levels, height requirements, and other information. When you know what your toddler can and cannot ride, you can avoid upset little ones who find out at the end of the line that they’re too small to ride.

Pack some light essentials: Going anywhere with a small child feels like packing for vacation. You won’t want to lug a heavy diaper bag around the park, so here’s a quick list of essentials you should be able to fit in the bottom of a stroller (which you should also bring):

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks
  • Water/juice
  • Small toys (to distract your little one if they’re feeling cranky)
  • Light blanket for shade
  • Change of clothes
  • Diapers and wipes (as needed)

Many amusement parks offer these items, but they’ll be more expensive, and having them on hand can make minute-to-minute navigating much easier.

Dress appropriately: Make sure your little one is wearing comfortable shoes and bright clothes (so you can spot her quickly if she runs off). Consider writing your contact information on the inside collar of the shirt so you can be reached if your little one gets away.

Another fun idea is to have everyone in your party wear a matching shirt. If your child gets lost, you can point to your shirt when security asks what they’re wearing.

Bring food and water: Many theme parks will allow you to bring bottled water and snacks into the park. Theme park food is fun, but it’s expensive, and there aren’t always healthy options available. Having snacks on hand will keep little hands busy in long lines and help prevent hangry episodes. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and juice to keep everyone hydrated in the hot sun.

At the Amusement Park

mother and toddler in bumper car at theme park

Once you arrive, use these strategies to keep things going smoothly.

Hit the ground running in the morning, then take a break: If your schedule permits it, head to the amusement park as soon as it opens. You’ll likely have lower crowds, and you’ll beat the heat of the days. Spend the first part of your morning visiting your favorite rides, then head for water attractions in the afternoon when it gets hot. If you time it right, you can take in a show, or enjoy lunch in a cool shaded area while your toddler naps.

You might even consider leaving the park for an hour or two to snag lunch at an air-conditioned spot so everyone can cool off before hitting the rides again.

Follow your tot’s lead: When you have toddlers, they tend to rule the day. Follow their lead. If they start to get fussy, they may need to eat, cool off, or decompress. Amusement parks can be very loud and overstimulating. Look for quieter areas you can visit if your little one needs a nap, or simply needs a break from all the noise and colors.

Follow the rules: Amusement parks have height restrictions on rides for a reason. They aren’t there to exclude younger kids; they’re there to protect people from getting injured. Don’t believe us? Trust Thor. Chris Hemsworth learned the hard way when he made his daughter taller by sticking Snickers in her shoes so she could get on an attraction.

Try a kid leash: Using a kid leash may be a borderline-controversial idea, but a leash or harness can be very helpful in crowded parks. Toddlers are surprisingly swift for their size. They can vanish into a crowd of people very quickly. A backpack leash helps ensure they don’t run off while you bend down to tie your shoe. If your little one is prone to darting whenever their feet hit the ground, this can make your trip much less stressful.

Amusement parks are a fun way to enjoy the beautiful weather with your child. While toddlers can make visiting your favorite rollercoaster a bit tricky, you and your toddler can enjoy time with friends and family without meltdowns and runaway stories. Do a little preparation, and your odds of a happy visit go up significantly!

Angela Brown Angela Brown
Angela has 14 years of writing and editing experience, including as a reporter and copy editor for two newspapers. Angela has a Bachelor's in communication with minors in creative and technical writing from BYU-Idaho. She works closely with real-estate and financial industry clients. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?