These Sensory-Friendly Events and Special Needs Activities Invite All Kids to Play

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Indoor Places to Go

Play is for everyone! It provides us the opportunity to enhance our senses, develop emotional responses, and build social interaction. This list highlights indoor and outdoor activities and events that support play for children of all abilities.

Our round-up includes sensory-friendly events at kids’ destinations, easy-to-exit programming, picture communication boards, and designated quiet spaces for families experiencing overstimulation or dysregulation. To encourage a limited crowd and more space to explore, many of these places offer special times before or after hours for families to play and engage.

Check out this list of theaters, museums, playgrounds and more that feature sensory regulated programming and resources to consider when planning your next adventure. In addition to these featured locations, we also encourage you to explore this list of upcoming inclusive events in our area. Let’s go play!

This guide is sponsored by Hummingbird Pediatric Therapies.

Hummingbird Pediatric Therapies

Hummingbird Pediatric Therapies
750 Pasquinelli Dr #204, Westmont, IL 60559
9018 Heritage Pkwy #600, Woodridge, IL 60517
501 W Lake St #108, Elmhurst, IL 60126
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Hummingbird Pediatric Therapies has earned the trust of families in the western suburbs for 30 years. With locations in Westmont, Woodridge and now a third in Elmhurst, Hummingbird has the most comprehensive pediatric therapy offerings and support for families in the Chicagoland area.

Hummingbird offers speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, feeding therapy, NICU Aftercare, aquatic therapy, hippotherapy, counseling, a children’s academy and much more!

Get started today using Hummingbird’sย free, interactive, online developmental toolย tailored to your child’s age. Their dedicated team of pediatric therapists will provide you and your family with the clinical expertise that you can rely on.

Check out the Hummingbird Difference: Award-winning, comprehensive, child-centered care.

Sensory-Friendly Theater

Chicago Children’s Theater

Chicago Children’s Theatre offers a variety of programming through their Red Kite Project. This series includes productions and special events crafted specifically for children on the autism spectrum. They also offer camps, classes, and residencies for participants to experience self-discovery and learn more about the arts. See their sensory-friendly performance page for upcoming shows and pre-visit resources, including sensory guidance and social stories.

Filament Theatre in Chicago offers sensory-friendly performances. These include lower sounds, lighting, and limited strobes and sudden noises. The audience is always free to move about, make noise, and leave their seats. Before arrival, attendees are encouraged to download a “social story” to prepare for the performance at home. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

Goodman Theatre

The Goodman Theatre in Chicago offers sensory-friendly performances. There are fewer sounds and lighting effects, as well as a more relaxed environment where guests can move freely. Designated quiet areas are available and they also offer sensory bags upon request that include noise cancelling headphones, fidgets, and a social story.

Blue Man Group

The sensory-friendly performance of Blue Man Group with slight modifications to the performance at the Briar Street Theatre in order to create a sensory-friendly show that better accommodates individuals and families affected by autism. As part of the audience offerings for the sensory-friendly performance, the Briar Street Theatre will be transformed into a calming environment complete with bean bags, dim lighting and quiet corners for anyone seeking a sensory break from the excitement of the show. The 2024 date has not yet been released, but visit their website for more details.

Sensory-Friendly Play Places and Attractions

We Rock the Spectrum

We Rock the Spectrum in Franklin Park and Naperville is a gym with specialized sensory equipment and experiences for all ability levels to explore and learn in a safe environment. The gym includes swings, zip lines, trampolines, craft area, and more. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. Daily bookings are available by appointment only. Visit their Facebook page or call for availability. Check out Katie’s review of We Rock the Spectrum in Naperville to learn more!

Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden

Morton Arboretum’s Children’s Garden is the perfect backdrop for calming, imaginative play. Children can play, climb, and slide in an area designed just for them. The majority of the gardens are on paved grounds and accessible for all. Please note, some areas are accessible only by rope, ladder, or stairs. Guests with sensory processing disabilities may borrow sensory bags, maps, proprioceptive activity boards, or choice boards. Please visit the accessibility page to learn more.

Sloomoo Institute: Sensory Hours

Sloomoo Institute is a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience where you can immerse yourself in a world full of slime. Sloomoo prides itself on inclusivity through sensory play. By incorporating bright colors, textures, and smells, guests will leave with slime and a smile. Sensory hours offered with limited capacity and a calmer environment. For tickets and more details, click here.

Sky High Sports Trampoline Park: Special Needs Day

At Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Niles, every Tuesday is Special Needs Day. Music is off and distractions are low and crowds are minimal. The event runs from 4โ€“6 pm and costs $5 for each participant (a parent or therapist can accompany for free).

Sensory Garden Playground

The outdoor Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle is for children of all ability levels. It features numerous play areas, an accessible treehouse, gravity rail, swings, a sound garden, and more additions to come in the near future. This playground helps promote relaxation, encourage creative movement, and provides stimulation for all the senses. Check out a previous article highlighting the latest features at The Sensory Garden Playground.

Chuck E. Cheese: Sensory Sensitive Sundays

Chuck E. Cheese has special Sensory Sensitive Sundays, at participating locations throughout Illinois. They open two hours early on the first Sunday of the month. This timing provides families a quieter, less-stimulating experience throughout the dining area and arcade. In Illinois the participating sites include Streamwood, Arlington Heights, Gurnee, and Crystal Lake.

The Treehouse Play Cafe

The Treehouse Play Cafe in Lake Zurich offers sensory-friendly playdates the first Tuesday of each month from 5-7pm. Admission is $16 per child and they offer happy hour specials during that time as well. Registration is not required.

Sensory-Friendly Museum, Zoos, and Aquariums

DuPage Children’s Museum: Adaptive Play Times

The DuPage Children’s Museum offers modified museum experience for families with disabilities, who are on the autism spectrum, and/ or have sensory processing disabilities. Adaptive play times provide attendees with noise reduction headphones, fidget objects, weighted neck wraps, timers, and social stories.

The Field Museum: Planning App and Sensory Bags

At The Field Museum, download the iOS or Android Field for All app on when planning your visit to see exhibit previews, create customizable schedules, and view a sensory-friendly museum map. During your visit, they can also provide sensory bags and guided tours (based upon volunteer availability). For more details about tickets, mobility, and additional accommodations visit their accessibility page

National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art is a vibrant art museum representing the life and soul of the Mexican culture. Admission is free and they have an app you can download before you go with tips to help throughout your visit. They also have sensory bags and can arrange private tours upon request if scheduled in advance.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Play for All Special Hours

The Chicago Children’s Museum‘s Play for All program allows children to experience their multi-sensory exhibits one hour before opening. All participants must register in advance as space is limited. Be sure to check their website for updates on upcoming events. Chicago Children’s Museum also offers a calming corner on the third floor that is accessible daily.

Brookfield Zoo Chicago: Play Zoo Sensory Room

Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Play Zoo offers a sensory room where families can visit to have some quiet time. It features dimmed lighting, comfortable seating, and a variety of fidgets. BZ Care Kits are available at the North and South Guest Relations that contain noise-reducing headphones, name tags, and if lost ID bracelets and stickers. Sign language interpreters are available upon request (at least fourteen days in advance) for public programs and classes. Find out more about their accessible amenities before your visit.

Shedd Aquarium: Quiet Room

The Shedd Aquarium has a quiet room located in the Northern Trust Suite that can be used as a calming room, prayer room, or place to privately recharge mobility devices. If you plan to attend any animal spotlights, these are low sensory experiences where guests can step out if needed.

Visit the accessibility page for more information on requesting a sign language interpreter, how to download the sensory-friendly app, resources for deaf or hard of hearing, and those who are blind or have low vision. You will also find details here about parking, accessibility, and locations designated for you to access noise reducing headphones.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art offers services for mobility, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who are blind or have low vision, and more. They also have a quiet space that guests can use. Be sure to continue their website for more updates on sensory-friendly programming and details about accessibility at MCA.

Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn: Sensory-Friendly Play Sessions

The Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn offers sensory friendly play sessions for children the second Wednesday of every month from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. The price to participate is $5 for adults and children twelve months and older. This experience provides space to move and play, dimmed lighting, and limited noise. Click to learn more or register.

Kohl Children’s Museum: Everyone Can Play Free Events

Kohl Children’s Museum‘s special events called “Everyone Can Play” are free events that are hosted throughout the year and require pre-registration. This event is for all children and families who would like calm, creative and collaborative play. The museum collaborates with community groups and organizations to provide children and families with special needs the ability to experience the museum after it closes to the general public.

Inclusive Playgrounds

Check out our list of inclusive playgrounds in Chicago’s west suburbs to find playgrounds with features such as double-wide ramps, wheelchair swings, communication boards, and more.

Sensory-Friendly Sports and Water Activities

Swanson Pool: Free One-on-One Swim Lessons

Swanson Pool’s Sensory Cove is a free program offering one-on-one swim classes by specially trained swim instructors for children ages 5โ€“12 on the autism spectrum. During swim lessons, the number of attendees is limited and there are minimal in-water distractions. This program is free, sponsored by the For Scout Foundation. This program located in St. Charles is on Sundays. You must register in advance.

iFly: All Abilities Nights

iFly gives participants a chance to experience inclusive, limitless opportunities to “spread their wings” and soar to new heights regardless of ability. Those who experience both physical and cognitive challenges can participate in indoor skydiving, with specific accommodations available. Visit their website to request more information about All Abilities Nights held at specific locations.

Family-Friendly Movie Showtimes for Families with Special Needs

AMC’s Sensory Friendly Films

AMC’s Sensory Friendly Films showings are featured at select theaters across Illinois. They partner with the Autism Society to show family-friendly movies on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. Please note, films for mature audiences run on Wednesday evenings.

Visit the Sensory Friendly Films page on the AMC website to see upcoming movies. It can be tricky to order these tickets online, so we recommend calling the theater to make sure you’re getting the right screening.

Participating AMC theatres nearby:

Special Needs Screenings at Studio Movie Grill

Located in Wheaton, Studio Movie Grill offers Special Needs Screenings with family-friendly new releases on select Saturdays at 11 a.m.

Guests will experience movies with the lights on and the sound lowered. Please plan accordingly and call ahead to find out specific showtimes. Tickets for Special Needs Screenings are free, but sold only at the box office.

Reel Movies for Reel Needs Marcus

Marcus Theaters hosts a Reel Movie for Real Needs event monthly. This is an opportunity for families to experience family-friendly movies with an emphasis on creating a comfortable environment for families with special needs. Check the Marcus website for a list of running movies on Saturdays at 10:30 am. Assisted listening devices are also provided upon request.

Participating Marcus theaters nearby:

Hollywood Boulevard Sensory Friendly Series

Hollywood Boulevard in Woodridge hosts a Sensory Friendly Series in partnership with GiGis Playhouse. Keep an eye on their family events page for the movie line-up and for links to order tickets, which tend to sell out in advance.

If you know of another program, activity, school, class, camp, or event for kids with special needs, please let us know! You can comment below or email Annie at annie@mykidlist.com. For more ideas, find all our indoor activities to do with kids here on Kidlist.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you!!!!

    Reply
  • Stephan Bilski
    June 16, 2019 9:01 am

    Thanks to all who are responsible for making places more accessible to special friends.

    The problem my son and I are having is we love concerts! My son uses a wheelchair and he canโ€™t stand. We need the wheelchair section. We have been to more than 100 concerts all over the country. And venues think they provide a section for wheelchairs that itโ€™s just ok to be in the building. But when the concert starts, everyone stands and blocks our view. Sometimes they stand for the entire show. It is very frustrating to see my son sit while everyone is standing and watching the act. And some people use the handicap section with canes and stand during the entire show. (New Jersey is the only place that requires proof of disability to purchase a ticket in the wheelchair section)
    I would love to see these venues create a section where the people who sit in front of the wheelchair section, are forbidden to stand during the show and they know in advance they can not stand during the show.
    Thank You Stephan Bilski Oak Lawn Illinois

    Reply

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