• Ashley Musial

Best Sensory-Friendly Activities for Winter

Every Chicagoland parent knows that keeping kids occupied in cold-weather months can be a challenge.And if your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you have the additional hurdle of finding indoor activities that respect their needs and help them feel comfortable. Here are some of our favorite Chicago-area picks for winter activities designed just for them—those that will put a smile on their face, but are also sensory-friendly.

Legoland Discovery Center: Play Well Days (Schaumburg; once per month)

During monthly “Play Well Days,” Legoland creates a welcoming space for kids with ASD and other sensory challenges, offering its usual array of rides, games and play areas, but at reduced capacity and lower sound and light levels. Staff members have also been trained by Autism Speaks to better assist kids and families with sensory needs. These special events, which offer a reduced ticket price, are offered on the first Saturday of every month.

ComedySportz: Sensory-Friendly Matches (Chicago; select Sundays)

ComedySportz turns improv comedy into a competitive game, with two teams trying to earn points from the audience. And at these specially-designed improv shows—suitable for both adults and older kids—the theater and its performers create a sensory-friendly environment, adjusting lights, turning down the speakers and indicating transitions between scenes. ComedySportz also provides a pre-visit social story and prep materials to help guests anticipate what will happen at the show. These sensory-friendly shows will be offered on select Sundays in January, May, September and December 2020.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Play For All (Chicago; once per month)

With climbing areas, fire trucks, a giant water table and dozens of other interactive exhibits, Chicago Children’s Museum is the kind of place that’s hard to leave. During the museum’s “Play for All” days, the facility opens early for kids and families with disabilities and behavioral challenges. Afterwards, you can enjoy scenic city views or the other attractions on Navy Pier. Registration is now open for Play for All events through March—and if your family is among the first 250 people to register for each event, you’ll receive free admission.

Sensory-Friendly Events at area libraries (Various locations; throughout the year)

The local library can be a great place to spend a snowy morning or afternoon, and many libraries in Chicagoland are now offering more inclusive events with sensory-friendly activities. We’ve noticed recent sensory-friendly events for kids and adults at the Northbrook Public Library, Wilmette Public Library and Elmhurst Public Library. Check their schedules for upcoming events or see if the library near you has any similar events on the calendar.

Museum of Science and Industry: Low-Sensory Early Exploration (Chicago; dates TBA)

These special events at the city’s iconic museum offer early access to the Idea Factory, Farm Tech and Circus area. Plus, the museum makes all of its exhibits more sensory-friendly until noon, giving kids with sensory needs the chance to experience all the rites of passage of a Chicagoland childhood: the Coal Mine, the U-505 submarine, the Henry Crown Space Center and the museum’s 1,400-foot model railroad. The Early Exploration events are expected to be held throughout 2020, with dates announced soon.

Do you have other favorite sensory-friendly activities for cold weather months or rainy days? Contact us and we’ll try to feature it in a future post.

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