Sensory Friendly Play in Chicagoland

While Chicagoland is a city filled with non stop fun and excitement, what about when still you want the fun but with a little less of the overwhelming excitement? Well, I’m happy to report that lots of Chicagoland family favorites offer sensory friendly playtime not just in April for Autism Awareness Month, but all year long. Save and share this list of sensory friendly play times in Chicagoland to ensure that all kids of all abilities have the joy and fun filled childhood that they deserve.

ONGOING EVENTS

DuPage Children’s Museum Family Night Out

Third Thursday of each month from 4-8 p.m. 

Enjoy an evening of play and learning after hours in a calmer, less crowded environment. Some lighting and sound will be muted and additional sensory activities and cool down areas will be provided. Admission is free but advanced registration is required for Family Night Out. 

The Field Museum Sensory Saturdays

Every Saturday from 9-10 a.m.

Families of children with special needs can enjoy a sensory-friendly morning exploring the Crown Family Play Lab. Advance registration is required for free admission and to maintain a crowd-free space.

Play for All at the Chicago Children’s Museum

Second Saturday of every month at 9 a.m.

The first pre-registered guests receive free admission to enjoy the Chicago Children’s Museum’s inclusive, multisensory exhibits and programs. Download the museum’s Therapeutic Play Guide to offer support to children working on their therapies during a museum visit.

Hamill Family Play Zoo Sensory Friendly Mornings

4thSaturday of every month

Children and families with disabilities are invited to enjoy the Hamill Family Play Zoo from a low-sensory perspective before the doors open to the public. Guests who pre-register receive free admission and free parking.

Legoland Discovery Center Chicago “Play Well” Days

1stSaturday of every month, 8:30-10 a.m.

Children and families with special needs are encouraged to come and play with sensory accommodations such as reduction of light and sound levels, quiet spaces, a reduced center capacity, earplugs (by request) and discounted ticket prices before Legoland Discovery Center Chicago is open to the public.

Sky High Sports Trampoline Park (multiple locations)

Every Tuesday, 4-6 p.m.

Every Tuesday is “Special Needs Day” and during this special jump session lights are dimmed, music is turned off and other distractions are limited. Jumpers are $5 with one parent or therapist joining them for free.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films (multiple locations)

AMC partners with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings when the lights are turned up, the sound is turned down, and guests can get up, walk, shout, and/or sing. Family friendly films are shown the second and fourth Saturday of the month and mature films are shown Tuesday evenings. Check local listings for times and locations.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Museum of Science and Industry “Low Sensory Early Exploration”

May 5th , June 23rd, September 8th, November 17th

Guests with special needs can explore exhibits in a sensory friendly environment from 8:30-9:30 a.m. The entire museum will be altered to be more sensory friendly, including a designated quiet area until noon. Pre-registration provides you with free admission and special access to exhibits.

Shedd Aquarium Calm Waters

May 6th

This exclusive event is for guests with disabilities to explore the Shedd’s exhibits and experiences in a comfortable and accepting environment. Enjoy streamlined entry with advanced registration and explore the aquarium while it is at limited capacity. 

Everyone At Play at Kohl Children’s Museum

May 19th

The Kohl Children’s Museum invites families with children with special needs to explore their indoor and outdoor exhibits while the museum is closed to the general public. Families and their children can enjoy calm, creative, and collaborative play with additional support and guidance available. Admission is free but advanced registration is required.

Camp Red Kite at the Chicago Children’s Theatre

August 5th-23rd

This three week camp is a summer arts program tailored specifically to the unique interests and needs of young people on the autism spectrum. Camp Red Kite’s goal is to foster a shared arts experience that encourages self expression, social engagement, creative exploration, and FUN!

SPECIAL SERVICES

United Center

Bulls and Blackhawks games have become much more sensory friendly. United Center staff has been trained to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to properly handle a sensory overload situation. There will also be sensory bags available, which contain noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads to help guests who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.

Guaranteed Rate Field

Sox fans can take a break from the stimulating environment thanks to the new Sensory Room available to all guests. Sensory bags filled with noise cancelling head phones, fidget tools, and verbal cue cards are also available for guests with sensory sensitivities.

RECOMMENDED VACATIONS

Sesame Street Place

This creative and Sesame Street inspired amusement park in Pennsylvania is officially the FIRST theme park to earn the “Certified Autism Center” qualification. Park staff will receive specialized training in order to meet the needs of ALL children, sensory guides to the park will be available, and families can utilize quiet rooms and low sensory areas for when kids need to take a break. 

Morgan’s Wonderland

This San Antonio amusement park is billed as the world’s first Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park with more than 30 traditional, adaptive, and wheelchair swings. There is also a fully accessible waterpark for families to splash around and escape the Texas heat. Guests with special needs receive free admission to Morgan’s Wonderland. 

Lastly, don’t forget to visit the premiere inclusive play space in Chicagoland, We Rock the Spectrum

Know of any sensory friendly events in Chicagoland? Please share them in the comments!

Happy Playing!

Amanda

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