By Christen Bush
With temperatures freezing outside, parents across the five boroughs are desperately seeking fun activities for the kids that take place inside.
Finding just the right spot can be especially tough, though, when your child is on the autism spectrum, has sensory processing disorder, or countless other special needs.
We decided to take some of the stress out of your search. From bounce houses and theatre, to sensory gyms and museums, here are ten family outings that are perfect for our city kids with special needs:
Autism Theatre Initiative
Introduce your family to the world of Broadway in an incredibly supportive environment – without the bright lights and jarring sounds that might toss some kids into sensory overload. Quiet and activity centers are also stationed around the lobby (in case kids need to get up during the performance), and families are invited to print social stories to familiarize kids with the show and the theatre before attending. Upcoming performances include Wicked on February 7 (1pm), and Aladdin on March 6 (1pm).
If your little one is a mover and a shaker, Bounce U’s open bounce sessions can’t be beat. Weekends can definitely get crazy, but if you’re looking for a spot where kids can burn pent-up energy, this is the place to be.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
The Sensory Room at Brooklyn Children’s Museum is an incredible resource. Included with museum admission ($11 per person), the room gives children of all abilities a chance to explore their senses in a warm and welcoming environment. Sensory Room hours are Thursday (2:45-5pm), Saturday (2-4:45pm), and Sunday (2-4pm).
Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place
Inclusion is the name of the game at The Child’s Place – Brooklyn Public Library’s program for children with special needs. Parents will find barrier free art, story time, movement classes, and more for kids ages baby to 12. The Child’s Place programs are found at Flatlands Library (2065 Flatbush Avenue), Greenpoint Library (107 Norman Avenue), Saratoga Library (8 Thomas S. Boyland Street), Red Hook Library (7 Wolcott Street), and Sunset Park Library (5108 4th Avenue).
CMA Art For All
Children with special needs (and 1 parent or caregiver) are invited to attend the Children’s Museum of the Arts for free during all general hours, as part of the museum’s two-year Art of All initiative. Families are asked to register their visit in advance, via an online registration form. Once you arrive at the museum, children will receive a welcome kit that includes a social story, communicating what they will find during their visit.
Discovery Squad At The American Museum Of Natural History
Get an autism-friendly sneak peek at the Museum of Natural History before it opens to the general public! On selected Saturday mornings, children between the ages of 5 and 14 (accompanied by an adult) can attend a 40-minute tour lead by specially trained Museum tour guides. Afterward, families will have a chance to explore the museum’s Discovery Room. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Advanced registration is required. To reserve a spot, call 212-769-5200.
Extreme Kids & Crew
Parenting a special needs child can often be a very lonely experience – even when surrounded by friends and family. Luckily for those living in Brooklyn, we have Extreme Kids & Crew. More than a sensory gym (and wickedly fun place to be), Extreme Kids & Crew is a supportive environment for the entire family. Open play takes place in Red Hook every Sunday (12-2pm and 2:30-4:30pm). Membership is $50 per year, but if finances are an issue, pay what you can options are available.
NY Transit Museum’s Special Day For Special Kids
If your kids love trains, New York Transit Museum’s Special Day For Special Kids is for you. The museum opens one hour early, allowing kids and their families to explore without the crowds. There will also be fun activities and a quiet room available. Best of all, admission is free. The Transit Museum will begin accepting reservations – which are required – on January 15 at 10am. For more information, visit the New York Transit Museum website.
Sensory City’s Open Sensory Gym
Up near Long Island City? Sensory City offers open sensory gym times on Thursday and Saturdays. The cash only fee is $20 per session, with siblings half off. Note that Sensory City only allows 10 children per session, so be sure to reserve your spot by calling 718-433-4434, or emailing email@example.com.
Sensory Friendly Movies At AMC
You’ll have to hike up to the Upper West Side, but AMC 84th Street offers sensory friendly screenings on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday of each month, so families with kids on the autism spectrum can enjoy a day out at the movies! Upcoming shows include Star Wars, on Tuesday, January 11 (7pm), and Norm of the North, on Saturday, January 23 (10am). For more information on Sensory Friendly Movies at AMC, visit The Autism Society website.
Did we miss a fantastic special needs family outing? Share the details in the comments below.