We often hear from families about how much they value playing together at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota. But for Michelle and her family, Sensory Friendly Play offers a chance not only for play but also for relaxation and togetherness — two things that aren’t always easy to come by when you have a family with four children including a child with special needs. Michelle recently wrote about her experience and was willing to let us share it on our blog.
Dawson is the third of our four children. Because of birth order, he often must go to activities and events he’d rather not attend. Sensory Friendly Play times are an event that we make a priority since we know Dawson has so much fun! (His siblings enjoy it, too!)
It is a real relief to be around families who “get” our family’s quirks. We don’t have to explain anything or endure the curious stares or questions that sometimes occur. It is a time for ALL of us to just relax. I don’t need to be an advocating mother. I can just be a mother. Because the number of participants is limited, Dawson also feels more comfortable. There isn’t a crowd to move through or the noise that comes with a lot of people.
Once we enter the museum, our family doesn’t stick together. My husband or I follow Dawson to the water room, where he’ll spend most of the time. (I quickly learned to pack extra clothes.) The other parent usually heads to the grocery store, because that is where our youngest likes to start her adventures. Dawson has limited communication skills. He’s a pretty low-key kid, but I always wonder if he’s truly happy. In the water room, he is. He’s spinning toys, grabbing colorful balls, and splashing in the water. Water has always been calming for him. That room takes it to new heights! It’s way more fun than the bathtub!
We feel blessed to have this opportunity within an hour of our home. To be able to get out as a family and just relax is priceless and rare when a family has a child with special needs. Thank you for allowing us a safe place to play and to just be. It is a true treasure.
Like Dawson’s mom Michelle shares, these events are about being in an environment that supports sensory needs, is friendly and where a family can spend time playing together. But what exactly does Sensory Friendly Play mean? And what makes these events so special for families like Dawson’s?
Sensory: For some, over-stimulation can occur if the environment engages too many senses at the same time. Sensory Friendly Play events offer a calm, less-crowded opportunity for exploration in our museum’s exhibits. The museum also has adaptive equipment available for check out including noise-reducing headphones, universal cuffs, transitions timers, picture cards, fidget items, and more.
Friendly: Friendliness is at the heart of our Sensory Friendly Play events. Families can focus on being together and children are free to be themselves in a safe and welcoming environment. As Michelle mentioned, at Sensory Friendly Play guests don’t have to ‘explain themselves’ and can even connect with each other on a personal level.
Play: Play is one of the most cherished rights of childhood. At Sensory Friendly Play, smiles shine bright and laughter echoes down the hallway spreading the joy of playful experiences. During these events, children are free to explore their interests on their own terms. They encounter new experiences, discover new possibilities, and bring light to their potential.
Sensory Friendly Play is more than an event offering low-sensory play time. It’s a chance where children are free to be themselves, where families can focus on being a family, and where play is at the heart of their experience. The schedule for Sensory Friendly Play is available on the Children’s Museum of South Dakota’s website or to be added to the exclusive Sensory Friendly Play contact Carrie Benson, Director of Education.