We know how challenging it can be to accommodate your little one with special needs in the large crowds at local attractions and playgrounds. Luckily, there are plenty of programs catered specifically to kids with special needs so that your kiddos can join in on all of the excitement that Des Moines has to offer.
Find additional activities for kids with special needs here. Thinking about sending your kids off to camp this summer? Check out our Summer Camp 2020: Camps for Kids with Special Needs in the Des Moines Area.
You can find more information about family friendly activities for Des Moines families on our Event Calendar. And, be sure to sign up for our FREE Weekend Fun Guide so you can get posts like this delivered to your inbox.
Please verify information before heading to an event or activity since information may change.
Here’s where you can enjoy some fun with your special kids in Des Moines:
In order to better accommodate their guests with varying levels of physical or mental challenges, B & B Ankeny 12 hosts Sensory Friendly Film viewings in association with particular films. These showtimes feature brighter auditorium lighting, lower audio levels, and are open and available for folks that may have trouble in conventional cinema settings. The family-friendly show times are 12:00 noon. Check their website for specific film listings.
The Blank Park Zoo is the only KultureCity certified attraction in Iowa. With the Zoo’s partnership with KultureCity, families with children who have Sensory Processing Disorders have access to many resources at the Zoo including noise canceling headphones, fidget toys and weighted lap pads. The Zoo has installed signage identifying “quiet zones” and “headphone zones” to help visitors as they explore the Zoo grounds. In addition, the Zoo’s Education department adjusted classes and summer camps to make them more sensory friendly.
The aquatic facilities at ChildServe’s Johnston Center offer a safe, encouraging environment to foster each child’s participation in functional activities. The facility is handi-capped accessible and is heated to a warm 92 degrees. Childserve’s Aquatic Center is open to the public. Contact them at (515) 278-2499 for a current schedule of activities, open swim times and cost.
Climb Iowa in Grimes offers Adaptive Climbing Fridays once a month. Adaptive climbing involves modifying the climbing experience in order to capitalize on the climber’s strengths and abilities. Adaptive Climbing Fridays go from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and the cost is $20 per climber. This includes all your equipment and climb time. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP by calling (515) 986-2565 so that Climb Iowa can ensure they are fully staffed for these Fridays.
Every kid needs to release some of their seemingly endless energy, and an indoor bounce park is the perfect place to do so. Parents will enjoy watching their children smile as they bounce on their five inflatables and crawl in their enormous treehouse structure with a triple lane rainbow slide, cork slide, Wacky Ball room and much more. The Playground for Kids offers General Admission for Special Needs, which is $5.99 per child.
Parks & Playgrounds
This all-inclusive park in Ankeny features various play amenities that youth with and without special needs can enjoy. Roller Tables, Sway Fun Gliders, Sensory Play Center, and an Omni Spinner are all components to enjoy. All play accessories are at wheelchair transfer height, making it easy to move a wheelchair in and out of or transferring from a wheelchair to the play feature. The playground also features a rubberized, latex-free surface.
Located in Ewing Park and managed by Des Moines Parks and Recreation, a visit to Ashley Oakland Star Park Playground is an adventure that your whole family will enjoy! The enormous jungle gym is the first and only all-inclusive playground in Des Moines. It features 50 different play elements designed to provide play for people of all ages and abilities.
Terra Park in Johnston is a 200-acre park that mixes play and education. While not fully inclusive, a large majority of Terra Park’s playground is wheelchair accessible. That includes the playground’s tree feature and its swings. The park’s eight-acre fishing lake, which is stocked with large-mouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill, also has a wheelchair accessible fishing pier.
Sensory Spaces in the Metro is a collaboration of Des Moines area libraries offering special hours for members of the public who appreciate a sensory friendly environment. While individuals and families with special needs are welcome at libraries during regular hours, these sensory times offer quieter browsing, special programming, and other adaptive services that vary by location.
Looking for a calm place to play? Then visit the Forest Avenue Calming Room for a sensory interactive experience on Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. This is an unsupervised, drop-in program for youth. Children under 10 years old must be accompanied by a caregiver over 12 years old.
What are your favorite accessible attractions for special needs kids in Des Moines? Let us know!