Rain, rain, go away. As an autism mom, that’s what I feel like chanting every time the sky turns dark. When it rains, that means my hyper nine-year-old can’t go outside and at the same time, all our favorite indoor places get overly crowded. Staying cooped up in the house is rarely a good alternative. So I’ve had to come up with this selection of indoor places to play as well as some tips to avoiding crowds.
Indoor playgrounds are popping up all over Indy. Greenwood’s Kid City is a newly opened STEAM-based play center ideal for kids ages 2-10 and is reasonably priced at only $5 a child. Also check out the wildly popular indoor playground at Trader’s Point Christian Church, which is FREE and even offers at quiet space for kids who get overwhelmed and need to decompress.
Carter’s Play Place and We Rock the Spectrum are two new to Indy play places designed specifically for kids with autism. These sensory friendly gyms were created to give autism families a place to play without fear of judgment. It’s a place for our kids to get the sensory input they need, have fun and not worry about conforming. Here you can find an array of sensory activities such as a trampoline, zipline, variety of swings and much more. Plus, each location offers a quiet room for those in need. To avoid crowds, the best times to visit are late afternoon, but don’t hesitate to call in advance to check crowd status. Open play times vary day to day, so make sure to check their Facebook pages before you go.
Conner Prairie is a favorite summer destination for my family, but their indoor play areas are also a great place to visit when the weather isn’t so great. I’m always impressed by the number of dedicated quiet spaces they have around the grounds, but I’ve also recently learned that they’ve been working on improving sound control for the indoor play areas as well. The indoor space consists of three distinct spaces with “interpreters” who are trained to help all kids regardless of ability or need. Discovery Station is a place where younger kids can create, build, climb and enjoy pretend play, while the Create.Connect area is more geared for older kids and focuses on innovation, hands-on play and exploration. Craft Corner has temporarily been replaced for 2017 with The Pop-Up Maker Workshop where kids can work with tools and materials related to textiles, woodworking, metalsmithing, pottery and more. For minimal crowds, the best times to visit are from 2-5 p.m.
Skyzone has a lot of benefits for special needs families. I like the fact that they have employees around the entire facility to make sure kids are being safe and staying out of trouble. Plus there’s only one way in or out, making it easier to keep tabs on kids who tend to elope. The best time to visit is Monday-Friday in late afternoon from about 4-6 when the crowd is low. Indy has three Skyzone locations in Plainfield, Fishers and on the Southside, with all offering sensory friendly jump times. During these times, the music is turned low, admission is discounted, and the crowd is minimal. Check their websites for more information on these special times.
Boniccis is a family-run business with an aim to provide imaginative play and opportunities to explore. Ideal for children age 3-8, the playhouse town includes a fire station, restaurant, grocery store and hospital where children can dress up and explore different community roles. For some kids with autism, pretend play can be difficult. Not to worry, there’s also a large Lego wall, magnet play, arcade games and foam building blocks. The best time to avoid crowds is in the late afternoon and early evenings.