Free or cheap ways to entertain your kids on winter weekends

Written by: Evelyn Perez-Horita

Free or cheap ways to spend winter weekends in Chicago with special-needs kids

Photo: Evelyn Perez-Horita

Is your whole family about to lose their minds to cabin fever? Don’t let it get you down! There is so much free or cheap indoor and outdoor fun to be had. Here are some activities you and your special-needs kiddo can enjoy.

Around town activities
Free museum days
Adler Planetarium, Chicago Children’s Museum, dancing with the kiddos at the Chicago Cultural Center, sensory Saturday at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago History Museum.
Conservatory exploration Explore beautiful plant life at the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s always free and it feels like you are visiting the tropics!
Live theater See a play that will accommodate those who have sensory issues at Lifeline Theatre and Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Music Get out and do some serious dancing with your kiddos! Beat Kitchen has a whole kids' concert series!
Indoor water parks Splash Landings Aquatic Center in Glenview, The Water Works in Schaumburg and Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park in Bolingbrook.
Trampoline park Sky High Sports offers discounted open play every Tuesday just for your special-needs kiddos!
Obstacle and agility courses For those kiddos who crave climbing and hanging, check out Ultimate Ninjas for open-play weekends.
Outreach play Misericordia offers a great play program that gives you a chance to meet and mingle with other parents while volunteers play with your child.
Free play KEEN ChicagoKids Enjoy Exercise Now!
Chicago Park District's special rec programs CPD has a lot of available programs for our kiddos. You do have to sign up early as spaces fill very quickly.
Sledding and skating Try sledding at one of the Chicago Park District parks. Our favorite hills are Oz Park, Horner Park, Gompers Park and Warren Park. Get skating in at Maggie Daley ice skating ribbon, Warren Park and Wrigley Field.

Indoor home activities
Sensory bins
Create one or a few sensory bins using Insta-Snow, water beads, dried beans, shaving cream or cotton balls to hide and search for treasures.
Dress up! Put those old costumes to good use and get dressed up for some pretend play. Have a very posh tea party, get rescued by your favorite little superhero or have your kiddo cure all of his or her stuffed animals boo-boos!
Dance party Turn on that music and work out some serious energy! We have different genres programmed on Pandora, like Disney, Kidz Bop, Laurie Berkner, Fresh Beat Band and School House Rock, to name a few!
Build a blanket fort and camp inside Make some s’mores Rice Krispies treats with the kiddos and heat up some hot chocolate!
Family game day Play Twister, Charades, Old Maid, Hungry Hungry Hippos or whatever you have on hand to enjoy together!
Art day Hold a painting party and drink apple cider from fancy glasses. Try re-creating a famous artist’s piece using paint, construction paper, beans, yarn or pasta!

Winter can be lots of fun if you get a little creative! Enjoy!

Don't miss the Developmental Differences Resource Fair on Sunday, March 11 from 9am-1pm. There are a lot of resources to choose from like therapists, schools, doctors and fun activities as well! 

Evelyn Perez-Horita lives in Lincoln Square with her husband, Brian, and 8-year-old daughter, Lia. She's a full-time account manager/client care representative, co-parent and advocate, special needs entertainment blogger and local school council (LSC) board member at Beard Elementary School. In all of her spare time, she loves to hold 6am family dance parties!

Related articles: 

Chicago venues that cater to kid with special needs

How to advocate for your special-needs child in CPS

The basics of IEPs

The NPN blog gives voice to our members' thoughts about parenting in the city, and the views expressed don't necessarily reflect our own. Want to write for us? Email with your topic ideas.


Posted on February 15, 2018 at 2:50 PM