Have a Sensory-friendly Holiday 

Bright lights. Loud music. Lots of people.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be overwhelming for kids with sensory sensitivities, including many on the autism spectrum. Here are some of our favorite sensory-friendly holiday activities. 

Have a Sensory-Friendly Holiday with these local events! 

Visit With Santa 

If a meet-and-greet with Mr. Claus is on your child’s list, several area malls will host sensory-friendly hours to visit with Santa before the stores open, with lights dimmed and music turned off. 

The Santa Cares event comes to Eastgate Mall on Dec. 2 from 9-11 am  

Website: eventbrite.com/e/santa-cares-a-sensory-friendly-event-at-eastgate-mall-tickets-51207920268?aff=erelexpmlt 

Ashland Town Center will host Sensitive Santa on Dec. 2 from 9-11 am

Website: ashlandtowncenter.com/events-news/event/sensitive-santa2018 

Sensory Santa comes to Liberty Center twice this season: Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, from 10 am-12 pm. 

Website: liberty-center.com/events/detail/sensory-santa-visits  

For something a little different, Sensory Santa — who works as a physical therapist in the off season — along with his PT elves will host children with sensory concerns and/or physical limitations at two ABC Pediatric Therapy Network centers on Dec. 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Miamisburg location, and Dec. 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the West Chester location. For more information, visit abcpediatrictherapy.com and RSVP to [email protected] 

Take in a Show 

Your family doesn’t have to miss out on seeing classic holiday stories just because of sensory issues. 

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will host a sensory-friendly performance of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. Recommended for first-graders and up, tickets are $15, plus fees. 

Website: cincyplay.com/learn/school-programs/student-matinees 

Over at the Taft Theatre, the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati will present a sensory-friendly performance of “Santa Claus: The Musical” on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. In addition to tweaks to the lighting and sound during the show, families can also download a social story about the theatre and the production. Tickets are $20, plus fees.  

Website: thechildrenstheatre.com/mainstage/sensory-friendly-performances1 

Don’t forget the movies! Cobb Liberty Luxury Theatres will show “Mary Poppins Returns” on Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. with the lights up and sound turned down (cobbtheatres.com/libertyluxury15.aspx). AMC Theaters hosts Sensory Friendly Films four times a month at Newport on the Levee 20, including Saturday morning showings for the younger set and Thursday evening movies for teens and adults (amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films). 

Go at Your Own Pace 

For kids who need space and time to explore holiday festivities at their own speed, consider outdoor events like the PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo (cincinnatizoo.org/events/festival-of-lights) or the freedom of the Krohn Holiday Show at Krohn Conservatory (facebook.com/events/326930304735577). 

Avoid crowds and cold weather altogether by taking in holiday lights from the comfort of your car, either around your neighborhood or at one of the organized lights drive-thrus, including Christmas Night of Lights at Coney Island (coneyislandpark.com/event/christmas-light-show), Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods (holidayinlights.com) and Holiday Lights on the Hill at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum (pyramidhill.org/holiday-lights-on-the-hill). 

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