Winter Sensory Friendly and Inclusive Events in Des Moines 2024

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Winter Sensory Friendly and Inclusive Events in Des Moines 2024

There are lots of fun winter events and activities scheduled in Des Moines. We have gathered events both around the metro as well as some around the state that are sensory-friendly and inclusive for all families. We have also included advocacy events, fundraisers, and educational classes that benefit families with children with special needs.

Bookmark these other sensory friendly guides:


Adaptive Ninja Open Gym

Ninja/U in Ankeny

January 21; Two sessions: 1:00-1:40 p.m. and 1:50-2:30 p.m.

With help from Cultivating Hope Farms, we are kicking off our Adaptive Ninja Program! We will be setting up specific obstacles and challenges for kids AND adults of all abilities. This class/open gym time will allow each individual to experience ninjas no matter their limitations. We will be limiting the amount of people in the gym to prevent overstimulation. There will be experienced coaches and volunteers to help each Ninja find the right challenge for them.

Wheelchairs are welcome. Power chairs might not work on the padded surface but we have pushed standard chairs around in the past. Sign up online here.

Sensory Friendly Valentine’s Dance

Des Moines Children’s Museum

January 26 from 5:00-6:30 p.m.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a quiet dance floor under a disco ball, low light calming space, sensory bins, and therapy pets. This event is for children on the autism spectrum those with sensory sensitivities and their families.

Havana Hop: Sensory Friendly Performance

Temple Theater

January 27 from 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Cost: $10 per person

Enjoy a sensory-friendly performance of Havana Hop for those on the autism spectrum and/or sensory sensitivities and their families. Purchase tickets on their website.


Rhythms of Grace FUNdraising Gala

Rhythms of Grace held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

February 3 from 5:00-9:00 p.m.

Cost: $75 per person

The Rhythms of Grace Annual FUNdraising Gala is a beautiful evening to come together to celebrate and support our mission of improving the lives of people with disabilities through therapeutic horse-related programs. The event is full of heart-touching stories, delicious food and drinks, great company, enjoyable entertaining activities, and opportunities to raise funds in support of the Rhythms of Grace therapeutic riding and therapy programs.

Night To Shine: Prom Night

Multiple Locations

February 9

Night to Shine is an annual prom night for individuals 14 and up with special needs hosted by local churches worldwide. While registration is already full, volunteers are still needed. Watch their website for dates to register for next year. Valley Church opens registration each November. Multiple churches around the state participate including:

  • Valley Church in West Des Moines: Registration is now full. Register for next year 2025 in November 2024. They still need volunteers to help. View their website to learn more.
  • Rising Son Church of Christ in Pleasant Hill: Booked for this year but they still need volunteers. See their website for more information).
  • Sacred Heart in West Des Moines: The event is full but to be added to the waitlist email You can also donate men’s and women’s formal wear to the St. Vincent de Paul store in West Des Moines for guests who are attending. They will be directed to the store to purchase their attire.
  • Newton Church of the Way in partnership with Community Heights Alliance Church in Newton: Registration is full but volunteers are still needed.
  • St. Marks Lutheran Church in Marion: Registration is full but volunteers are still needed.
  • Grace Church in Mason City: Registration is full this year. However, go to their website and request to be added to their early mailing list for next year. Volunteers are still needed.

Go to to view more information and locations each year per state.

Parents Night Out- Plus Kid Care

Fi & Friends in West Des Moines

February 10 from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

Cost: $50 per couple

This event is for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Enjoy an adult social hour, dinner, and a magician while your kids are safe with trained and certified volunteers. Children will also enjoy a magician as well as free play/activities and snacks. Register on their website to attend.

Des Moines Parent Summer Camp Fair

Valley Community Center

February 17 from 9 to 9:45 a.m.

New for 2023! Des Moines Parent Summer Camp Fair will be hosting a sensory-friendly time from 9 to 9:45 a.m. We are thrilled to have Encourage Club sponsor this special time. Encourage Club helps parents understand how their child’s brain works, and why they behave the way they do and gain new strategies to minimize the meltdowns.  We specialize in educating, encouraging, and equipping parents in the areas of sleep, sensory integration, and the struggles of parenting a neurodivergent child.

Some details you can expect when attending Sensory-Friendly Time:

  • Lights will be dimmed and special music will be playing.
  • A map will be created and released before the event for families to better plan before they arrive. Look back here for the final map! 
  • Fun arrows and movement activities are taped to the ground to guide families through vendors. 
  • Calming space
  • All vendors will have an activity at their booths that is sensory-friendly.  
Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Summer Camp, Des Moines Parent Summer Camp Fair

Management of Mental Health and Behavior Issues in Adolescents and Adults with Autism

Childserve- Virtual webinar

February 21 from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

ChildServe Pediatric Clinical Psychologist Suzanne Richards will present many of the common symptoms that are associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder and discuss different strategies and modalities of treatment. Topics will include aggressive behaviors, problem sexual behaviors, and anxieties that may lead to self-harming behaviors and other difficulties.

To register and receive the webinar link, please email

2024 Autism Advocacy and Acceptance Day on the Hill

Iowa State Capitol

February 22 from 8:00-12:00 p.m.

Attend the 14th Annual Autism Advocacy and Acceptance “Day on the Hill” with the Autism Society of Iowa. Participate in the rally and then visit with legislators.


Midnight Garden Prom

Facing Autism Inc

Fort Dodge

March 2 from 5:30-9:00 p.m.

Cost: $15 per person

Enjoy a prom for those 16 and up with special needs complete with dinner and dancing. Purchase tickets by February 16th.

Havana Nights Gala

Gigi’s Playhouse Des Moines

March 2 at 6 p.m.

Cost: $125/individual or $250 per couple

Gigi’s Playhouse Des Moines provides free programs to those with Down Syndrome from birth through adulthood, their families, and the community. Attend this gala to support their efforts and enjoy a wonderful evening of music, dancing, socializing, and fundraising. Purchase tickets on their website.

 Check out their regular schedule to register for a variety of classes and activities throughout the year.

Sensory Friendly Glowtastic Egg Hunt

Des Moines Children’s Museum

March 22 from 5:00-6:30 p.m.

This time is for children on the autism spectrum those with sensory sensitivities and their families. Enjoy a glow-in-the-dark egg hunt in a quiet and calm space and explore the museum’s regular exhibits. There will be sensory bins, communication boards, and a low-light calming space.

Miss Amazing AMPLIFY

Iowa Miss Amazing at Valley High School in West Des Moines

March 23-24

Miss Amazing AMPLIFY is a pageant that teaches self-advocacy skills to girls and women ages 5 and up with disabilities. Activities may include an interview, passion presentation, and introduction. New registration closes on March 1st.


Sensory Friendly Open Swim

MercyOne Health and Fitness in Clive

January 13, February 10, and March 16

3:00-4:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 per child with one adult included for FREE

Join us for a fun afternoon of sensory-friendly open swimming. The pool will be closed to members to ensure a calm and quiet environment. Music will be kept at a low volume or turned off. Private, family-friendly locker rooms will be available. We welcome all children with special needs and their family members.

Sign up at the Members Services desk in person or call 515-226-9622. Same-day registration is available and walk-ins are welcome.

Adaptive Skating

Brenton Skating Plaza in Des Moines

January 31st, February 14, and February 28th

1:30-3:30 p.m.

Cost: $5 admission including skate rental

This open skate time is for those with a range of physical and/or developmental abilities to ice skate without a large crowd. No registration is required.


Childserve in Johnston

January 27th, April 27th, July 27th and October 26th

10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Cost: $25

Sibshops is a fun support group for children ages 6-12 who have a sibling with special needs. Children will enjoy games, snacks, and meeting other kids who understand the unique relationships they have with their sibs. Register on their website to attend.

Ask an Expert

Ask Resource Center

Webinar Series; Multiple dates and topics

12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

This webinar series features different topics led by a professional each month. Register for free for each webinar you would like to attend on their website.

  • January 29th: Learn about Iowa Able accounts while gaining knowledge about who is eligible for an account, explore the options for contributing to and accessing an ABLE account and what the funds can be used for, and understand how your eligibility for social security benefits and Medicaid can be protected with an IAble account.
  • February 12th: Explore the differences and overlaps between Early ACCESS, Early Childhood Special Education, and Head Start, learn about the process of being identified for services, and be instructed on how to get connected to Early ACCESS.
  • February 19th: Learn about the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) process, be informed about parent involvement in an IFSP and explore the rights that parents have with an IFSP.
  • February 26th: Explore the difference between Early ACCESS services and Early Childhood Special Education services and gain knowledge of the reevaluation process used to determine a child’s need for Early Childhood Special Education services. Learn possible options if your child is exiting Early ACCESS services.

Ask Each Other: Virtual Support Group

Ask Resource Center

February 5th and March 4th

12:00-1:00 p.m.

This virtual support group is held once per month for Iowa families of individuals with disabilities. Join parent mentors along with other parents and family members to share your lived experiences and collaborate with each other. You are an expert on your child! Bring your resources, questions, and possible solutions to share with the group. Register on their website.

Sensory Sensitive Playdate

Des Moines Children’s Museum

February 23rd and continues the fourth Friday of each month

5:00-6:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Attend during these special hours geared toward children on the autism spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities and their families to explore the museum. There will be sensory bins, communication boards and a low-light calming space.

For more fun classes and activities, follow these organizations:

  • Adventures in Social Development in Johnston: This non-profit organization helps individuals with social skills and communication by role-play theatre and drumming circle techniques. Register for a variety of classes on their website.
  • Can Play: This non-profit provides sports and recreation programming for free or low cost to those with financial, physical, cognitive, emotional or chronic health care barriers. Register on their website for their adaptive programs.
Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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