If you have a child with disabilities, or they have friends who use wheelchairs, you already know how important it is to research a venue before hosting a party. When choosing a spot, an important element is to pick a theme that makes sense for your child and that sets them up for fun. Kids often have a firm idea of what they would like, but it’s up to the parents to make it work. If you need birthday party ideas, read a few of our favorites below:
Book a Lane (or Two) at a Bowling Alley
What’s special about bowling parties is that they cover a wide range of abilities. As long as a child can push a ball off a ramp, even gently, they can play. Ensure that lanes are fairly spacious and that there are ramps for access to the bowling area. Look for an accessible bathroom, or at least a family bathroom to use. Bowling alleys also provide a level of independence — kids can be relatively self-sufficient as parents look on from afar.
Book a few lanes so that nobody has to wait too long to bowl. Also, bowling alleys usually have a kitchen attached. Pizza and chicken fingers will do just fine.
Visit an Aquarium, Botanical Garden, or Science Museum
Some kids want to learn about their world, or just explore. For them, a trip to an aquarium, botanical garden, or science museum should do the trick. You and your group can either explore on your own or go on a guided tour.
Unique exhibits and interactions make for unforgettable experiences for your child and their friends. There’s plenty of photo ops, too.
These types of places are built with accessibility in mind. Doorways and hallways are wide, and you can rely on ramps and elevators throughout the facility. Plus, staff are on-hand to provide added support. They know and have often been trained on how to make accommodations for people with disabilities.
See the Animals at a Zoo
Are you raising an animal fan? Most zoos are built with wide paths and fairly steady ground. There’s plenty of room for large groups of people to travel in packs and observe the animals. Some zoos even have smaller petting zoos where kids can touch their fur or scales. Information stations will point you in the direction of accessible bathrooms.
The larger the zoo, the more resources you’ll find. Some zoos offer free admission to caregivers that need to accompany people with disabilities as they explore the zoo. If you would like to also rent a powered wheelchair for the day, many will have them available at the entrance.
Plan a Group Trip to a Theme Park
What kid doesn’t want to explore a theme park for their birthday? Roller coasters, turkey legs, and cotton candy, you can’t go wrong. Reach out to the other parents and plan the trip a few weeks in advance to give everyone enough time to prepare and get excited.
Theme parks tend to be big places, so grab a map as soon as you enter and pick a few rides to try first. In some cases, people with disabilities are able to bring a few of their friends along to skip to the front of the line, like at Six Flags. In contrast, Disneyland lets its favorite characters come to you.
Like zoos, large theme parks will have information centers spread throughout the area to point you to the easiest routes or nearest accessible bathroom.
Host the Birthday Party Yourself!
Hosting a birthday party is a rite of passage for parents. Starting from scratch makes it a little more difficult, but it has the potential to be phenomenal. Obsessive party planners, this one’s for you.
The key is to make a schedule of events with a little bit of wiggle room. Plan 2-3 low-key accessible activities that everyone can participate in. Examples include arts and crafts stations or coloring contests.
Every birthday party needs a time to open presents in front of everyone too. Add in singing the birthday song and bringing out the cake, and you have yourself a grand finale.
Of course, you do still need to think about the space. If you don’t want to host it in your own backyard, nearby churches or community centers could be an option.