Christmas events for children with special educational needs and disabilities

Throughout the festive period, there are lots of events taking place, providing accessible and safe places for you and your family.

Accessible pantomimes

Many theatres are putting on special pantomime performances for children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). If your child's needs are not covered below, contact the theatre directly to see how they can support you and your family.

If you cannot visit your local theatre, you can watch virtual performances of Dick Whittington and Cinderella by the theatre company Head2Head Sensory Theatre.

Visit their website to find out more about their performances.

Theatre classes for children and young people with SEND

If your child or teenager is interested in theatre, they may want to join a local theatre group:

You can also find other clubs on our community directory.

Meet Father Christmas

Around Kent, many shops are now offering ‘SEN quiet sessions’ to meet Father Christmas. They often include the same activities, but in a quieter and calmer environment. Here are some of the sessions that are running:

Ashford Designer Outlet

Pop down to Ashford Designer Outlet where every Sunday they will be opening the workshop for tailored SEN sessions at 12 pm and 12:30 pm. An inclusive session that involves the same activities, but in a quieter and calmer environment.

Dobbies Garden centre

If you can't meet Father Christmas at Ashford Designer Outlet, take a quick trip down to Dobbies Garden Centre in Ashford where you may find him. They've worked with the charity Autism Together to support their Santa School training and they hope to bring you a magical experience to share with your little ones. During your visit, they'll make sure:

  • music is off
  • twinkling lights are removed or switched off
  • you can choose whether to have your child’s gift-wrapped or not
  • you get a photo of the grotto before your visit to prepare children for what they will see on the day.

Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre

Father Christmas can also be found at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre on 10 and 17 December.

Kent Life

On 19 December, Kent Life are also offering quieter meet Father Christmas sessions. This will include quieter music, low lighting, and smaller group sizes to help reduce sensory overload and create an experience that is accessible for all youngsters. Book tickets by calling Kent Life on 01622 763936.

Other events

  • Bedgebury have their annual Christmas after dark winter wonderland light walk. Great for children who love sensory lights!
  • Bluewater have brought back their inclusive relaxed sessions for their Believe event. Tickets are available for any families with special needs – the sessions are adapted in a variety of ways, including a more relaxed attitude to noise and lighting effects, to reduce anxiety and ensure a safe, enjoyable visit. During an ‘Inclusive Relaxed Session’ their team will try to help everyone feel comfortable enough to talk, sing, dance and even shout out at any point during the experience.
  • Ride the Polar Express at Spa Valley. You’ll meet your favourite icons from the beloved movie, including the conductor, dancing chefs, a mysterious ghost, and of course the magical Santa Claus himself. All of you (complete with your pyjamas for the authentic experience!) will experience gloriously immersive theatre on a train as you make your way slowly North.
  • Reconnect Kent also have a list of magical Christmas events happening in and around Kent.