Days out and activities for SEND children and young people

An image of a family playing in a park. A dad holding his young daughter in the air whilst laying on the ground and an image of a wheelchair in the forefront.

Did you know there are many accessible attractions and activities taking place across Kent?

Things to do in Kent

Bowling alleys are fun, exciting, and inclusive. It's a great place for families to play, eat and create memories. Bowling can be overwhelming for children and young people with SEND. So your local bowling alley may offer the following

  • discounted concession tickets for you and your family
  • wheelchair access
  • quieter hours.

Contact your local bowling alley to find out how they can help. Or, visit their website's accessibility page.

Although disabled toilets are bigger. Changing Places toilets have extra features to meet disabled people's needs. These include a hoist, height-adjustable changing bench, and plenty of space.

Find your nearest Changing Places toilet.

RADAR keys

A RADAR key can be used in any of the 5,600 wheelchair accessible toilets across the country. You can buy a key online via the Disability Rights UK website or your local pharmacy.

Find your nearest community public toilet on your borough or district council's website.

Just Can't Wait

If you're out and about with your child who has a bladder or bowl condition, did you know you can ask for access to a toilet.

The 'Just Can't Wait' card lets staff know that someone has a medical condition that means they just can't wait.

Download the app or request a digital card.

Many cinemas offer accessible friendly showings of films. Support can include:

Contact your local cinema to learn how they can help. Or, visit their accessibility pages on their websites.

CEA card

Did you know that if your child or young person has SEND you or a family friend can attend the cinema for free with them?

See if you're eligible and how to apply for a CEA card.

Growing up with a brother or sister with SEND doesn't mean life changes. Siblings can have a lot in common. They share how they communicate, their favorite days out, and their favorite games. The positives are endless!

Charities can provide family days out, events, activity groups plus family advice:

Learn more about sibling support.

A family member, carer or friend could get free or discounted tickets. This is sometimes called a companion, carer or concession ticket.

These tickets are often available to use with bookings for:

  • music and performance venues
  • theatres and cinemas
  • paid shows at museums and galleries
  • sport club activities or events
  • trains
  • zoos.

We recommend you visit the venue's website before you book. Or, contact them to ask if they offer any discounts.

Or, find out more on Scope's website.

HAF programme

The HAF Programme offers families free activities. These are for children aged 4 to 16 in the Easter, summer, and Christmas holidays. The families must be eligible for free school meals (FSM) related benefits.

Find out more about the HAF programme.

Max Card

The Max Card is a discount card for families of children with disabilities. It can help you save money on great days out at castles, zoos, bowling alleys and more.

These are available to any family of a disabled child or young person who is in receipt of disability benefit, or who has an EHC plan.

Register for the Max Card.

Getting your child or young person involved in sports is a great way to keep them active and healthy.

Leisure centres

It depends on your local gym or leisure centre. At certain times during the week, the centre may set aside time for children with extra needs.

To find leisure centres:

Sporting activities

Your child or young person may want to join a local sports group including:

  • football
  • rugby
  • hockey
  • gymnastics
  • netball.

To find your nearest sports group:

You may also be able to get financial support for sports and exercise through national and local charities. Find your nearest discounted sporting activities and events.

Swimming pools

Swimming pools are fun and relaxing environments. Learning to swim can also help your child. It can help them develop their:

  • balance
  • coordination
  • strength
  • motor skills.

Before you visit your local swimming pool, ask if they can help your child or young person's needs. Or visit their accessibility webpage on their website.

Visit our Local Offer Directory to find swimming activities and clubs near you.

For many parents of SEND children, getting their haircut can be tough.

Children and young people with sensory processing difficulties, like autism, may find it hard to filter out noise. They may also be sensitive to sounds, smells, sights, taste, and touch. This may result in a sensory overload.

Hairdressers are now more aware of children and young people with sensory issues. If discussed before the appointment, the hairdressers are often happy to make changes.

To prepare, you can:

  • find a hairdresser and talk to them before the appointment and explain your child or young person's condition
  • introduce your child or young person gradually to the hairdresser. They could attend with a sibling or a parent to get used to the environment
  • prepare your child or young person by using visual clues, such as social stories or a specific image on the calendar
  • book at a quiet time of the day, or ask the hairdresser if they have dedicated times
  • ask if the hairdresser can do a home visit
  • use social stories to explain about haircuts and to prepare for the visit to the hairdresser
  • use a timer in at the start of the cut so your child knows how long it is going to last
  • bring along their favourite fidget toy, or weighted blanket
  • take your own shampoo and conditioner, so that they are familiar with the smell.

There's plenty of options in Kent, whether your child or young person is interested in one of our famous:

  • castles
  • grand houses and gardens
  • railways.

Many historical attractions provide accessible friendly support, including:

  • accessible toilets
  • audio tours
  • disabled parking
  • mobility transport
  • wheelchair access.

We recommend you check the accessibility and availability in advance so you can be confident it caters for all your needs.

Contact your local historical attraction to find out how they can help you and your family. Or, visit their accessibility webpage.

Visit Tourism For All website to find accessible historical attractions in and around Kent.

Our libraries have a range of resources available to make our services accessible for everyone. This includes:

  • induction loops
  • large print books
  • overlays for children and young people with dyslexia
  • accessibility software on our computers
  • easy access books
  • e-books.

Your child can develop their interpersonal skills through:

If you or your child has a disability, you also qualify for our exempt card.

Autism friendly hour

Gravesend Library offers an autism friendly hour on Saturday mornings from 10am to 11am.

There will be slightly reduced lighting, designated chillout areas and multi sensory resources available.

If you haven’t been before, or if someone is anxious about coming to the library, read our social story (PDF, 1.7 MB) to show you what to expect.

In Kent there are a number of voluntary organisations, support groups and advice charities active that can help you, often for free.

Local Offer Directory

Our Local Offer Directory hosts thousands of voluntary organisations, support groups and advice charities to help and support children with SEND.

It's updated daily with local and national:

  • clubs (arts, sports, dance, drama, gaming)
  • sporting activities
  • events
  • parent groups
  • online education support.

Visit our Local Offer Directory.

If you are a business and you wish to register your details to help make a difference, complete our registration form.

Local charities

Charities can provide family days out, events, activity groups plus family advice:

A museum is a great day out to explore your town's history and to learn about where we come from.

Museums are adapting their buildings and exhibitions to support SEND children and young people. This can include:

  • access ramps
  • audio descriptions
  • relaxed visits
  • resource backpacks
  • tactile maps
  • visual stories.

Contact your local museum to find out how they can support you and your family or visit their accessibility webpage on their website.

Parks and playgrounds are a place designed to provide an outdoor play environment. Find your nearest by visiting your local borough or district council's website:

Country Parks

Did you know that a number of our country parks are SEND friendly?

We want everyone to enjoy the beautiful sights of our country parks and their surrounding countryside. We've adapted some of our caf├ęs, car parks and will soon be adapting our playgrounds to meet the needs for all.

Find your nearest country park.

Soft play centres

Soft play centres are often located indoors and allow children to play in a specially designed area with soft surfaces and equipment. There's plenty to keep the kids busy and entertained for a couple of hours.

Contact your local soft play centre to find out how they can support you and your family or visit their accessibility webpage on their websites.

Trampoline parks

Trampoline parks can help your child with their sensory, developmental and physical disability. Some trampoline parks offer SEN sessions which allow for you and your child to exclusively use the whole park and it's facilities.

Short breaks

Short breaks are activities for disabled children and young people (0 to 18) to take part in. They can range from an activity taking a couple of hours, or weekend club, to an overnight stay for those with more additional needs.

Depending on your child or young person's needs they are split into three categories:

  • universal
  • targeted
  • specialist.

Find out more about short breaks.

Shared Lives

Shared Lives support young adults aged over the age of 16.

Young adults can choose a placement of their choice, which is somewhere safe and supportive for them to stay in the home of a chosen host. Their host could be a single person, a couple or a whole family. They are able to be a part of a family, bring their own things and be supported in their hobbies, interests and activities.

Find out more about Shared Lives.

Many supermarkets offer a dedicated quiet hour for shoppers who are disabled or have disabled children.

Your local supermarket may:

  • dim the lights
  • turn off the music
  • avoid making tannoy announcements
  • turn off or lower the sounds at the checkouts at these times.
  • provide priority queuing
  • allow assistant dogs to join.

Contact your local supermarket to find out their quiet hours.

Don't forget to  take with you, your hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard. It lets people in public know that you or your child may need additional support, or a little more time.

Many theatres are putting on special accessible performances for children and young people who have SEND. They could provide:

  • a hearing support system
  • BSL performances
  • audio description
  • relaxed and off-peak quieter performances.

Contact your local theatre to find out how they can support you and your family or visit their accessibility webpage on their website.

If you cannot visit your local theatre, Head2Head Sensory Theatre provide online performances of theatre productions.

Or if you're planning a trip to London, visit the Official London Theatre website for all accessible theatre shows.

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.

Find your nearest youth theatre.

You can also find other clubs on our Local Offer Directory.

A theme park or an amusement park is a place made up of rides, such as roller coasters and water rides.

They usually contain a selection of different types of rides, along with shops, restaurants and other entertainment outlets.  They're great fun days out for all of the family or to hang with friends.

The following theme parks and amusement parks are based across Kent, however you can also find theme parks outside of Kent by searching on Google, Bing or Safari:

Merlins Magic Wand, also offers free one off tickets to merlin attractions for children with a disability. Find out if you're eligible and how to apply.

Visit Tourism For All website to find accessible theme parks beyond Kent.

In Kent there are a variety of zoos and wildlife parks that are accessible for your child or young person. Most can provide support through:

  • wheelchair friendly routes
  • installed ramps
  • quieter hours
  • larger printed signs
  • disabled friendly play parks.

Contact your local zoo or wildlife centre to find out how they can support you and your family or visit their accessibility webpage on their website.

Visit our getting around independently page to view websites who have rated and reviewed accessible days out across Kent and beyond.

Plan your trip

Here are some websites that can help you find accessible places in Kent and beyond if you're planning on attending an event or location:

  • AccessAble lets you search for accessible restaurants, shops, cinemas, hospitals, hotels, and more.
  • Euan's Guide lets disabled people, their families, friends, and carers find and share reviews on venues' accessibility.
  • Wheelmap allows you to search for wheelchair accessible parking spots.

Learn about how you can get travel support to have the best day out.

Don't forget to wear your hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard so people know you need extra help or time.

For days out and activities for all of the family in Kent visit: