A Musical Play Date That Keeps Special Needs Toddlers In Mind

I love family time. It's just the three of us, and we're always looking for adventurous, educational and fun ways to stimulate our 13-month-old daughter. Our daughter Shuri is a curious, sociable human who's animated through baby talk and has great social cues. However, she can get overstimulated easily and it takes her a while to warm up to new people and surroundings.

Shuri spends most of her time at home with us. On the weekends, we try to take her out now that winter is around the corner. We've taken her to some cool places during her first year on this planet. She's visited  Kwanzaacon, nature hikes, aquariums, Women's World Cup parade, sunflower mazes and several local festivities that are geared towards family fun. With these various outings, I've learned a few things about my daughter and- as a first-time mom- I think it's important to take notice of how your child responds to situations and people. I noticed my daughter doesn't like to be touched by strangers, and her body language becomes tense and unwelcoming. I also noticed she doesn't like extremely loud noises or anything too busy. She likes to pace herself with new environments and people, and she prefers to engage people first. It's hard to find baby-friendly locations for toddlers under two-years-old. However, her father found the perfect outing for her and us.

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He had tickets for a musical playdate for kids of all ages. The first thing I thought was how noisy and crowded it'll probably be and how easily aggravated she'd be. But he told me the musical date was sensory-friendly as it's mindful of children who have special needs or are on the spectrum.

The Max and Ruby musical playdates are shorter than other children's musicals and are significantly quieter, too. They also give children more freedom to entertain themselves as opposed to them just sitting for a certain period of time. A quieter, less constraint musical playdate is exactly what I wanted for Shuri! She loves music and interacting- but just on her own time. Needless to say, I was excited to go.

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When we got there, the theater was active but not loud. There were children already in the lobby, but there was also an activity room for kids to play. They had a lot of sensory toys, blocks, bean bags, pillows and colorful toys and attractions to keep children entertained. But what pleased me most were the adults working in the children's room. They were some of the most attentive and kind caretakers I've ever witnessed. They didn't walk-up on the children and impose themselves and force conversation— instead, they allowed personal space between themselves and the children and allowed them to approach. I absolutely loved that!

I feel like adults sometimes forget that babies and toddlers are tiny humans. They forget that they have feelings too, and therefore might not always feel sociable or receptive to their greetings. But Shuri was so thrilled! I put her on the floor and was expecting her to stand (but mostly crawl around) as she was the youngest in the room. Instead, my daring child grabbed not one, but two sensory-friendly toys and gave her father and me the biggest shock of all—she started walking! I don't know what it was that made her walk. Maybe it was because she was comfortable. Or it could have been because she was around big kids and wanted to keep up. But whatever it was, we're extremely grateful.

As we stood there recording our baby walking in on her own for the first time without our help, we were told the show was going to start soon, so we could make our way to the theater. So, we packed our bags and found us a seat. There were approximately 75 kids in the theater all seated and waiting for the show. The real magic was about to start, and Shuri was sitting in her own chair waiting for the show to begin.

Once the show started, all the kids were excited and participating. Even though Shuri couldn't actively do all the dances and sing the words, she was able to express her enjoyment by clapping her hands when she saw Max and Ruby sing and dance. She bounced up and down in her seat with glee. After about 15 minutes, she started standing up in her seat twisting her body back and forth. She even tried to participate by talking to Max and Ruby on stage! All the children in the audience were so happy! Yet even though they were singing and dancing, the volume level wasn't too high and distracting.

After the show was over, Max and Ruby left the stage and met everyone in the audience. They walked around the audience to meet all the children, and then quietly held each other's hands and did a parade outside the theater to take photos. Ruby even stopped by Shuri to wave, and Shuri blew her a kiss! It was the sweetest exchange ever. She really enjoyed herself, and so did the other children.

If you can get Max and Ruby in your town or city. I highly recommend the sensory-friendly musical. It allows children with different needs to socialize with other children without being overwhelmed.

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