The JCC's Kulam program offers classes for special-needs children. (Credit:

Children with special needs thrive in structured environments, but need to have fun too!  There are several facilities in New York City that have the experience and the training to offer stellar playgroups for children with special needs.  We at CBS New York have chosen our favorites for children of varying ages and needs.

KEEN New York
Multiple locations

KEEN New York has a great playgroup that they offer in Manhattan and in the Bronx.  The focus of each two-hour session is on sports, but they also include arts and crafts activities in various sized groups.  They tailor each class to the participants’ needs and are able to be very flexible so that each child has an equally fulfilling and comfortable experience.  Each playgroup ends with the children circling up and sharing what they did at that session to make them proud. Then the whole group congratulates and encourages each child.  These playgroups can accommodate children ages 4 and up.

Chelsea Piers Building Blocks
Between Piers 61 & 62
23rd St. and Hudson River Park  | New York, NY  10011
(212) 336-6500 ext.6573

Chelsea Piers has created a new playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers with developmental needs.  Developed by a Speech-Language Pathologist and Special Education professionals the program employs activities such as sports, story time, music and cooking to reinforce the developmental milestones targeted in each session.  The classes are limited to 6 children (with 2 teachers per group) and there is an option of attending 2 sessions per week.

The JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue | New York, NY  10023
(646) 505-4444

Among the many wonderful offerings in the JCC Manhattan’s Kulam program for children with special needs, Build-a-Friendship is a playgroup for two age groups, 5-7 and 8-10.  The groups focus on building social and non-verbal communication skills using movement, games and role-playing.  The sessions are designed around the particular needs of each group and the schedule for each class is sent to the parents ahead of time so that they can prepare the students beforehand and follow up after each class.  The session is divided into structured activities and supervised free play so that there is a maximum opportunity for learning through play.

Renee Smith is a blogger with Mom in the City