Kids with sensory processing issues, or sensitive children as they are sometimes labeled, may behave in challenging ways for their caregivers or parents. “Hypersensitive kids avoid strong sensory stimulation and get overwhelmed easily,” according to Child Mind Institute. Sensitive children may react strongly to bright lights and/or loud noises and a lot of interaction with others. That can make celebrating Independence Day with children who have sensitivities difficult and may require extra consideration to ensure their comfort and enjoyment—especially when the rest of the world seems to want to be loud and party.
Here are some ways to celebrate Independence Day with sensitive children:
- Create a visual schedule: Help your sensitive children understand and prepare for the day’s activities by creating a visual schedule or timeline. This allows them to anticipate and mentally prepare for each event or change in routine.
- Sensory-friendly fireworks: Look for sensory-friendly fireworks displays in your area. These displays are designed to be less overwhelming, with reduced noise and brighter visuals. Alternatively, you can create a simulated fireworks experience using glow sticks or LED lights in a controlled environment.
- Quiet and calm spaces: Set up a quiet and calm space where your child can retreat if they become overwhelmed. This can be a designated room or a cozy corner with sensory toys, books, or calming activities to help them relax and recharge.
- Arts and crafts: Engage your child in patriotic-themed arts and crafts activities that are enjoyable and soothing. This can include painting, coloring, making decorations, or creating sensory bottles with red, white, and blue themes. American Autism Association has a great list of ten crafts for Fourth of July on their website. Click this link to access it.
- Sensory-friendly food options: Plan a menu that includes sensory-friendly food options. Consider your child’s dietary restrictions, preferences, and sensitivities. Offer a variety of snacks and meals that are not overwhelming in flavor or texture. Brain Balance Centers offers this advice: “Depending on your child’s food texture preference, serve either soft foods made using a food processor like creamy chicken salad or vegetables and proteins hidden in dips or for those who like a crunchy texture, serve fresh raw vegetables vs cooked or baked potato wedges instead of mashed potatoes. You can also sneak healthy ingredients into breads and muffins.”
- Social stories and preparation: Use social stories or visual aids to explain the concept of Independence Day and the activities that will take place. This helps your child understand what to expect, reduces anxiety, and promotes a sense of control.
- Virtual celebrations: If large crowds and noisy environments are challenging for your child, consider celebrating virtually. Watch virtual fireworks displays, participate in online patriotic-themed activities, or join virtual gatherings with friends or family.
- Plan activities with sensory input in mind: Incorporate activities that provide sensory input in a controlled manner. For example, blowing bubbles, playing with sensory sand or slime, or engaging in water play can provide a calming and enjoyable experience.
- Watch a family-friendly movie: Settle in for a movie marathon with family-friendly patriotic movies that your child enjoys. Create a cozy and comfortable environment with soft blankets, pillows, and snacks. This could include the Liberty’s Kids series, Molly: American Girl on the Home Front, An American Tale, or many more.
Remember, every child is unique, so it’s important to understand and accommodate their specific sensitivities and needs. Take breaks as needed, communicate openly, and prioritize your child’s comfort and well-being throughout the celebrations.
You can also advocate in your area for your town to either ban fireworks or switch to silent fireworks, which aren’t completely silent but are much quieter than the 150-180 decibels fireworks usually are. Towns and cities throughout Europe, Banff in Alberta, Canada, and a few cities in the United States like Costa Mesa, California, have made the switch. These type of fireworks work much better for pets, people with PTSD, and sensitive children.