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Independence Day is synonymous with fireworks, back yard cookouts, pool parties and beach trips. Fun in the sun! However, for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or even a sensory sensitivity, this can be an overwhelming season. Noise, sun, sweat, or scratchy sand between the toes can cause sensory overload.
The next thing you know your sweet child is melting down faster than a popsicle in the sunshine.
The good news is, there are lots of ways to make Independence Day a fun time for the whole family, even your sensory-sensitive child. All it takes is a little preparation and patience. Here are my best 5 tips for a sensory friendly Independence Day. I’ve used all of these with success for my sensitive kids.
Prepare Your Child For The Activities
This sounds simple, but it’s easy to overlook, especially if you’re a spontaneous parent who likes to hop in the car for impromptu trips. My middle son needs to know the daily schedule to feel his most comfortable. We talk about what where we’ll be going, what we’ll be doing, and what he can expect.
Let your child know if they will see friends at your destination. Tell them if there will be bright lights or loud sounds. Even little details can help – like if they’ll be walking on sand or gravel.
However, be sure to share in a fun way. “We’ll get to stomp across the crunchy gravel parking lot to go watch the parade.” Sounds much more fun than “Now, there’s going to be gravel in the parking lot and I don’t want you to freak out!.”
Phrasing it in a happy way gives your child the opportunity to look forward to this sensory experience as a bonus or a game.
Arm Yourself with Toys and Tools
I’ve found it super helpful to pack a “preparedness bag.” Sometimes our kids just need to stay well fed and hydrated to avoid a meltdown. Other times, they need tools to comfort their specific sensory needs, or toys to distract them from overwhelming stimuli. Items I usually pack are:
- Snacks! A sampling of everything from crunchy to chewy, and sweet to salty.
- Drinks. Kids can’t always recognize when they’re feeling dehydrated. Stay away from sugar and caffeine as much as possible.
- Chew toys. Sometimes, even older children chew to relieve tension. Chic teething necklaces are a great way to disguise this need for older girls.
- Coloring books, crayons, and/or chalk.
- Fidget toys. These can be anything from silly putty to finger spinners to squeeze balls.
- Noise cancelling headphones if I know there will be auditory chaos.
Party At Home
My daughter is extremely sensitive to noise. In the past, we’ve opted to stay home on Independence Day rather than attempt to take in the large community fireworks display. But again, we make it fun! It’s not about what we’re missing out on, we focus on what we’re gaining.
We spend the day enjoying at-home summer time activities. That usually includes fun in the hose or pool. Confession – I’ve often bought a special back yard water toy just for Independence Day.
We also make special treats like a flag cake or homemade frozen fruit pops. Or engage in a fun Netflix binge of our favorite family friendly shows – with lots of popcorn, of course.
Early Bed Time
We have a relatively early bed time around here, and we keep it that way, even in the summer. This helps tremendously on Independence Day because it means I can get my kids in bed and settled before the noise of community fireworks (or crazy neighbor fireworks) can frighten them.
I also try to muffle the pops and bangs with a sound machine, audio book, or classical music playing in the background as they sleep.
If your children don’t have an early bed time. Consider having a family movie night during the prime fireworks time.
Lastly, be available. Again, that might sound simple, but it can be difficult if you’re hosting a party. Or if, let’s face it, it’s your first time chatting with other adults in over a week and you just want to relax daggonit!
Now is not the time to expect our kids to “just play” or to have an uninterrupted evening with hubby. It can be frustrating to have to be “on” all the time. But, remember, your child needs you. They aren’t being difficult on purpose. They are genuinely overwhelmed, scared, or upset.
I often have to remind myself how I feel when I’m upset and someone shrugs it off or minimizes my pain. I can tell you, it doesn’t help the situation. So, I try to be my child’s healthy support, rather than being frustrated. Emphasis on try, because I’m not perfect either.
With a little preparation, work, and patience your whole family – yes even your sensory child – can have a sensory friendly Independence Day!
Do you have a sensory-sensitive child? How do you help them with their unique needs and issues?
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