5 Tips for Creating a Sensory-Friendly July 4th

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5 Tips for Creating a Sensory-Friendly July 4th

The fourth of July is a great time to get together with family and friends, enjoy a barbeque, go to a parade and watch fireworks while celebrating Independence Day. While this patriotic holiday is a fun celebration, for kids of all ages it can feel overwhelming with the loud noises, bright lights, smells, crowds of people, and visual stimulation. Here are 5 sensory-friendly tips to help your child enjoy the day.

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Prepare your child in advance.

Discuss the schedule a few days ahead of time so your child knows what to expect. This helps provide a sense of security and lessens the fear of the unknown. Consider discussing the timeline of events, the location, number of people, and sounds and smells from the fireworks. 

Some children may benefit from a written or visual schedule. Other children may enjoy reading books about celebrating the fourth of July so they can learn how others celebrate.

Know your child’s preferences.

Be proactive before the event. If your child loves watching the sky light up with fireworks but doesn’t like loud sounds, provide them with noise canceling headphones, sit outside further away or watch from inside a car or building. If they are bothered by the smells, watch fireworks from inside or further away. For children that feel overwhelmed by the lights, try giving them sunglasses or a hat.

For children that don’t enjoy fireworks, involve them with a barbeque or other activities but bring them inside before the fireworks start. This is a great way for them to have fun celebrating the day.

Provide activities to promote calmness.

Involve your child with setting up for the event such as by moving lawn chairs, serving food, and hanging decorations. Pushing, pulling, lifting and other resistance activities provide heavy work, a type of sensory input that helps with self-regulation and calming. These activities may help prevent your child from feeling sensory overload. 

Use fidget toys or other items your child already enjoys for calming. A fidget is something that can fit inside of their hand or in their pocket to feel such as a soft piece of fabric, a piece of blue tack, or a squeeze ball. Some children like wearing tighter clothes or cuddling under a weighted blanket for relaxation. Try to make sure your child is rested before the event and bring water and snacks that you know your child will eat. 

Be flexible.

While you may have discussed the schedule for the day, stay flexible. If your child becomes tired or too stimulated, it may be time to finish the celebration at home or in a quieter space. Observe their mannerisms and check in with them to see how they are feeling.

Find an alternative.

Some children may just have more difficulty with large crowds and loud sounds. If you think your child will struggle, you can plan something else to celebrate the holiday like a movie and popcorn, game night, or enjoy a quiet barbeque at home. There are many fun ways on Pinterest for sensory play and sensory activities such as July 4th-themed sensory bottles or a July sensory bin! You can use simple materials such as water bottles around the house to create your own sensory bottle and/or sensory activity. Water beads are a fun activity too.

The Fourth of July holiday is filled with fun activities. Preparing your child and putting support in place can help everyone in your family enjoy celebrating together.  

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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