The Fourth of July can be a really fun, exciting holiday to spend time with family and enjoy the festivities. It can also be a difficult time for our kiddos with sensory sensitivities. There are small changes we can make that end up making a big difference in the long run! Here are a few suggestions to help your 4th of July be an enjoyable and memorable holiday.
Offer “big body”
Play throughout the day leading up to changes in routine or festivities. In order to prepare your kiddo’s body for changes, loud noises, family coming over, etc. Setting up obstacle courses, bunny hopping from room to room, or wheelbarrow walking are all big body movements. That help a child’s body feel calm and ready for changes in routine.
Offer “sensory break” Options
Such as headphones/earmuffs to block out noise caused by BBQs, yard games, commotion, and fireworks. Offering a break from the noise allows our kids with auditory sensitivities to remain part of the festivities without becoming overwhelmed. Wide-brimmed hats can offer a small break from auditory and visual input, as well. Giving kiddos the option to “control their environment” by placing headphones/noise canceling devices, or putting on a hat or visor to decrease visual input allows them to fully engage with friends and family throughout the holiday.
Create a “safe place”
When the child has had too much and needs a total body break. If you’re home enjoying the holiday, this might be a “crash corner” consisting of pillows and blankets in which they can go intermittently to take a break from the noise and commotion. If you’re out at a park or somewhere away from home, a discussion can be had helping the kiddo learn to vocalize when they need a break or the noise/input is “too much.”
Allow them to choose an “anchor” from home
Bring the “anchor” with them can also help with regulation. This might be a favorite truck, train, or doll. Using this “anchor” helps the child feel safe in a new environment. As well as giving an option for the truck/doll/item to enjoy the fireworks with them. The child can help the item feel “safe and calm” by leading through example.
Preparing your child for the events to follow can be very helpful. Showing pictures of fireworks or family BBQs helps them understand and process the out-of-routine events that will follow. Talking about what is going to happen and also giving coping tools and strategies (such as the safe place, vocalizing when things are “too much” or a “body break” is needed, and introducing sensory break options such as headphones/hat) will alleviate some of the fear or anxiety about changes in routine before the changes occur.
Overall, keep an eye on your child’s sensory signals in order to hopefully avoid a meltdown before it occurs. Taking small breaks from the noise and commotion can make a big difference in the long run. We all hope you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy your time with friends and family.