Halloween will be here soon. While this is a fun time on and excitement for many children. Those with sensory processing challenges can have difficulty navigating the extreme sensory experiences. From costume textures to scary noises and spooky decorations. It can add up to a lot of sensory information to experience and process. This doesn’t mean your child has to or should avoid Halloween altogether. Here are some guidelines to help prepare your child.
Halloween Initial Preparation:
If your child has sensory processing challenges, you’ll likely want to follow these initial guidelines for multiple aspects of the child’s life. You can use these to prepare for Halloween, and then modify them for other experiences as well.
- Make a book or schedule of events to expect so that child has an idea ahead of time what he/she will encounter.
- You can get a blank picture book at the dollar store and fill it with Halloween related pictures
- Tell stories about Halloween (or other specific events)
- Helpful Halloween Books: Aim to focus on non-scary books
- And Then Comes Halloween
- Little Goblins Ten
- Shivery Shades of Halloween
- Clifford’s Halloween
- Curious George Goes to a Costume Party
- Helpful Halloween Books: Aim to focus on non-scary books
- Utilize Sensorimotor Activities for fully body regulation;
- Proprioceptive squeezes or hugs given prior to, throughout the evening, and after the task
- Swing/bouncing in fabric swings
- Jumping in ball pit or onto crash pads
- Additional Information
- Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss
- The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
- The Sensory Show Podcast
- If after trying all these task, your child is still having trouble, consider creating new Halloween traditions * (see resources below).
Costumes and Dressing up:
Perhaps your child loves wearing his/her new costume. But if your child has tactile sensitivities it is likely it could be a struggle to have your child wear a costume.
- Start your preparation early. Get costume a month or so early and slowly introduce it.
- Take your child shopping for the costume. Have your child touch costumes in the store.
- To help child get used to the costume, engage child in daily family dress up time 3-5x/week for 2-4 weeks prior to costume events. Increase time period of wearing costume as the days get closer to the event.
- Are there multiple pieces. Try introducing one piece at a time and slowly building up.
Tend to feel, look, and smell different than regular clothing. Try the following tips to address sensitivities.
- When possible try to choose a costume that has a fabric your child tolerates well. For example, choose cotton over polyester, etc.
- To soften the fabric before your child wears it, wash it 2-3 times *
- Remove Tags and extraneous fabric that may be bothersome
- Consider/try lining the inside of the fabric with a soft cotton or fleece. *Or have your child wear comfortable clothes/pajamas under the costume.
- If your child wants to wear a mask, have him/her wear it around the store for a few minutes to ensure he/she tolerates it. Try the following techniques to prepare your child’s nervous system.
- Gentle head squeezes
- Use a mirror
- Take turns wearing mask with child
- Hair brushing/scalp brushing to assist with desensitizing
- Be aware of face paint if your child is sensitive to smells and textures
- If interested in trying it, let your child paint your face. Try having some face painting nights in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
- Bring wet wipes/ make up remover wipes along with you the night of to comfort your child that you can remove the face paint if it becomes uncomfortable.
- Specific/Simple Costume Ideas*
- Make a cape from a soft bath towel.
- Noise-cancelling headphones help your child become a construction worker or air traffic controller
- Attach ears to a favorite hoodie and a tail to some sweatpants, to become a cat, dog, rabbit or other animal.
Go to a store with lots of Halloween decorations and have your child feel and experience the various decorations and noises they make.
- The sound of your child’s own breathing inside a mask may be an issue. If he wants to wear a mask, have him test it out at the store for a few minutes before buying it. *
- Allow child to wear ear plugs or headphones for the evening as needed
- Brainstorm with your child all the possible noises they might hear during Halloween and Trick or Treating and practice making those noises together.
- Let your child know ahead of time that you stop the activity or take a break any time he/she feels uncomfortable. You can ask if he/she would rather go home and pass out candy *
- Schedule check in time every 5 minutes or so to ask your child if they are feeling okay and want to continue. Let your child know ahead of time you will be doing this
- The following tips *
- Map out and practice the route with your child ahead of time so it feels familiar.
- Go out at dusk or before the streets get very dark and crowded.
- Bring a flashlight.
- Pull your younger child in a wagon or let your older child ride his bike to avoid having other kids crowd or bump into him.
Pumpkins and Textures:
- If pumpkin “guts” are too much for your child to handle, consider painting a pumpkin or using markers and instead of carving. *
Additional Sensorimotor Activities for Regulation:
- Sensorimotor activities to utilize before the sensory experience (ie, before introducing costumes, before going trick or treating, etc.) Can also be utilized during and after.
|Get Small in a ball; Get big like a star (2x 5-10 reps||Seal walk (50ft)
|Proprioceptive Squeezes with Deep Breathing (2 mins||Frog Hops (100ft)|
|Prone ball walkouts (4×30 sec)||Wheel barrow walk (100ft)||Jumping Jacks (2×25 reps)||Frog Hops (100ft)|
|Prone scooter board (150ft)||Wall hand stands (2×10 sec)||Bear walk (100ft)||Seal walk (50ft)|
|Seated scooter board (150ft)||Superman extensions (4×30 sec)||Heavy lifting (5 min)||crab walk (100ft)|
|Swinging (10-15 min)||Snowball crunches (4×30 sec)||Burpees (2×10 reps)||Bear walk (100ft)|
|Bike riding (10-15 min)||Prone plank Extensions (4×30 sec)||Brushing and compressions||Proprioceptive Squeezes with Deep Breathing (2 mins)|
|Push/Pull 3-5LB object (5 min)||Hop up/down steps (2×25 reps)||Wall pushups (30 reps)||Get Small in a ball; Get big like a star (2x 5-10 reps)|
Wishing you all Happy Halloween!!
(*) Halloween Challenges for Kids With Sensory Processing Issues and How to Help. Morin, Amanda. (2014-2018).