Melodious songs fill your rooms, the aroma of scented candles waft through the hallways, oven timers ding from the kitchen and everyone feels a bit overwhelmed by all the preparations being completed in every nook of the house! The holiday season brings joy, excitement and family time. It also brings with it enough sensory stimulation to last you until next December! Whether it be tactile, olfactory or auditory stimulation, the holidays bring with them a copious amount of sensory information. Holidays can be a tough time for children who have sensory processing difficulties. Just remember, like any other time of the year, there are strategies to help with sensory sensitivities during the holidays.
Prepare your child for a holiday party and other family get-togethers with these sensory strategies:
- Create a visual schedule. Include the big details of the event, including dressing up for the get together, the commute to the event, expected activities and the friends/family that your child will get a chance to play with. A visual schedule is a great way to prepare your child for the types of sensory experiences they are about to have.
- Upon arrival to your holiday destination, help orient your child to the new space. Take a little tour of the venue, pointing out the bathroom, a quiet room and a play space. If you are familiar with the venue prior to arrival, make a map of the space and have your child put their favorite stickers on the areas that seem safe!
- If your child is has auditory sensitivities provide him with head phones or ear plugs to help dampen the sounds in his environment.
- Holiday parties provide adults with a bountiful feast but can leave children with squeamish looks on their faces. Encourage your child to try something new if the opportunity exists; but if the textures and smells seem overwhelming, have her preferred snacks hiding in your purse.
- If your child has tactile sensitivities to clothing, allow them to be comfortable. The holidays can be the time to bring out your best party attire, but that doesn’t mean your child needs a skirt filled with tulle or a bow tie. Allow your child to choose his holiday outfit based on preferences and tolerable textures. Those casual clothes may raise eyebrows, but that’s nothing to worry about as long as you know your child feels safe!
- If your child is movement-seeking, encourage a movement break as needed. Use gross motor activities like jumping jacks, dancing or toe touches!
- Holiday parties can be filled with the smells of candles, cooking and other guests’ perfumes. Allow your child to bring a comforting object from home, whether it be a familiar blanket or stuffed animal that has the scent of home and provides a sense of safety.
Remember that the holidays are a time for fun, for you and your children! Making the environment more sensory-friendly can enhance your child’s fun and create positive and lasting memories!