With the costumes, candy, parties and trick-or-treating, Halloween is many children’s favorite holiday. They revel in the dressing up, and find the festive decorations and spooky symbols of this season -- spider webs, mummies, ghosts and vampires -- thrilling. However, for many kids, even though they may look forward to Halloween, the sensory stimuli that comes along with this holiday can be challenging. Here are some tips to keep the festivities fun for all.
While dressing up is a big part of the fun, costumes can be problematic for many children, even those who don’t have sensory processing issues. They tend to be different fabrics and cuts than everyday clothing, and often have accessories that can range from frustrating to hazardous. Things like hats or other headdresses and masks can become bothersome and, in cases where vision is obstructed, even risky for children. Capes, tails, wings, and unusual footwear can also create risks for tripping. Bottom line: many costumes that seem great in theory end up causing problems. Think through the logistics of your child’s costume beforehand, and take his or her particular sensory sensitivities into consideration. Our advisory board member, Occupational Therapist and author, Lindsey Biel, offers helpful suggestions for dressing tactile sensitive kids, including choosing soft clothing with flat seams, removing irritating clothing tags, avoiding pinching elastic waistbands and cuffs, and using seamless socks.
Halloween parties can be fun, but can result in sensory overload for sensitive kids. Lindsey shares the following recommendations on her website, and also in her book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child:
- Explain in advance what to expect at the party.
Identify a “safe spot” to take breaks if needed to avoid sensory overload.
Bring a sensory soothing object such as a hand fidget to get needed calming input.
While noise-canceling headphones or earplugs should never be worn for extended periods, you can use them for short periods at parties if there is going to be a lot of scary sounds, screaming, and so on.
Trick or Treating
While going door-to-door and asking neighbors for candy is a time-honored Halloween tradition, the prospect of this can be daunting for children with social challenges. First of all, never force your child to go trick-or-treating. Talk about what to expect ahead of time, and if he or she seems worried or fearful, consider skipping this activity. If your child is nervous in the dark, plan to head out with plenty of daylight left. Finally, don’t over-do it with candy. Some children are particularly sensitive to excess sugar and processed foods, so talk to your child in advance about what will be done with the candy after trick-or-treating and how much he or she will be able to eat at a time. Donating part of the Halloween “loot” to children who are in a hospital or in need is always a lovely lesson in gratitude and service.