Many kids love Halloween and look forward to it every year. However, some traditions, such as wearing costumes and creepy sounds and lights can be too much for children with sensory sensitivities.
We’ve prepared tips — and tricks — for parents so they can treat themselves to a fun and enjoyable experience this year.
Prepare and practice
Talk to your child about this holiday. Drawing, images, or videos may help them understand the holiday and know what to expect when it comes around. Explain and demonstrate some of the decorations and activities associated with Halloween, such as trick or treating or wearing a costume. You can practice trick or treating at home or with the neighbors. Let the child knock on the door or ring the doorbell, say “trick or treat,” and give them something they can put in the bag. A little map of trick or treating route may also be a good preparation for the child. It is also a good idea to try on a costume before Halloween to ensure it’s comfortable for the child and doesn’t trigger any sensory issues.
Decide on a costume
Speaking of costumes, they may trigger sensory overload for those with tactile sensitivities. Try on a costume to see if it fits correctly and comfortably. Make sure it’s not too big to create a stumbling hazard, but also is not so snug it limits the child’s movement. For those with tactile sensitivities, you might want to wear a costume on top of a regular t-shirt for extra comfort. Also, consider costume accessories. Wings, tails, ears, capes, belts, and other accessories can make a great costume without the need to wear uncomfortable fabrics and clothes. Finally, you can get creative with your child and ask them to decorate their own Halloween t-shirt. They can draw or write something funny on it to create a truly unique outfit they will enjoy wearing.
Ensure that they feel safe and enjoy themselves
If your child doesn’t want to go out at night and is not comfortable with some of the decorations, plan some daytime activities. A lot of schools, libraries, and farms host a variety of activities during the day. If your child does feel brave enough to go out trick or treating at night, let them take it at their own pace. If they’re visibly anxious or tired after a few houses, let them rest and see if they want to continue or go home. It is also a great idea to enlist a few of their friends or people they like into these activities, so they feel safe.
Ensure they don’t feel left out
If your child doesn’t like candy or is on a restricted diet, you might want to buy an alternative for them, like little toys or other snacks to give to your neighbors before Halloween, so they can give it to your child when you arrive. You also can discuss with your child what to do with candies once they get back home, how many (if any) they could have and what to do with the rest (you might want to swap candies for something else at home).
If your child doesn’t feel like trick or treating, don’t force them. Allow them to stay home and give out candy, if they prefer.
Finally, you might want to consider hosting a sensory-friendly party at your house with a few close friends and less scary noises. This will allow your child to feel comfortable and safe and create a positive festive association with Halloween.