While birthday parties are often fun and exciting events for our children, they can also be overwhelming and overstimulating. If you are looking for some tips and tricks for you and your child to survive and thrive during birthday parties, this post is for you. They’re loud, crowded, and can be a huge change in routine for kids. Success within birthday party environments involves creating a plan (or two) that incorporates heavy work, deep pressure, and calming strategies. Knowing your child and what sensory integration they need before, during, and after an event can build the confidence your child needs to successfully participate in birthday parties.
We all want our kids to be included and accepted socially with their peers, so it is exciting when our kids get a birthday party invite. After the initial excitement wears off, the stress and panic might start to sink in…
What if my child can’t handle all the noise?
What will my ‘picky eater’ have to eat while he is there?
There are so many unexpected scenarios that may come up, how will my child react around the other kids?
While birthday parties are often fun and exciting events, they can also be overwhelming and overstimulating – for everyone. Birthday parties are typically loud, crowded, and can be a huge change in routine for kids.
Understanding your child’s sensory preferences and needs, creating a plan and implementing organizing tools an strategies into the routine can help support a successful birthday party experience for everyone! If you want to learn more about sensory integration, click HERE:
Here are some tools, activities and strategies that may provide the ‘just right’ amount of organizing sensory input for your child. Remember, you want to consider incorporating sensory strategies and activities into your child’s routine before, during, and after the event.
Before the event:
Tell your child what they can expect (e.g. “There will be lots of people at the party and it may be noisy. There will also be a petting zoo that you will have to wait your turn for.”)
Give the child time to get regulated before the event. Consider implementing:
- Movement-based activities:
- Use a therapy ball – have your child roll on their belly or sit and bounce
- Animal walks
- Heavy work:
- Chore ideas: carry heavy groceries, carry/push/pull the laundry basket, water the plants, etc.
- Obstacle course: push, pull, drag, or lift heavy items/furniture
- Wear a backpack filled with heavy items
- Deep pressure:
- Give your child big bear hugs
- Crawl underneath all the couch cushions/pillows
- Wrap your child up in a “blanket burrito”
- Oral motor input:
- A crunchy or chewy snack (e.g., pretzel sticks, carrots, apples, jerky)
- Drinking through a straw (e.g., drink a smoothie or applesauce with a straw, use a Camelbak or similar water bottle)
During the event:
- Consider arriving early
- Try wearing compression clothing under regular clothing for deep pressure
- Give opportunities for oral motor input (chewing gum, using a chewy necklace)
- Make a “go-bag” with fidgets and other sensory tools to use at the event
- Some ideas include putty, fidget poppers, squishy toys, noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat, a Camelbak filled with ice water
- If you notice your child losing control, you can try to briefly remove them from the situation so that you can review strategies that they can implement in that moment
- If they seem to be reaching a breaking point and getting out of control, it’s likely time to go. We want your child to be as successful as possible at the event, which means recognizing when they have reached their sensory limit!
After the event:
- Provide a calming environment: this may include…
- An enclosed space (e.g., tent, couch fort)
- Dim lights
- Quiet space
- Light rhythmical music
- Opportunities for deep pressure (e.g. hugs, laying under pillows, etc.)
Birthday parties can be great events for all, however, can be overwhelming for kids with sensory challenges. Implementing these strategies can increase success and engagement during these new activities.
Hi! My name is Meaghan Hernon. I am an Occupational Therapist at South Shore Therapies. I am passionate about optimizing children’s self-advocacy skills and collaborating with families to best support their child’s individual needs. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future. If you want to read more about us, visit www.southshoretherapies.com