Tips for sensory friendly trick or treating and Halloween activities.
Halloween is a fun time of the year, enjoyed by many. The excitement of picking out a costume, decorating homes and schools, carving jack o’ lanterns, and the peculiar oddity of it is something we love and are familiar with.
Halloween is so exciting to most people because of the thrill of it all; it’s all about triggering the fight-or-flight response and experiencing being surprised and scared (but still being completely safe.) However, for our kiddos who already struggle with self regulation and have sensory processing issues, Halloween and trick or treating can sometimes be uncomfortable or cause anxiety. Read on for some sensory tips to consider…
- Comfy costumes. Some costumes are scratchy, uncomfortable, stiff and restrict movement. For children who have sensory issues, this can be very painful and bothersome. Look for a comfortable costume that’s soft, allows movement, and doesn’t have a lot of hanging pieces. Also, everyday regular clothing can be used as a costume. A black shirt and pants can easily dress up into a black cat with some accessories. Or a simple black t-shirt with a printed skeleton design on it (or any festive Halloween shirt!) can be a great option to avoid uncomfortable clothing.
*Avoid face masks
*If using face paint, go light with it and don’t cake too much on the face. Also, look for a brand that won’t irritate the skin. Eco Kids makes a great hypoallergenic face paint that’s made from natural and mineral pigments.
- Prepare. Practice trick or treating before the big night. Explain the process and also talk about the types of things to expect or that they may encounter.
- Migrate if needed! Halloween night can be very overstimulating, depending on where you live and the type of neighborhood/ town you’re trick or treating in. If you live in a very busy town where it’s very crowded, consider going to a different neighborhood where it’s a little quieter and less hectic.
- “Exit plan.” Don’t stray too far from your home or car. Try to stay close to somewhere you can go to in case you need to take a break and have some quiet. If your child starts to become overstimulated and things become overwhelming, you can take a quick break by going back home to relax and decompress.
- You do not have to go to every house. Use your judgement and skip the houses with the strobe lights, loud music or excessively scary decorations (there’s always those houses!)
- Keep it short and sweet. Trick or treating doesn’t have to be an all night event. Visit a few houses and depending on how your child is reacting and holding up, you can decide wether to continue or head home.
- “Lower the volume.” Halloween night is filled with lots of loud noises, lights, and unexpected events and activity. Children yelling, elaborate decorations that make unexpected noise, and music. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, you can have your child wear some noise-reduction headphones. If your child is wearing headphones, be sure to always stay close to your child and closely supervise for safety reasons.
- Skip the trick or treating? If trick or treating is too much for your child or your child simply isn’t into it, that’s completely okay! There’s more to halloween than just trick or treating. Your child can have fun handing out candy at home or have a halloween movie night on the couch with popcorn and candy. Also, many towns, churches, malls, and shopping centers host smaller Halloween events for children. Participating in one of these events can be just as fun and less overwhelming.
- Pumpkin decorating adaptations. Carving pumpkins can be a fun sensory activity- squishing their hands around the inside of the pumpkin can be a fun and “gross” activity. However, children who have tactile sensitivity or do not like these types of textures can have fun or decorating a pumpkin with stickers or markers instead.
- Cover up the hay! If you’re planning on doing a haunted hayride or visiting a farm that gives tractor hay rides, bring a light blanket to cover the hay before sitting down. For children with tactile sensitivities, this can be a huge relief and make the activity much more comfortable.
Author: Christina Kozlowski, Occupational Therapist & Owner of Sensory TheraPLAY Box