Halloween can be stressful for kids with sensory issues, but following a few tips can help make the holiday fun for everyone.
Give a preview
Talk to your child about what happens on Halloween. You might read a book where a character celebrates Halloween, find a video on YouTube of children trick-or-treating, or create a picture story that explains in detail what they might see and do. If your child knows what to expect, they’re less likely to have a negative reaction.
Find sensory-friendly costumes
Getting any child into a Halloween costume can be tricky, and for those with sensory sensitivities, it could be even trickier. Use comfortable clothes as a base for their costume or even create a costume from familiar clothing. You can find hoodies or pajamas that come in favorite characters or themes, like firefighter or princess. Add on extra items, such as capes or wings, if tolerated. A super hero t-shirt paired with the appropriate color sweatpants or leggings makes a quick and easy costume. Avoid face paint and masks that might smell and feel funny, and can interfere with their vision, balance or movement. The internet is a great resource for finding sensory-friendly costume ideas. Even Target has recently started selling adaptive Hallloween costumes:
Practice ahead of time
Try on the entire costume, including accessories, ahead of time. You might let your child wear their costume around the house a couple of weeks before Halloween so they can get used to how it feels and you can adjust any parts that may bother them before the big day. Practice walking to the door, saying “trick or treat,” putting the treat in a bag and saying “thank you” at the homes of family members or familiar neighbors.
Keep it familiar
Maintain as many routines as you can throughout the day. If you do trick-or-treat, stay close to home and go to the houses of people who know you. Your child may do better starting early and avoiding the dark. Skip houses with flashing lights, loud noises and particularly scary decorations. Watch for signs of sensory overload and know your child’s limits.
Have a back up plan
No matter how much you have prepared, your child may change their mind on the day. Don’t force the issue. Switching to a simple character t-shirt may work just as well as a full-body costume. If trick-or-treating is too overwhelming, your child might like handing out candy just as much as receiving it. Consider inviting one or two of your child’s friends to come over and play a few games instead. Remember to stay positive and have fun- with the right tools you and your child can both enjoy this special day!