Before I had kids, I loved the Fourth of July – fireworks, sparklers, strawberry shortcakes, picnics with family, and parades. Now it’s loud noises, cranky hot kids, food allergies, funky comments, and more loud noises. Two of my children have sensory differences. They respond in varying degrees of delight or distress depending on the stimuli of the moment. I’ve included some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to make our day more enjoyable – tricks that any family can use to have a spectacular day. With some planning, there are some really cool activities to have a sensory-friendly July 4th.
Fireworks can be challenging, and I avoided them for years. Many families use noise-canceling headphones. Noise-canceling headphones reduce some of the loud sounds in the environment, allowing children the ability to enjoy a firework display without the loud BANG.
Light it Up
Many celebrations involve sparklers. We have had mixed results with them in previous years. But one thing that has always been a hit in our house and is a good alternative is light-up bracelets, necklaces, and wands!
I always pick up a bunch of these after holidays (like Halloween, Christmas, etc.) That way I have them on hand. You can also easily purchase them at discount or big box stores for under a dollar.
I think the 4th of July is one of those holidays where making your own t-shirt sounds really fun. I’ll admit that some years have been more “fun” than others. Like the year when I decided to let the kids splatter paint bleach on a navy blue shirt – let’s just say that wasn’t one of my best ideas. And some years, mom did most of the work.
Make a sensory activity with a patriotic t-shirt creation.
Materials needed – White T-shirt ($2), T-shirt paint ($1) Ruler
1. Lay the shirt out flat with a layer of paper or plastic in between the shirt on a flat surface.
2. Paint your child’s hand blue.
3. Place your child’s hand on the shirt in the right chest area (if you are looking at it – it’s on the left).
4. Paint the stripes on with red t-shirt paint. If you want it to be super accurate there are 7, but I don’t necessarily think that’s important. I used the ruler as a guide and straight line only. (I did not measure)
5. Let dry for a few hours
6. Put on one awesome shirt
You and your child have created a shirt that is both fun to wear and fun to make – and tested their sensory limits (paint is slimy; it’s wet; it’s cold; it’s squishy – and they have to keep it on their hand for a few minutes). There is also a reward at the end – something they can physically see to help your child remember the amazing day!
Sensory-sensitive holidays don’t mean that they are less.
It means being intentional and planning ahead. Sometimes a sensory-friendly July 4th is a wonderful low-key way to spend the holiday. Different isn’t bad. It’s its own kind of magic.