Costumes and Carnivals: Be Prepared!
The holiday of Purim is right around the corner, and your kids are itching with excitement. Children who rely on routine and predictability, such as children with sensory modulation disorders, may become overwhelmed on Purim, especially at a loud party or carnival filled with people in all kinds of costumes. Here are a few suggestions to help make your child’s holiday experience more enjoyable.
A child’s idea of dress-up may be different from an adult’s. It is perfectly fine if your child only wants to wear a hat or a funny mask. Do not force him/her to wear something he/she is not comfortable with.
A young child may find some costumes frightening, even/especially that of a clown. Prepare him/her in advance by playing dress-up or reading books about clowns or dressing up. The best clown parties are when the clown gets dressed and puts on their make-up in front of the children.
Try to involve your child as much as possible in planning his/her costume. Let him/her pick it out or help make it. But don’t be disappointed if he/she rejects it at the last moment.
Before wearing a costume, practice putting it on and taking it off a few times. This will help your child tolerate the feel of the costume and get a sense of how it looks visually.
Prepare your child in advance by telling him/her where the party will be, who will be there, and what activities the party will include.
Let your child know that there will be people in costumes at the carnival. If he/she is afraid of certain costumes, try to play dress-up beforehand.
Try to arrive at the party early, when there are fewer people and less of a commotion.
If visual novelty or noisy environments tend to overwhelm your child, pick a “safe spot” where he/she can be encouraged to go if he/she needs a break from sensory overload.
Expectations should be realistic. It may be better to spend a successful 30 minutes at the carnival rather than buying handfuls of tickets and staying for an unsuccessful two hours.
Acknowledge to yourself in advance that you may need to spend more time helping your child than other parents. It may be daunting, but it will make the experience all the more manageable and enjoyable for both you and your child.
Written by Rachel Romanoff, OTR and Chaye Lamm Warburg, MA, OTR