Sensory-Smart Purim: Strategies for Children with Tactile Defensiveness
Updated: Mar 6
Purim is a joyous and festive holiday celebrated by Jewish communities all around the world. A central part of this holiday is dressing up in costumes, which is so exciting for most kids and daunting for others. Kids with sensory processing disorders or tactile defensiveness can be over-sensitive to particular textures and materials, making it difficult to tolerate unfamiliar clothing, scratchy fabrics, tags, or seams. As a parent, it can be challenging to keep the excitement of Purim, while making sure that costume stress does not catapult them into a fight or flight response.
Here are some practical tips and strategies for creating a sensory-friendly and comfortable Purim experience for any child who is put off by texture, change, and noise, whether neurotypical or diagnosed with autism or attentional challenges.
Involve your child in the costume selection process: and don’t forget, big funny glasses, face paint, a removable tattoo, a hat, a cape or a clever graphic tee shirt can be a costume. Allow your child to choose their own costume and let them choose something that feels comfortable for them. Plan way in advance and have at least 2 acceptable alternatives. So many children change their minds at the last minute! If your child is sensitive to bright colors or patterns, select a costume in a more subdued color or style. If they hate seams, you can cover them with duct tape or fabric tape. Not wearing a costume should be an acceptable alternative. Your child can go as their twin!
Practice wearing the costume before Purim: Encourage your child to wear the costume around the house before Purim. This will allow your child to get used to the sensation of wearing it and identify any areas that may be uncomfortable or irritating.
Use sensory-friendly clothing and accessories: There are several sensory-friendly clothing options that can help your child feel more comfortable in their costume. For instance, you can use a layer of soft clothing under the costume to minimize discomfort. You can also use soft, flexible accessories, such as foam swords or hats, instead of hard plastic or metal items.
Make sure your child can easily put it on, take it off and go to the bathroom.
Write a social story: Help prepare your child for any unfamiliar day so that they know what to expect. For example, write a social story that includes putting on the costume, and how it might feel when it comes off. If your child is hypersensitive to noise and crowds, don’t forget to prepare them for the graggers (noisemakers)!
With diligent advanced preparation, you can create a sensory-friendly environment to help your child feel comfortable, supported, and included during Purim celebrations. Head off meltdowns by setting your expectations for participation low, and giving your kids socially acceptable alternatives that allow them to avoid activities that may be fun for your other children but overwhelming for their sensory systems, or to participate from afar.
Have a Happy Purim!