Fourth of July or Independence Day celebrations can be a challenge for families with special needs loved ones living in the United States. Creating a sensory-friendly Fourth of July celebration can help make the entire day more manageable for your family. Depending on where you live, the celebration may come right up to your doorstep, in the form of parades, block parties, fireworks or festivals. If you want to celebrate the nation’s birthday without sending your special needs loved one running for the hills, then here are some tips to keep in mind:
Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July: Host the party
This is a tip that I recommend for almost any holiday or celebration that is important to your family. It keeps your loved one in familiar surroundings, you don’t need to worry about destroying someone else’s house, and, perhaps most importantly, you get to be in control of the guest list. In warmer months, when people are outside, we can handle a few more people without overwhelming Mr. Diggy, so we tend to do that. But if it’s been a rough patch, then we go with one or two families and call it a day.
Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July: Go with midday
Since most people are off all day on the 4th, there is no reason to wait until the “witching hour” of 5 pm. Lunch and swimming? Sure! An early barbecue and outdoor lawn games, like cornhole or stomp rocket? Great. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a good chance of tiring everyone out before evening hits.
Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July: Have fun with the food
Sure, hot dogs and hamburgers are easy crowd-pleasers, but consider a red and blue fruit salad over vanilla (or dairy-free coconut) ice cream. Grill some corn, and then, while it’s still on, throw a few homemade marshmallows on a skewer and toast away. (If you have a stand mixer, then this recipe is easier than you may think. And the results are beyond worth it – you will never want a store-bought marshmallow again!)
Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July: Rethink the fireworks
Fireworks experiences tend to vary greatly by community. In some areas, “at-home” fireworks are still legal and can be more controllable, but also closer. Many communities are transitioning to large, public displays, which may be viewed from a variety of distances, but also often are accompanied by crowds. Perhaps your family member with special needs is fascinated by fireworks, but can’t stand the sound? Then use noise-canceling headphones to make it work. But if your loved one is best served by avoiding the fireworks – and crowds – all together, then follow that lead. Light a few sparklers after bedtime. Send siblings to view fireworks with friends. Or put the fireworks on your nails and call it a day.