A Sensory Friendly 4th of July


The 4th of July is a day most people celebrate with parties full of family and friends, and of course fireworks. However, if you’re a veteran, have a child with sensory processing difficulties, or even a pet, Independence Day might not be quite the celebration everyone else thinks it is. Crowded parties, hot weather, loud fireworks, and intense visual stimuli can be overwhelming to say the least. Don’t worry though, there are several ways to make the 4th of July more sensory friendly for you and your loved ones.

Opting Out of Fireworks

One of the easiest things to do is celebrate without fireworks. If you live in a neighborhood that loves fireworks, prepare a safe place inside your house. This space may include a fan or noise machine. You can even have ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones on hand just in case things still get a little too loud. Then, when the fireworks start, gather the family to watch a movie or play a game together.

It’s also important to prepare your children ahead of time. Let them know there will be fireworks and what to expect. You can show videos of fireworks or provide a social story. Depending on their age, your child might even like to know how exactly fireworks work, to help calm their fears.

Tips To Keep 4th of July Celebrations Fun

If you still plan on having a party, going to a parade, watching a firework display, or even lighting fireworks off at your house, here are a few tips that might help make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Firstly, prepare your family by talking about what to expect during the day/night. This will help all children, not just those with sensory processing challenges. If you are planning on going to a parade, talk about what they will see and hear.

For example, “We are going to a parade. There will be a lot of people standing up to watch cars and trucks drive by. Some people might throw candy out of their cars. There might be horses walking too and people playing music in a band. We will see firetrucks and police cars and they will turn on their sirens.” You can also show a video of a parade or pictures of what parades look like. If you’ve been to a parade before you can talk about that parade and show pictures or videos from it. The same type of preparation is also be helpful for parties and firework displays.

When celebrating, make sure your children or family members know they can take a break from the festivities. Practice using a word like “break” or a visual cue/picture to represent a break that everyone will recognize. Have a safe place designated that they can go (whether at home or away). If a family member or child is easily overwhelmed by crowds or loud noises, and you are planning on going out to celebrate, pick a less crowded place farther away from the areas you know fireworks will be going off.

4th of July

Items to Have On Hand for the 4th of July

If you do plan on leaving the house for the 4th of July, it may be helpful to have these items on hand:

  • Ear plugs or noise canceling headphones
  • Water/snacks
  • Portable fan/water mister
  • Sunscreen/sunglasses/hats
  • Favorite toy
  • Weighted blanket, heavy backpack, heavy stuffy

What Overstimulation may look like

It’s also important to be aware of what overstimulation may look like in children. An easy signal is seeing your child cover their ears or eyes. You may observe them becoming more irritable, crying, or becoming overly excited. Some children may even attempt to flee or run away. If you notice these signs, try to determine if your child needs a break or some other form of sensory input. These may include headphones, or a weighted blanket, etc.

Whatever your 4th of July plans include, make sure you talk to your kids about what to expect. Keeping the lines of communication open and having a back up plan in place may help to make the day go more smoothly for everyone. Pathways.org also has some useful 4th of July safety tips that are worth checking out before you begin your celebrations.

If you are looking for some good sensory play ideas, check out another great blog, Exploring the World Through Sensory Play.