Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support
Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support

Sensory Friendly Birthday Party Ideas 

Children with sensory differences ... painting the world beautiful.  

Sensory Friendly Birthday Party Ideas 

Jeanette Loftus

children with sensory processing disorder having fun at a birthday party with cake and balloons Sensory Friendly Birthday Party Ideas
All children deserve to be able to celebrate their birthdays. Birthday parties can be extremely challenging for some children who have Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder and Autism.
Birthday parties can be overwhelming and overstimulating when you have sensory differences but they don't need to be. Creating a sensory friendly birthday party isn't as intimidating as it may seem. Sensory friendly birthday parties for children can avoid meltdowns and sensory overload.
There are adjustments that can be made so that a birthday party is inclusive for all children to enjoy. Prioritize their sensory needs and comfort. Plan a birthday event that they would enjoy with the space they need to be themselves.
If your child doesn't have sensory differences, you may have other children come to your child's birthday that struggle.
Most birthday parties are too loud with bright lights. This is why we should accommodate sensory needs for all children so they can feel more comfortable. The less chaotic their environment is, the less anxious they will feel.
Sensory Friendly Birthday Party Ideas
1. A visual schedule leading up to the birthday party is helpful so your child knows when to expect they're having a party. This creates predictability for your child.
2. Planning your child's sensory friendly outfit is also an important part of their day. They want to be comfortable on their special day. This will cut down on meltdowns during the day. Have an extra set of clothes with you if the original outfit doesn't work out. Pack comfy swimming clothing too if there is going to be swimming. It is okay if your child doesn't want to dress up or wear a special birthday shirt. They can wear one of their favorite outfits too.
3. Some children feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. You can change your event from a birthday party to a get together or gathering. Make new traditions and do what feels right for your child and your family.
4. Planning where to have your child's birthday party is important. Is there a place they are more comfortable? A place where they feel free to be themselves? A place they often go to? The more familiar the birthday place, the more predictable it will be for your child. A small gathering at home is just as good as any other birthday party venue.
5. Some children who have anxiety or sensory differences may also prefer smaller crowds, foods that are familiar and sensory activities. Ask your child to be a part of the process. Ask them for their preferences. If your child would like a theme, let them choose the theme. Ask them what birthday decorations they would like to have at their birthday party. Having predictability will help them be less anxious. Avoid loud music and a lot of decorations because this can be very overstimulating.
6. When it comes to gift giving or gift opening, it can be different for each child. While some enjoy gift exchanges, some find it embarrassing, overwhelming, disappointing and emotionally intense. We shouldn't force gift opening in front of others and be respectful for what our children's personal needs are. Gift giving can be done privately and you can send photos or a video after the party.
7. If your child doesn't enjoy surprises, you can have a gift registry so they have predictability. Translucent paper or no wrapping paper can be preferred by many children to avoid surprises. If there are a lot of gifts you can always choose to spread them out and not open all of them at the same time. Sensory tools can be great gift ideas.
8. Sensory birthday party activities can allow parties to run a lot smoother. All children have different sensory needs and interests. You can set up a few sensory stations for: sensory bins, sensory bottles, water play, trampoline, slide, pool, bouncy castle or a fun scavenger hunt.
9. You don't have to schedule a ton of activities; sometimes less it best. If you are wanting a more calmer birthday party you could provide bubbles, teach some yoga poses or do some mindful activities.
10. If your child has sensory differences with foods try to have a selection of foods they are comfortable with eating and a few other selections for guests. Including sensory friendly foods and avoiding strong smelling foods will help your child feel more comfortable. Provide your guests with a selection of crunchy, salty, creamy, soft, bitter or sour finger foods. Some children may come to your child's birthday party that have dietary needs such as gluten intolerant or food allergies.
11. Children who have Sensory Processing Disorder should have a quiet space where they can get away and be alone if they need too. This space should have some of their preferred sensory calming items. This is a great space for other children attending the party who also struggle with sensory differences. Have a bag at the party with your child's noise cancelling headphones, weighted lap pad or fidgets. They may require these sensory tools during the party.
12. Sensory friendly birthday parties should be small with a short guest list of only close family and friends. Invite understanding and caring guests. You want your child's birthday party guests to be understanding. When creating your invitations include the sensory activities that are planned, an event schedule and what foods will be available. This way, parents can prepare their children to make things more predictable for them and they will know what they need to bring to assist their child while they attend the party.
13. It is expected that cake is served at birthday parties and your child to blow out the candles but that is not what every child wants. Ask your child what they would prefer. They may choose cupcakes or no cake at all. They may enjoy candles but not want to blow them out in front of others. If your child doesn't feel comfortable with singing Happy Birthday song or want to hear it then you don't need to include it. You can always start a new tradition for your child that makes them feel special.
14. If you plan to provide birthday loot bags for kids, there are little sensory loot bag ideas to include for children. Avoid loud noisy party blowers. Slime, play dough, bubbles, fidgets and sensory dyed rice are a few great ideas.
15. Some parents set up an arts or crafts table instead and each child gets to take their project home with them.
Have a back up plan. A plan A, plan B and a plan C for if things don't go as expected. Remember to be kind to yourself in this process. Don't feel pressure to have the dream birthday party that others expect you to have. If your child is happy, that is all that matters. 

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DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional. Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links on my website.  Each of your purchases through links on my website for Amazon affiliation links or sponsored links support me but no additional cost to you so thank you. I appreciate it so much!