A Christmas Parade is what I like to call a sensory-rich experience. That’s a term I’ve coined to help explain the opposite of sensory-friendly. Did you know that if you add a quiet zone to your Santa Claus Parade, you will attract many more people to your parade? Parades are known for loud music, bright, flashing lights, notwithstanding the extra hustle and bustle that accompanies Santa.
But for many children; including children with anxiety, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, learning disability, sensory processing disorder, and seizure many other disabilities, the excitement of seeing Santa Claus plus the added noise and lights and crowds is just too much. In fact, for many children, without an underlying disability, Santa Claus Parades can be simple be: meltdown madness. And parents and families avoid it. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a crowd with a screaming, crying, inconsolable child. But, it is easy to add a quiet zone to your parade route and in doing so, you offer a sensory-friendly experience for all children and families to enjoy. Help create magical memories at Christmastime for children to enjoy in a few simple steps.
How to offer a Sensory Friendly Santa Claus Parade
I took the photo below at my local Santa Claus Parade. They’ve been offering a quiet zone for several years now.
To help you make your Christmas Parade sensory-friendly I’ve created an easy to follow check-list that takes you through all the steps. Get the Sensory-Friendly Santa Claus Parade Checklist.
It contains helpful hints like:
- What to write on the signs (hint: it isn’t quiet zone like the picture)
- All the specific directions you need to give to partcipants/floats. Such as, no sirens, turn off strobe lights and so on.
- Ideas on how to share the message about your inclusive event.
List your Santa Claus Parade
People with sensory sensitivities visit our website because we list sensory-friendly experiences for people with all types of disaiblties, challenges and just people who like a little less noise, busy-ness and bright lights in their life. We are not associated with any one disaiblity that results in a sensory sensitivity but work towards bringing information to all the people with sensory sensitivity who look for it.
4 things to help your child enjoy a Christmas Parade
Here a three things you can do to help your child enjoy a Santa Claus Parade whether is has a quiet zone, sensory-friendly zone or is sensory-rich throughout and the 4th is to choose a sensory-friendly parade if you can!
- Practice through play. Children really do learn best via play. Introduce the idea and/or help your child conduct a present Santa Claus Parade with their toys. You can then talk to them about what to expect. You can also then help plan with them what to do if it becomes overwhelming. Communicate with your child to help prepare them for what could come. Help them understand and envision what is going to be different that day. Start by talking about what your child might expect and if possible, get your child’s feedback ahead of time on what your child may feel.
- Ensure your child isn’t hungry, tired, thirsty or has to go to the bathroom during your time at the parade. A tall order, I know! But planning ahead and taking care of these basics really do help your child manage sensory overload. That 4-point check-up should be a requisite before going on any outing! Schedule a bathroom break. Ensure a good night’s rest and/or quiet time before the parade. Bring snacks and a drink.
- We love these helpful hints from Parenting Coach Alison Smith: Setting Limits with Empathy and Respect. Christmastime is very sensory-rich. It is supposed to be. And sometimes being sensory-friendly means setting internal limits when the external environment that is busy, noisy and bright creates sensory overload.
- We know we are launching this initiative super-late in the season! We will do better next year. You can look for sensory-friendly Santa Claus Parades in our listings. If you know that your local parade is Sensory Friendly then please add it! Anyone can submit a listing. ANYONE!
Did you know you can look for Sensitive Santa at malls across Canada and the United States?
And you can read more about helping your child visit Santa at the mall or Christmas party as well as download a FREE Visiting Santa Story to read, watch or listen to with your child.
Christel Seeberger worked as an occupational therapist for more than 25 years helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has sensory sensitivity herself; she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016. Sensory Friendly Solutions brings together people around the world looking for sensory friendly living and businesses and organizations who offer sensory friendly experiences.