Choose a Sensory Friendly Santa Claus Parade for Your Child

Parades are a sensory-rich experience. As a result, parades are often a Christmas event that is not accessible to many families. Is that true for your family? Sensory-rich means there is a lot of things in the location or event that stimulate the senses. Moreover, you have more than 5 senses. For many children (and adults, too) Santa Claus parades are simply overwhelming. Ultimately, the parade experience contributes to sensory overload. A sensory-rich experience can be caused by any of the senses being overwhelmed and irritated. Furthermore, many people have sensory sensitivities, and especially children and adults sensory disorders or autism find Santa Claus parades a sensory challenge, even though they want to attend.

Trish Hamilton contributed to this blog post. Hamilton is a mother of a child on the autism spectrum who also has sensory processing disorder. Hamilton also works in digital marketing.

What makes Santa Claus parades sensory-rich?

When you think about parades, often you imagine loud music as well as bright and flashing lights. In addition, there are often are large crowds of people lining the route. Hamilton explained that all of these factors are overwhelming. For instance, a busy, noisy, bright event contributes to sensory overload in her child.

Do you relate? For instance, are you trying to avoid a meltdown from your child? For children with sensory differences, parades are stressful and anxiety-inducing because they are sensory-rich.

“It’s all in celebration, but for children with sensory sensitivities, the heightened excitement can be disturbing for them.”

Trish Hamilton, mother of a child with autism and a sensory processing disorder
Group of performers at Santa Clause parade.

Why choose a sensory-friendly Santa Claus parade?

A sensory-friendly Santa Claus parade will offer accommodations and changes to make the parade more accessible and inclusive. Therefore, choosing a parade that meets the needs of your child sets your family up for an enjoyable Christmastime activity. Finally, set your child up for success by matching exciting and special activities to their comfort zone.

Alternatively, if your local parade is not sensory-friendly, consider these tips from Hamilton:

  • Watch the parade on video instead of attending in-person.
  • Arrive early and find a spot at the very beginning of the parade so you can leave quickly.
  • Bring noise-cancelling ear muffs.
  • Have fidgets on hand.

In addition to this, check out St. John’s, Newfoundland’s local sensory-friendly Santa Claus parade for more inspiration.

What to expect at a sensory-friendly Santa Claus parade?

Common changes you can expect at an adapted parade are:

  • A quiet zone or low-sensory zone along the parade route.
  • No music in that zone.
  • No flashing lights in that zone.
  • Signs to mark the special zone.

3 Things to Prepare Your Child for a Santa Claus Parade

Here are three things you can do to prepare your child for a Santa Claus Parade to help them feel comfortable and create a great experience.

  1. Practice through play.
  2. Plan bio breaks.
  3. Avoid hunger and thirst.

Practice through play.

One of the best things to do that helps children prepare for new or exciting activities is to practice through play. Children learn through play. As a result, playing Santa Claus Parade lets your child anticipate what to expect and prepare for it. It also lets them practice the unexpected.

Plan bio breaks.

Ensure your child goes to the toilet before the parade. Plan bio breaks in advance. Managing the urge to go to the toilet can contribute to sensory overload.

Avoid hunger and thirst.

Hunger and thirst also contribute to sensory overload. In addition, hungry and thirsty children are less able to manage a sensory-rich experience. Therefore, bring along a snack and water. And be sure to remember tip #2 about planning toilet breaks in coordination with eating and drinking.

Special thanks to Trish Hamilton for sharing her knowledge as a parent of a sensory kid. Find Trish on Twitter. Learn about her digital marketing work.

Do you want to advocate for a Sensory Friendly Santa Claus Parade in your community? Share this blog post:

And use this guide to share and be a part of making your local Santa Claus Parade accessible and inclusive to more families.

Sensory Friendly Santa Claus Parade Guide

Sensory Friendly Santa Clause Parade cover

Did you know that adding a quiet zone to your Santa Claus Parade will help children and adults alike enjoy the experience?  In a few easy steps you can make your parade sensory-friendly.

  • Changes floats can make
  • What to tell people
  • How to prepare
  • What a quiet zone means

Are you a parent looking for more help for your ‘sensory child’ and holidays or events? Read on:

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