6 Sensory-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day Parade Tips for Parents

With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations coming up, many families are plan fun-filled, but sensory-rich activities. Oftentimes, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations involve gatherings with friends, creating crafts and attending community events. A common community event is a St. Patrick’s Day parade. However, for parents with children who have sensory sensitivities, parades are a problem. The loud music, bright lights and crowded environment can cause many children with to autism, sensory processing disorder or other disabilities to experience sensory overload. As a result, parades quickly become a stressful experience for families. Therefore, it is helpful to find sensory-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade tips to use for your family. Find them below!

Infographic highlighting 6 ways to have a sensory-friendly St. Patrick's Day parade.

Practice through play

One of the first strategies you can use as a parent to help your child is to prepare in advance. For example, many children find unfamiliar events, even celebratory ones, stressful.

For children, learning through play is the most effective methods to help them learn develop expectations. Using play as a teaching technique helps children prepare for different facets of a St. Patrick’s Day parade. For instance, use your child’s stuffed animals or other toys to act out the parade. Additionally, be sure to describe the sensory experience in detail. For example, imagine with your child, what will you hear, smell, touch and feel? Ultimately, this will allow your child to better understand the event and share any concerns they may have about the parade.

Bring sensory-friendly tools

The most helpful of these sensory-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade tips is to bring sensory-friendly tools to the event. According to a report by Juliana Banium, 5-16% of school-aged children experience sensory-processing disorders. Consider the different sensitivities that your child experiences and how a parade environment may overstimulate those senses. This will help you best determine which devices you may want to bring to the event. For example, some of the devices that you might consider bringing include sunglasses, noise-cancelling headphones, fidgets and a weighted lap buddy.

Plan bio breaks

An easy solution to help make your St. Patrick’s Day parade sensory-friendly is through planning bio-breaks throughout the event. Bio breaks include going to the bathroom, eating or drinking. Plan your bathroom breaks in advance! Know where nearby toilets are located.

In addition, listen to your child’s cues throughout the event. If you notice they may need a sensory break for the larger crowd, consider separating them from the group temporarily. This will help to avoid a sensory overload response by respecting their capabilities.

Avoid hunger and thirst

Be sure to pack food and drinks. At many St. Patrick’s Day parades, you might not have the ability to access food and drink services. Or, restaurants and cafes nearby may be overly crowded and uncomfortable. Bring little snacks and drinks. Hungry and thirsty children will struggle more with sensory overload. Therefore, to avoid this issue, be sure to bring easy snacks and a water bottle for your child. Remember to pack one for yourself, too!

Two boys standing at a St. Patrick's Day parade dressed in costumes.

Watch the parade in less busy areas

Another effective way to create a sensory-friendly experience for your child is to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade in a quiet and less busy area of the parade. To do this, find the parade route in advance and see if there are any less popular areas to stand and watch. Often, a significant issue with parades is the busy and noisy crowds of people. Therefore, avoiding large groups of people will help to make a more sensory-friendly experience for your child.

An alternative solution to this is determining whether there are any indoor areas you can watch the parade from with your child. For example, a public building with windows that overlook the parade route.

Look for a sensory-friendly St. Patrick’s Day Parade in your community

And the last of the sensory-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade tips is to find an actual sensory-friendly parade that has a quiet zone. Parades are sensory-rich. However, some communities create special quiet zone along parade routes where there is no noise or flashing lights. See this quiet space on an Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade as fine example!

These sensory-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade tips will help make your family celebration a success.

Interested in learning more strategies to adapt events and experiences to make your event or environment sensory-friendly? Consider checking out:

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