Halloween can be utilised to help your child with sensory processing disorder deal with some of their difficulties. Halloween games and activities can help the child learn to deal with unpleasant situations, connect with their bodies, and fulfill some of their required Sensory Diet. Of course there is going to be benefits for both the Sensory Seeker and the Sensory Avoider – but I mainly focusing on the Sensory Seeker – as that is what I know most about, as my son is more a Seeker.
Halloween Dressing up and Sensory Processing Disorder
Halloween definitely is a time to embrace dressing up. My Sensory Seeker loves nothing better than dressing up. All those different textures, and I think it really is where he is comfortable at using his imagination. Letting them get themselves dressed will also help them with orientation, textures, fastenings (zips, buttons, bows, laces etc). We also have a mirror for him – so that he can see what he looks like. I find that when he uses the mirror he also uses different expressions – and he can see what that looks like too. Or you can use face paint – which is fantastic for tactile stimulation.
The Mummy Race
My boys loved this game. Basically get into two teams with the child with Sensory Processing Disorder (or any child) to be the Mummy. Then get the other children to wrap them up. We used toilet paper but you could use bandages or any other white material for a deeper pressure. The winning team can either be the one who has their Mummy all wrapped up the quickest, or have a time limit and the winner is the one who is the most wrapped at the end. If you wanted to add more sensory experiences to it the Mummy could have to run around too.
Go Away Ghost!
A number of children are scared of the dark, and at Halloween ghosts and monsters are even more likely to frighten them. The Go Away Ghost game can also be beneficial to the child who gets upset when something messy touches them (something in their shoe, a cobweb, a wet leaf, a grain of sand, wet paint); Or the child who is worried about something touching them; the unresponsive child who does not react to what is going on around them; the child who has trouble focusing on an activity, or has trouble making the transition between activities; and when they have trouble with an activity and needs removing. This game is good for their imaginations too.
The child says (whispers or shouts depending on their sensory need) – “Go Away Ghost Get off!” Get the child to use their hands to get the ghost off their whole body – pushing the ghost off their hair, down their face, shoulders, upper body, arms, hands, pulling him off their fingers, down their tummy to the legs (give him a kick off), shake him off their feet, then shake all over and jump, jump around in the space. Then get the child to take deep breaths and say, “That’s good, it is better.”
Apple Bobbin and Scary Spaghetti
I think this is especially good if your child is like mine in that he struggles with his diet. Sometimes he will not even try touching something just because of its appearance or smell. Putting some coloured water in a bowl and throw in some apples is a great way to encourage him to try putting the apple in his mouth because he knows it is a game and he is not expected to eat it. I think this takes the pressure off him. This could be used with black, red and green water – maybe have the 3 different bowls. Rewarding with sweets for participating is always a useful incentive I find too.
If they are not quite ready for putting their face in what about a game of scary spaghetti – where you place the cooked spaghetti in some jelly with some Halloween toys (eyes, spiders, etc) – and the idea is to put your hand in and pull out a particular Halloween toy to win. This will help them develop their sense of what things feel like, and what shapes they are without their sense of sight. You can do this with or without a face mask – depending on how comfortable they are with it.
Alternatives to Halloween Parties
It doesn’t have to be a party with lots of people around – why not try frozen spiders in the bath. Last year my Sensory Seeker loved it. I simply filled tubs with plastic spiders and coloured water. I put them in the freezer and let my Sensory Seeker dissolve them in the bath. He had a lot of fun and discovered how the blocks of froze spiders disappear in his hot bath. Also how his bath changed colour and the fascination of more and more spiders appearing as the ice dissolved.
Halloween Craft and Sensory Bins
Or why not have a Halloween crafting session. Great for fine motor, textures, etc. We made our own Halloween treat bags from just paper and odd bits – perfect for carry a few treats.
Or why not make a sensory bin.