Heading into the Holidays

Guest Authored By Sophia P L, OTR/L

Celebrating the holiday season with friends and family is important for childhood development. Holiday gatherings are a wholesome and natural setting to enhance your child’s sensory, play, and social participation skills. But, how do we uphold these family traditions in the midst of a pandemic?  

Sensory-Friendly Holiday Suggestions 

Books – Reading about the history and traditions surrounding the holidays will help to foster an understanding of roles, routines, and expectations. Additionally, it may be a great opportunity to have crucial conversations about our nation’s history and indigenous rightsHere is the guide to the tiny human holiday book club: 

  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga – by Traci Sorell 
  • The Very First Americans – by Cara Ashrose 
  • Llama Llama Gives Thanks – by Anna Dewdney 
  • Bear Says Thanks- by Karma Wilson 

Decorations – Letting your child help with decorating is a great way to bond and provide choices! Here are a few tips: 

  • Choices – Allow your child to pick between different decorations! 
  • Lights – Be cautious of flickering or multi-colored lighting. Simple solid colors may offer consistency, while still being fun and festive! 
  • Keep it simple – Additional clutter and environmental stimuli may overwhelm your child! 

Family dinner – Family dinner during the holiday offers a variety of new sensory experiences! However, consider the following during mealtime: 

  • Preparation – Discuss traditional foods and meals on the days leading up to the holiday! 
  • Pre-dinner – Start introducing parts of the meal at dinner on the days leading up to the holiday! 
  • Presentation – Consider how you are presenting the new food to your child. Make it fun by using special utensils or presenting it as a smiley face! Allow them to take smaller and more manageable portions of new foods. Try not to crowd the food on the plate or have foods touch! 
  • Safety food – Place at least one option on the table that your child likes and is familiar with. 
  • Less pressure – Do not force them to try anything. Avoid stigmatizing food by saying phrases such as, “you may not like it, but…”. Instead, try phrases such as, “you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.” Model trying new foods by eating them yourself! 

Family games – Games and puzzles are a natural way to work on visual-motor, executive functioning, and social participation skills!  

Virtual gatherings – While this year we cannot get together with all of our loved ones, you can set up virtual gatherings! Get festive by: 

  • Decorating the virtual space 
  • Discussing conversations before hand 
  • Talking about familial trees before hand