6 Tips for Hosting a Sensory-Friendly Thanksgiving

Oh, the holidays! Fun, festive, exciting…anxiety-inducing? The American Psychological Association found that 38% of the population say the holidays induce stress. So what does this mean, especially for those sensitive to certain stimuli? Check out these tips to make this holiday the most inclusive!


  1. Communicate Plans.

Let those attending your holiday gathering know in advance that you are preparing a sensory-friendly Thanksgiving. Help them understand what that means for you and your family ahead of time - whether avoiding loud noises or simply understanding that if a guest removes themselves from an activity, it’s okay. Setting expectations in advance will help everyone feel more comfortable and ensure a great experience for all!


  1. Host at Home (if you can).

Often, new places can be difficult, especially for those with ASD since new places come with many sights, smells, and other sensory sensations that can be unfamiliar. If possible, host Thanksgiving dinner at home in an already comfortable space. If you do go somewhere, bring comfort items and favorite foods, and make sure to take a break from stimulation whenever needed.


  1. Make a Sensory Safe Space.

Whether you’re hosting or attending elsewhere, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated sensory space where anyone can take a break and enjoy a tranquil setting. Use a spare bedroom or any extra space in the home and fill it with soothing items like stuffed animals, blankets, sound machines, and sensory bins.


  1. Incorporate Movement.

Take time for movement breaks to help get any extra energy out! Make it a fun affair by asking everyone to get up and do their best turkey impressions or act out what they are grateful for.


  1. Serve Sensory-Friendly Foods.

Everyone loves comfort foods, so keep kid-friendly foods in mind when planning your Thanksgiving meal! Make a comfort food bar with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, fruits, or any other favorites!


  1. Check-in regularly.

Make sure everyone is having a good time by checking in with one another regularly. Take a moment to ask how each individual is feeling. Think about setting up a buddy system where each kiddo is paired with an advocate like their parents, siblings, or a close friend with whom they are already familiar and can easily communicate their needs.


We hope these tips help you to plan your next sensory-friendly Thanksgiving! All in all, the holiday is a time to be cherished, and effective communication with those around you will help make sure everyone is heard and appreciated. This includes being understanding if someone needs a break. We are all different and have unique needs, which is something we can all be truly grateful for. ::thankful::


*https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf


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