Considerations for Children With Sensory Sensitivities at Parties

Parties can be a challenging space for children with sensory sensitivities. They often want to join in the fun but don’t feel safe doing so because of an overwhelming amount of sensory input. There are many reasons why a child might have sensory sensitivities, ranging from being on the autism spectrum, to developmental phases. 

As parents and caregivers, it’s important to create a celebratory space that’s inclusive to all guests. Sensory overload may be a painful, and even traumatic experience for certain children. Parties — whether they’re birthdays, classroom parties, or other special events — can still be highly fun while providing extra accommodation for kids who experience sensory sensitivities. 

The Importance of Inclusion 

Inclusion at parties is so important, for several reasons. Social interaction helps kids make friends, and improve social skills outside of their normal environments — such as home or school. Improved social skills can lead to increased confidence and empathy for others. Social inclusion is important for all kids, but can be especially important for kids with developmental or social delays, who may have trouble generating and nurturing social skills on their own.

There is a common adage that kids are like sponges — they soak up and hold onto what’s around them. By providing and modeling inclusive and tolerant environments, you can increase your ability to bring up kids who are tolerant and inclusive. 

Make It Clear That All Activities Are Optional  

One of the easiest ways to create a safe and welcoming space for different sensory thresholds is to make it clear that all activities are optional. This can go for activities that may cause unpleasant sensory experiences for certain kids, such as face painting. 

This may seem obvious to adults, but may not be to the children in attendance. Taking a few minutes to establish that everything is on a “want-to” basis will help empower kids to make the choice that’s right for their bodies, rather than the choice that they think may be expected of them. 

Designate Areas for Different Activities  

Designating specific areas for different activities is not only a great way to keep party activities smooth and contained, mess-wise, but is also a great option for kids with sensory sensitivities. If there are certain activities they don’t want to do, they can simply go to another area. 

Freedom can increase feelings of inclusion, and decrease isolation from the party during activities that aren’t safe for them. You can have parents chaperone each area if there are any safety concerns, like scissor use, or even entice older siblings with free pizza or allowance money. 

Have a Variety of Snacks Available 

Variety and accessibility are the name of the game when it comes to sensory accommodations. Having several easy-to-eat snack foods, such as popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream, or veggie trays, can make it easier for children to choose the foods they want and avoid the ones they don’t. For parties, it’s helpful to think about food less like serving a structured meal, and more like making sure kids have the resources to get full. 

Getting concession rental items, such as popcorn or snow cone machines, can even help you turn snack time into an activity all its own. Furthermore, some kids become less wary of food if they can see how it’s made or make it themselves, making concessions items an excellent option. 

All machinery should only be used with adult supervision, and some may not be safe for child use — be sure to check all manuals or use agreements before setting this up as an activity. 

Ask Your Party Planner for Advice

Parents and caregivers can discover new ways to accommodate children with sensory sensitivities by asking their party planner for additional information. Ask about games or activities that may be loud or bright or if they offer accommodating accessories, like earplugs, for those activities. Furthermore, party planners simply may have more experience with a wider variety of children, and may have a few tips for dealing with sensory concerns. 

Discuss Your Concerns With Performers 

It’s important to discuss any accommodations or sensory concerns with performers before the event. By talking to party clowns and other performers beforehand about things that might be an issue — such as loud noises, flashing lights, or audience participation — you can create a safe environment without putting any kids on the spot or altering the event as it’s happening. The majority of children’s performers are happy to make accommodations, as long as they know about them ahead of time.

Another great way to mitigate sensory sensitivities is to book performers virtually. Many performers, such as kids’ characters, may have started offering these types of performances during COVID. Through video calls, you create a layer of separation that can help especially sensitive kids still enjoy and interact with the performance, without feeling unsafe. This is another option you may talk to your desired performers about. 

Provide Plenty of Information to Guests 

Providing your guests — in this case, the parents or caregivers of your guests —  with plenty of information about the party in advance allows children with sensory sensitivities and their families to prepare for the event and share any questions or requests. Discussing not just what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it is a great way to foster inclusiveness. You’ll want to do this in advance of the party, so that you’ll have plenty of time to field any questions or issues that may come up. 

You can do this in a group message over social media, a chain email or text, or even include information on the invitation. If you’re a teacher or other similar figure — like a scout or youth group leader — you can use whatever channels you normally use to communicate with parents, such as take-home newsletters. 

Best Activities for Children With Sensory Sensitivities 

As you’re planning a party for children with sensory sensitivities, you may consider the following activities. They are specifically suited for sensory sensitivities, as they can be customized for any sensory needs. These activities are scalable, and again, can be made totally optional. You may choose to use one, or all, of these activities for your event. 


Individual craft stations are a great option, as the kids can create their own crafts, at their own pace. Crafts could be a main activity, as you can create all kinds of games involving crafting. There are also popular online crafting games, like Minecraft, that can fit into an overall crafting theme. 

Crafting as a secondary activity is a great option for kids to choose if they don’t want to participate in other activities, but still want to be involved. 

Bounce Houses and Trampolines  

Bounce houses and trampolines may feel like they aren’t a sensory-safe activity — but they can actually be a great outlet for kids with sensory sensitivities. Often, kids with sensory sensitivities will use stimming as a self-soothing technique. This may include behaviors such as rocking, spinning, and even jumping. Therefore, renting a bounce house or trampoline for your event is an excellent option for kids to stim and self-soothe, then rejoin the party. 

Furthermore, kids can use their own discretion with bounce houses, as they’re able to choose if they want to enter, and how long they want to spend inside. Finally, a bounce house is a large, quiet, soft place if the main party gets too rowdy — while still being a huge crowd-pleaser for kids. 

Scavenger Hunts 

Scavenger hunts are another great sensory-safe option, as they empower kids to use their senses to find things, and can be tailored for different groups. Furthermore, kids can team up for scavenger hunts, or work solo, depending on which they’d prefer. Scavenger hunts incentivize kids to get involved with the event, and may even help shyer kids feel accomplished and come out of their shells. This is another crowd-favorite activity for kids’ parties.

While special accommodations when planning a kids’ party can feel overwhelming, it’s worth it for the inclusion and enjoyment of everyone in attendance. With these simple additions, you can help kids feel empowered to join in the fun, and included in all the activities.