Purim is an exciting time of year that can also be overwhelming for sensory-sensitive kids: The frequent shaking of the gragger, multitudes of people at shul, massive quantities of food and candy. Adding to the problem, what’s supposed to be a fun tradition – dressing up in costume – can sometimes turn frustrating if you’re a parent with young kids – whether your child has sensory issues or decides on the day of the Purim carnival that his or her costume is too itchy/ugly/nerdy. Shira Goldfischer, an occupational therapist at Seeach Sod, the Leading Center for Special Education in Israel, shared some sensory friendly Purim-costume tips for all our kids.
Remember to avoid certain materials and fabrics when choosing a costume.
Costumes and masks will provoke new sensations against the skin and body that a child with sensory-sensitivity may find extremely uncomfortable, says Goldfischer. Consider basic materials made of pieces of soft cotton, such as a T-shirt or sweatshirt. Then add soft-feeling elements and props that your child can hold or wear comfortably. If you’re buying a costume, avoid polyester or the synthetic, shiny fabric that many cheap costumes are made of.
Look for a costume early.
It’s a good idea to start looking for a costume early, when selection is best. That way, once you have the costume ready, have your child practice wearing it several times. This will allow you to get rid of itchy tags or scratchy fabric ahead of time and prevent sensory meltdowns.
Bring a backup outfit.
If you know you’ll be out on Purim day (or night) for a really long time, bring along an appropriate Purim outfit that your child can have the option of changing into at a later point, when he or she has had enough of the costume.
Be firm if you don’t approve of an outfit they chose.
If your child is insisting on an inappropriate costume they saw in the store, be clear and firm in telling your child that this costume won’t work.
Prepare them in advance for costume carnivals.
Prepare your child for his/her debut by taking a picture of the child in the costume, hanging it near his/her bed or on the fridge, where the child can look at it for some time before the big day. Talk about how nice the child looks and what exactly to expect. Children who are prepared properly for new and different circumstances have a much better chance of being comfortable on the actual day.
Don’t force them to wear anything they don’t want to.
There are no strict rules that a child needs to dress up. A child who feels uncomfortable in a mask or a hat or is scared of one does not need to be wearing one.
Make it a learning experience.
Your child’s costume can also be related to something the child is learning in school or something associated with his/her likes and favorites. (For example, if the child is learning about colors in school, he/she can dress up as the “colorful clown,” with one arm blue, one leg orange, etc.) This can really internalize his learning and bring it to life.
Don’t forget to have fun!
Remember to keep in mind that you want to make Purim a fun and enjoyable, rather than exhausting, Purim experience. To that end, finding a sensory-friendly costume that is comfortable for your child to wear is a great place to start.