Considerations for Hosting an Accessible Party for Children
Although there are many considerations to take into account when hosting an accessible kids’ party, it can be done! For a successful event where all guests feel welcomed and included, hosts should be aware of the wide range of accessibility concerns they may need to prepare for, including mobility limitations, behavioral disorders, and allergies. Hosts should take the time to understand these issues to create a comfortable, safe, and fun environment for children with special needs. To help get you started, check out these tips for hosting an accessible kids’ party.
Communicate with other parents or guardians so you’re aware of any accessibility needs their children may have. It’s important to initiate this communication in a respectful manner. Worried about what to say and how to say it? Start with learning about the appropriate terms to use when referring to individuals with special needs. Some questions you should ask parents include:
- Does your child have any allergies, food aversions, or dietary restrictions?
- Does your child have any specific needs we should be mindful of?
- Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how to make the party comfortable for your child?
It may be helpful to request the information from everyone when you send birthday invitations for kids so that no one feels singled out or intimidated. This can be especially helpful when it comes to very young children who can’t communicate their needs yet, for example, for a first birthday party. You can find online birthday invitations for every party theme and digital invites make it easy to share party details via text or email.
You can ensure that you’re well-informed about certain accessibility needs and management strategies when you ask guests to reach out to you privately with any information they feel pertinent to share. It’s important to also use inclusive language when communicating with guests in every facet of the party, from face-to-face interactions to the birthday invitations. Here’s a list of resources to get you started with your research:
- National Disability Authority: Appropriate Terms to Use
- Understanding Accessibility
- Disability & Health Inclusion Strategies
- Inclusion & Accessibility
A clear and consistent schedule of activities can make a party easier for children with disabilities. It also makes things easier for parents or guardians so they also understand what to expect.
Anticipate that not all transitions to new activities are going to be smooth. Be sure to “pad” each activity with a few extra minutes to compensate for any issues that may arise. Include a schedule with your online birthday invitation and be sure to send it a few weeks before the party so that parents (and you!) have time to prepare.
Take some time to understand how the atmosphere of a party can affect children with certain disabilities. For example, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) might become overstimulated from loud music, barking dogs, or too many people. Here are some birthday party ideas to help you plan an event that is not overwhelming for any of your guests:
- Noise. Whether it’s a yippy dog or even an awesome birthday playlist, be mindful of how noises will affect your guests. Have noise-cancelling earphones for kids on hand just in case they’re needed.
- Smells. Limit cleaning supplies, perfumes, or foods that might have strong odors in your party space.
- Lights: Avoid fluorescent lights, strobe lights, or any light that flickers or buzzes.
- People: Be mindful of how many guests you invite to the party. Kids with ASD can sometimes become overwhelmed when surrounded by too many people.
- Quiet Space. Be sure to have access to a quiet space so that children with sensory needs can take a break if they need to.
Plan a range of activities to help children with disabilities choose what they feel most comfortable with while also making sure they feel included. Here are some ideas and considerations to keep in mind:
- Include games that are a bit active, some that are sedentary (like video games), and others that are quieter such as an arts and crafts or a board game station.
- Adapt activities to make them more accessible. For example, a game of musical chairs can be modified if chairs are replaced with mats. Kids can simply move to mats when the music ends instead of sitting on a chair. A simple game of Simon Says can also be modified to allow all guests to fully participate.
- Consider investing in an entertainer who has experience working with children with disabilities and are sensitive to their needs.
Remember that it’s okay if kids don’t want to participate in every activity. As long as you have different options for them to choose from, everyone will have a good time!
When deciding on the birthday party food, keep in mind that kids with disabilities sometimes need to follow specific diets. After polling guests about food allergies, aversions and diets, work around any of these potential issues in your menu. Also make it clear that parents or guardians are free to bring their own food for their child if that’s easier for them. Be sure that there’s a clear line of communication around food expectations so that everyone’s on the same page.
Here are other things to consider when planning an accessible kids birthday party menu:
- To make everyone feel included, try to find a few simple foods or drinks that all guests can enjoy regardless of diets.
- Be sure to carefully label foods and ingredients. If the party is for little ones, it’s best to have the food somewhere out of reach.
- Sometimes children with Sensory Processing Disorder are sensitive to food with specific textures. Keep in mind that a favorite pasta salad recipe might be considered too slimy for some guests, so be sure to have other options on hand if necessary.
- Remember that you don’t have to make everything from scratch. If guests have allergies, sometimes it’s easiest to grab a snack or dessert at your local grocery store those specific dietary restrictions.
Be aware of potential accessibility concerns related to mobility, such as wheelchair access, when planning your child’s party. Luckily, after you send your invitations and poll parents about their children’s needs, you should have a better idea of any access issues. If parents note that they plan to bring assistive tech for mobility impairment, be sure to ask if they’ll need any help with it. Other things to consider include:
- Parking. Is there ample space available at your home for a vehicle with special equipment? Is it easy to get to your front door once parked? If not, consider finding a venue that can accommodate these needs.
- Rooms. If the party is at your home, be sure that bathrooms and other rooms being used are accessible by children with mobility limitations.
- Seating. Be sure to set up a space at tables for wheelchairs and/or other assistive devices so that all guests feel included.
- Outdoors: If the party is outside, be mindful of the terrain. Steep hills, gravel driveways, and muddy backyards can be challenging for children with mobility limitations.
- Venues: Most public venues are accessible but you should always check ahead to make sure the space has a ground level entrance, accessible bathrooms, and an elevator if needed. Visit the venue before you book it to ensure that it can meet your needs. Let venue staff know early on the number of children with special needs, what those needs are, and any other important information.
Know that you don’t have to do it alone! Enlist the help of other adults, especially those who have experience working with children with special needs. Ask a few parents to help volunteer at the party, especially if the parent has already planned to attend. In reality, many parents will be more comfortable being present and helping out, particularly if their child has complex needs that might require special attention.
If problems and snafus arise during the party, just remember to be patient and show compassion. You are the adult in the situation and losing your cool will only make the situation worse for everyone involved. To keep a level-head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Parents of kids with disabilities understand that things don’t always go as planned and are experts in managing difficult situations.
Finally, it may mean a lot to children and their parents if you follow up with a show of gratitude for their attendance, whether it’s over the phone or with a free ecard. A nice thank-you goes a long way!
With some time and effort, hosting an accessible kids’ party can be feasible and fun! Keep these considerations in mind and you’re sure to host a memorable event for your birthday kid and guests!
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