Making Children’s Birthday Parties Inclusive

A typical five year old gets a lot of birthday party invitations.  And when I say a lot, I mean - A LOT.  My now ten year old daughter got fourteen invites the year she was in Kindergarten.  Most of the celebrations involved bouncy places, trampoline parks, roller rinks and laser tag. At each party, I watched as dozens of little party-goers ran around at top speed in crowded venues with loud music and bright lights fueled with too much sugar - basically chaos plus cake.  Did they have fun? Absolutely!

Fast forward 3 years, my son entered Kindergarten.  He also received multiple birthday party invitations that year - to all the same venues as my daughter.  But because of his medical and sensory challenges, he was unable to participate in ANY of the celebrations. Think about that for a second.  He is a well-liked member of his class, and his classmates wanted to include him - but the usual venues made it not possible to do so! Clearly we needed a better solution.

We faced this challenge again when planning our son’s own birthday party.  How could we throw a party that is fun for everyone and also accommodates his needs? Our solution?  A small, structured party at our home with a planned craft, game and cake.  Did it require more planning than a trip to the local bouncy place?  Definitely.  But it turned out to be – awesome, and 100% worth it!  Our son had a blast, and so did his friends.

Home-based parties are not only a great solution if you have a child with special needs, but also if you are looking to host a party that is inclusive of guests with different abilities. After all, 20% of US households have a child with special needs.  These are our neighbors, friends and classmates.

Here are a few reasons why home parties are a great option for kids with different abilities or sensory issues:.

  1. Home parties can be smaller. Large venues have minimum numbers of guests, but at home you have complete control over the size of your guest list. Smaller groups can be more manageable for children with autism or other special needs.
  2. Children with physical limitations can be included. At a home party you have the option of selecting activities that are less physically demanding so children of different motor abilities more easily participate.
  3. Home parties are more sensory friendly. Large venues can be overstimulating for those with sensory issues because of the large crowds, flashing lights, strong smells and loud music, to name a few!  These things are all easily controlled in the home environment.  
  4. Guests can easily take a break, if needed.  Hosts can set aside a quiet room that is available to guests if they need a break.  Parents can set up simple activities (puzzles, beanbags, blocks, etc.) to allow children some downtime to regroup.
  5. Home parties can be more predictable. Planning a simple timeline with craft-based activities and games that can be explained in advance is beneficial.  That way kids know what to expect, which can help reduce anxiety. 

ALL party guests enjoy the close-knit atmosphere of a home birthday party, not just children with special needs!  Read more about this on our blog post: Why Home-Based Parties are Making a Comeback.

While our son inspired me to start having birthday parties at home, my older daughter has come to prefer them as well!  For several years, we have thrown home parties for her with planned games and activities.  The guests have so much fun, they can't wait to see what's in store from year to year!  

Happy hosting!

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