Chanukah….It’s the little jug of oil that lasted for 8 days. It’s the holiday of lights. It’s the holiday of miracles. It’s the holiday of presents, latkes, oil, candles, music, parties…and meltdowns. Too much, too fast, too loud, too smelly and maybe too many parties.
Sound familiar? If you have a child with special needs you may have mixed feelings around holiday time. You’re thrilled to have your kids out of school but dreading their being off routine. Here are a few tips that can make Chanukah not only miraculous but joyous too!
1. Stories and Speaking
Chanukah is a time of stories. Who isn’t mesmerized by the story of the Maccabees? For children with sensory needs, story listening and story telling can be highly therapeutic, calming and engaging. Find a cozy spot. Have your children show or tell you what they know. Get a picture book or storybook that is age appropriate. Stop and discuss. Let them express their feelings.
2. Cooking is sensory
Don’t buy latkes. Make them. Cooking is one of the best sensory hands-on activities you can do with your child. It involves tactile, heavy handwork. If your child is a sensory avoider, let them stir and mix. Please note that children should not be allowed to cook with or go near hot oil.
3. Game Night
Dreidels and Chanukah are synonymous. Playing dreidel involves fine motor social, verbal and mathematical skills. Children learn to take turns, count money and spin the dreidel. If playing dreidel is not in your plans, choose another game to play that includes your entire family. You can a game of charades or “guess that biblical figure.”
4. Music and Dancing
Get moving! Heavy work helps to process sensory overload. Turn on your favorite Chanukah tunes and dance. Or have a Chanukah karaoke night and use the voice to calm and engage.
5. Lighting a Menorah
Another fine motor activity that if supervised and done properly can encourage hand control, hand-eye coordination and patience. If your child is too young too light, they can help place candles in holders. Once candles are lit, use the time to sit quietly under a weighted blanket with your children and let them feel the special moments after candles are lit. You can talk quietly or put on some soft music while the candles burn down.
If your family is up for it you can also check out your communities public menorah lighting that is sure to be a fun evening out.
6. Chanukah Gelt/ Present night
If you like to share gifts, let your children help wrap, write notes or deliver. Gift giving can teach children how to give and how to receive. These are not always innate social skills and Chanukah is a wonderful time to learn them.
May this holiday season bring you and your entire family light, peace, and warmth!