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Group of kids at a birthday party blowing out candles

6 tips for an inclusive kids party

November 3, 2016

Hosting a kid’s party is no mean feat – and making sure everyone (including kids with disabilities), can join in may seem tricky at first. The good news? It’s actually not so hard! 

Here are our top tips to for making sure everyone’s welcome.

1. Drop mum or dad a line.

If you’re concerned about ‘making a big deal’ about your guest’s disability, don’t be. You’re not a mind reader, but no one expects you to be! A simple phone call to their parents not only shows you care, it allows you to find out how to make the party a fantastic day for their child. And truthfully, most parents will appreciate you taking the time to ask.

Not sure if any of your child’s friends have a disability or specific needs? An easy way to make sure everyone feels welcome is to mention it in the invitation’s RSVP; something along the lines of: “We want everyone to have fun, so please let us know if your child has any specific needs we need to be mindful of.”

2. Encourage the kids to follow your lead.

Even small children can grasp the idea of being kind and welcoming to others – so before the event, remind your own children how important it is to be inclusive.

A little light-hearted talk to the entire group at the start of the party can also be a great opportunity to set a positive tone for day. Chances are there will be things you need to tell the group (all about the fun activities you have planned), so you can include a note about everyone joining in and having fun at the same time!

3. Make parents welcome.

Some kids with disabilities may feel more comfortable if their mum or dad attends the party, and at the same time, some parents may also feel more comfortable coming along!

Especially for kids with anxiety, having a parent there can be reassuring – plus, parents will be attuned to ‘red flags’ that their child is becoming distressed.

That said, plenty of parents will be happy not to attend. Either way, that initial phone call is a good time to make parents welcome, and see what they think is best.

4. Play it safe with food.

These days, food allergies and sensitivities are par for the course, which just means that options are needed! Often kids with disabilities will have specific dietary requirements – for example, many kids with autism follow a diary free/gluten free diet.

To get an idea of what food you’ll need to whip up, ask guests to let you know about any special diet requirements when they RSVP.

Luckily there are plenty of gluten, nut, and dairy free recipes and ready-made snacks available (if in doubt, Google for ideas!). You don’t need to go overboard, just try to make sure there’s something for everyone.

5. Watch out for sensory overload.

With so much going on at a party (bright lights! Loud noises! Lots of people!), it’s easy for kids to become overwhelmed.

For those with a disability like autism or a sensory processing disorder, things can become particularly overwhelming – so when you’re holding a party, be mindful of the level of potential chaos!

For example, try replacing traditional balloons (which can pop loudly on their own) with foil balloons (which also happen to look great!). Also steer away from strong smells – maybe pop that scented guest soap or potpourri in the cupboard for the day.

If someone is overwhelmed and wants to sit something out, that’s okay! Setting up a dedicated ‘quiet space’ in the party can be a great idea. This way, kids who would rather do something low key (or need a break) can still have a good time. Consider setting this area up with soft lighting, cosy cushions and maybe some books or Lego.

6. Think ahead about access.

If you’re having the party at home, ask your guests’ parents about any potential access issues – for example, if they need a ramp for a wheelchair (which they may even be able bring along), or any extra to help carry any assistive device.

If it’s being held outdoors, be mindful of surfaces like rocks and gravel that may be hard to navigate. And if you’ve opted for a public place (like a restaurant or bowling alley) be sure to check ahead that they’re accessible (the good news is, most public spaces such as these will almost always will be set up to cater for disabilities).

Have fun!

Most of all though, have fun throwing that party! Inclusion shouldn’t be stressful – it just takes a little bit of preplanning and thought.