Fireworks Alternatives for Autistic and Young Children

If you have an autistic child, or one that has sensory issues, the 4th of July can be a bit of a bust for your Meerkat at the Racine Zoofamily. My son has always hated loud noises and can’t stand the feeling of “rockets bursting in the air,” so we have had to come up with alternatives to the traditional Independence Day fireworks show throughout the years. While these alternatives may not be one-sized fits all, maybe they will spark an idea to help your family have a fun 4th of July. These alternatives can also work great for families with babies or small children who fear fireworks.

Earplugs & Distance

First, try earplugs and watching the fireworks from a distance. This is our method for being able to watch fireworks while at Disney World. My son hates being near the fireworks, but if we watch from a distance or from a covered place he warms up to them. The view might be obstructed, but it might be worth a try,

The Arcade

This one my son loves. Last year, we took him to Dave & Busters for an evening of games and fun. Much to our delight, all the non-ticket granting games were operating for free that night. I have no clue if that will be the case this year, but a trip to the Enchanted Castle or D&B can be a ticket to fun for your family.

The Movie Theater

If your child can tolerate movies, this is always a good idea. We have seen movies quite a few times in the past when trying to avoid the sound of fireworks. Just make sure you time your showing well, you don’t want to be getting out of the theater right as the fireworks start going off.

Hotel Rooms & Pools

This suggestion falls in line with the distance suggestion a bit. We have also found that we can watch fireworks from a hotel room with pretty good success. For example, one year we got a high-floor hotel room in Louisville for the night and enjoyed watching the local firework display from that vantage point. Another suggestion is to visit the indoor pool if you are staying at a hotel. The pools are usually noisy enough that the firework sounds don’t carry well and the water is a fun distraction. If you want to get really fancy, you can book a room at a hotel with an attached indoor waterpark, like Key Lime Cove in Gurnee.

Family Game Night

Turn on some background music and have a family game night that doesn’t end until the fireworks are over. We have done board games and video games, and both were a success. The key is to get some background noise going on and have activities that are distracting from the background noise. However, don’t make the mistake of ending the game night before the fireworks are over. One year, when my son was very young we put him to bed early. He woke up upset and crying from the noise outside. This is another activity where timing is the key to success!

Go for a Car Ride

This suggestion goes along with distance. We have also spent a couple holidays driving around, viewing various firework displays from a distance. We turn on the radio and try to find scenic vantage points where we can observe the displays from a safe distance.

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