Accessible Ways to Enjoy the Holidays
Ways to include people of all abilities in holiday celebrations and traditions
The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with loved ones, take part in joyful and meaningful traditions, and find new ways to spread cheer and gratitude throughout the community.
Spending time with loved ones is one of the most meaningful and joyful practices of the holiday season. As we celebrate this winter, it is important to keep those celebrations accessible for friends and loved ones who may live with mental or physical differences. Fortunately, there are a variety of fun ways to include loved ones of all ages and ability levels in holiday traditions!
Viewing Holiday Movies
Watching holiday films together is a great way to involve everyone in the holiday cheer. Going to a theater for popcorn and the big screen can be a fun way to spice up this experience, as almost all theaters have accessible seating options. If travelling is a challenge, streaming is a great solution, and friends in other households can join in on the fun using an app like Teleparty, which allows multiple viewers to watch the same content at the same time and adds a group chat to the experience.
Holiday Light Experiences
Many cities have annual holiday light extravaganzas that are either drive through or walk through experiences. These visually stimulating events happen at night and sometimes involve music or treats to snack on during the experience. Make sure to call ahead and reserve tickets if needed and ask if the walkway is paved for those who use mobility chairs. To find out where these activities are located in Denver, click here.
Cooking or Baking
Holiday foods are one of the most comforting and exciting traditions of the winter holidays! Planning a time to make something special with your loved ones can be a wonderful way to make memories. Remember to ensure the activity is safe for those of differing ability levels, and if this is a challenge, simply involving your loved one in the activity by proximity (and serving them the delicious final product!) can be enough.
This activity is a year-round staple that can be especially fun during the holiday season. Crafts that you and your loved ones create can become meaningful personalized gifts, decorations, holiday cards, or even food, in the case of holiday cookies or a structure such as a gingerbread house. Don’t forget to protect your surfaces at home with newspaper or plastic, as this one can get messy!
Sprucing up your home for the holidays is an excellent way to involve your loved one with differing abilities in the festivities. Whether it’s tying bows, picking out color schemes, or helping choose where decorations will go, there are many accessible ways for everyone to participate.
Reading Holiday Books
Another way to generate holiday cheer is to read holiday-themed books. You can do this in many different ways, from audiobooks to Braille books to reading out loud. Reading a book to an older adult with visual difficulties can allow them to easily enjoy a festive novel while bonding with their loved one, and children of all ability levels can enjoy the fun of holiday rhymes and tales read out loud.
Holiday Themed Sensory Boxes
Sensory boxes are a great way to help those with sensory differences to experience the season in a comfortable way. Fill boxes with themed items like crinkly wrapping paper, cinnamon sticks, fresh pine needles, or just-add-water “snow.” This is also a great time to spice up sensory box classics by adding new shapes and colors.
There are many decisions to be made about how, where, and with whom to celebrate the holidays. Involve your differently abled loved one in these decisions by asking them for their input and keeping their preferences and needs in mind.
Photos with Santa
Children who celebrate Christmas can find great joy in having their picture taken with Santa Claus, who may visit a shopping center near you. Here in Denver, the Autism Community Store is holding their annual Pictures with Santa event on Dec 17, which is specially designed for the comfort of neurodiverse kids. Click here to learn more and reserve your time slot.
For those who observe the religious significance of the winter holidays, visiting a place of worship or participating in a ritual at home can be a meaningful and joyful experience. Involve your loved one in these activities by making sure they are present and encouraging them to take on a role in the ceremonies if possible. Keep in mind that religious institutions are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, so planning ahead for accessible routes may be necessary.
Singing and Dancing
One of the best ways to celebrate any occasion is music and movement! Make time throughout the season to play holiday music and encourage your loved ones to move in any way that is available to them.
The most important thing to remember when planning activities for the family is to ask your friend or family member with differing abilities what they need to be fully included. Letting them know that you value their presence and want to help them participate in any way they’re comfortable goes a long way toward creating an enjoyable holiday season for everyone.
If you or anyone you know needs assistance meeting their family’s needs this holiday season, please visit the RMHS website to view the 2022 Holiday Resource Guide in both English and Spanish and learn about local options.