Happy Friday everyone! Easter weekend is upon us. It’s the time of year filled with Easter egg hunts and spending quality time with loved ones. Unfortunately, for many of our children, these egg hunts can easily become an overwhelming and stressful experience. Over the years, I tried to find ways to help my son cope with everything. I hope that some of these ideas might help your child if they also seem to get overwhelmed by Easter egg hunts.
Before the Hunt
- Practice. Before attending an Easter egg hunt, you can roleplay Easter egg hunts at home. Hide a few eggs around the backyard for your child to find. You don’t have to include treats in the eggs. Let your child get excited about the hunt. Perhaps you can start by hiding one color of eggs. Next time, add in another color, and so on until you have a multicolored effect. You don’t have to do all the hiding, either. Usually, siblings and other family members love to help with this game.
The Day of the Hunt
- Arrive early. Spend a few minutes with your child to assess the situation when it’s quiet and relatively calm. This is also a good opportunity to explain that everyone will help gather the eggs and that some children will find more eggs for their baskets. It isn’t a competition to see who can find the most eggs.
2.Bring the necessary gear. For exanple, would your child cope better wearing headphones before and during the hunt? If so, make sure you bring them. You can even decorate and put bunny ears on the headphones if you want to be extra festive. Your kid will be very much in style! You can also bring favorite snacks and a favorite you to help keep your child in a good mood.
- Explain the rules. Many children on the spectrum want to know what the rules are. Are all the eggs fair game? Just certain colors or a certain amount? When can they start? Where do they put the eggs that they find? Even children who don’t have special needs want to know the rules. Once, my mother took my nephew to his first, huge, public egg hunt. Her instructions were, “When the bell goes off, you run!” Well, the bell sounded, and he ran. . .and ran, and ran. Luckily, he heard her yelling that he should stop and pick up some eggs, and he saw what the other kids were doing, so he followed suit. We still tease Nana about her incomplete instructions that day.
- Bring your own basket. Make sure your child has a place to put their eggs. It’s too confusing if they have to shuffle them around or use a makeshift container that was grabbed at the last second. They don’t need a fancy basket, but they need a basket similar to what the other kids might have. It doesn’t make sense to them if everyone else has baskets, and they have a grocery bag. Plus, if you allow them to use the basket or bucket they use while practicing before the egg hunt, it’ll make for an easier experience. Your child will recpgnize their Easter basket or bucket and know that it’s egg hunting time.
- Take your time. They don’t have to rush. All the other kids might be rushing, but your child doesn’t have to. In my son’s case, his fine-motor skills were lacking. He simply couldn’t grab the eggs and put them in his basket as fast as the other kids. So, we told him ahead of time and kept reassuring him during the event that it was okay to go his own speed. We were careful not to hurry or rush him along.
- Go with your child. If your child wants you to come along with them, go along! Carry the basket, offer encouragement, and offer a suggestion or two, so that they don’t become overwhelmed. Be careful, though, not to give lots of instructions, or you will add to the chaos. Instead, lead gently by example or just point out an egg to them. If you’re at a public egg hunt that doesn’t allow parents to be involved, see if a sibling, an older cousin, or a friend would be willing to help them.
- Let them stop or opt out if they want to. For the first two years, my son would pick up a few eggs and then stop. He was done. I’d encourage him to find more, but he didn’t want to. So, I decided not to push it. If he was happy with a few eggs, then that was perfectly okay with me. Sometimes, he just wanted to watch his cousins and friends from the sidelines. And, that was okay too.
Personalize an egg hunt. If the group egg hunt didn’t go well for your child, make an Easter egg hunt just for them. You can do lots of eggs or just a few. You can do one color of eggs or many colors of eggs. Your child can even take all day to find the eggs if he wants to. In those first couple of years when my son struggled, I did egg hunts just for him. Hands down, those egg hunts were his favorite in those years. He absolutely loved it!
The advantages of mastering the Easter egg hunt for kids on the spectrum:
Looking back, I believe that helping my son learn to manage social occasions such as these family celebrations helped him immensely with his social skills. He stopped being afraid to interact with his cousins and friends. In fact, he soon began to enjoy their company and look forward to seeing them. He loved his down time too, but by mastering social events like Easter egg hunts, he learned how to follow directions and truly look forward to these celebrations with loved ones. He became the expert Easter egg hunter thanks to all the practice he had over the years. My hope is that your amazing kids on the spectrum can become expert Easter egg hunters too. Have a safe and wonderful Easter everyone!