Easing into summer

6 tips for a relaxing summer holiday for highly sensitive children

Summer holidays are upon us again. That wonderful time when everything goes and nothing is required for a while. Yet the holiday period can be a source of stress for some children. Especially for children who are sensory sensitive. A holiday period is often confusing for highly sensitive children. Everything is different and unfamiliar. This brings a lot of ambiguity and thus a feeling of restlessness, tension and insecurity. The predictable rhythm of school days is lost and the unpredictability of each new day sometimes feels more like a burden than a freedom.
Highly sensitive children need regularity and clarity. New situations can be overwhelming and can cost a lot of energy instead of bringing in energy. And that is not exactly what the holiday period is for. A holiday is for 'recharging'.
To help you get through the summer months smoothly and carefree, we share 6 tips from our own experience. Hopefully they will help you enjoy a wonderful summer together!
Preparing for a carefree summer
Every year, when the last school bell has rung, I see in my highly sensitive son's eyes both excitement and slight anxiety about the non-structured weeks that lie ahead. From these experiences, we have learnt the importance of (continuing to) provide structure, even in the freedom of summer holidays.

Tip 1: (Continue to) provide structure

One of the first things we do is fill in our holiday schedule together. We pick out days for specific activities; from beach days to quiet days at home, from family visits to times for sports. This helps tremendously. My son knows what to expect and the fear of the unknown diminishes. We use a simple planner, which is visually appealing and easy to understand. If you want, you can download our holiday planner (July - August - September) here and fill in your personal activities.

Download our summer holiday planner here:


Try to provide as much structure and regularity as possible even during the holidays. Do you always have breakfast together at the table? Then do the same during the holidays. Before going to bed, do you discuss how your day was and what's coming up tomorrow? Keep doing that.


Tip 2: Prepare visually for new environments

A new holiday destination can be exciting. A different environment, a different daily rhythm, a different language, different food and not sleeping at home. For many highly sensitive children, it is therefore helpful to know where they stand. What can you do there? What can you eat there? Where will you sleep?
Help your child by looking at photos and maps of the holiday location and the journey there beforehand. Tell as clearly as possible what will happen. Look at photos and videos of the holiday destination, trips and nature parks to form a picture together of what you can expect. This way, you ensure predictability and that takes away a lot of stress and uncertainty.


Tip 3: A plan to avoid overstimulation

Think about what stimuli will affect your child during the various activities you have planned. Make sure you are well prepared to limit the large amount of new, exciting stimuli. This will prevent overstimulation.
You can think of:

  • Sunglasses to reduce stimuli from bright sunlight
  • A cap to prevent overheating and limit visual stimuli
  • Earplugs (Loop engage kids) for busy, noisy places
  • Soft breathable clothing without annoying seams or scratching fabrics to avoid over-stimulation from uncomfortable clothing
  • A cuddly toy, scarf or cloth with their own familiar scent or your perfume, so they can feel safe in a new (sleeping) environment
  • Healthy snacks and sandwich toppings of your trusted brand, because on holiday everything tastes slightly different.

There are already so many new stimuli on your child during the holidays, which take extra energy to process, that it is good to limit the amount of stimuli and also offer familiar, safe stimuli.


Tip 4: Provide their own safe place

Together with your child, set up their own (sleeping) place with their favourite things and toys from home. A space where your highly-sensitive child can feel safe and relax (You can think of their cuddly toys, their own pillow, a night light, a mosquito net, a bed tent). A lovely place where your child feels comfortable and can retreat as he or she wishes, to unwind, de-stimulate and recharge.


Tip 5: Plan plenty of low-stimulus activities


One of the most valuable tips I can share for a relaxing summer with your child is to create enough moments of rest. Children who are sensory-sensitive often find it difficult to cope with the pressure of a packed schedule. Take into account the number of stimuli coming at your child, all of which need to be processed. If there is too little time and space for this, your child may become over-stimulated. So take the time to go through your schedule carefully. Ask yourself: isn't there too much on the agenda?

Consider taking half or even whole days off in between planned activities. These days off give your child the chance to really unwind and prevent him or her from getting overstimulated. You can also fill these days with low-stimulation activities that are known to be calming. For example, find the silence in a city park or go out to quiet places where your child can enjoy nature. Visit an open-air museum, where peaceful surroundings and the beauty of art come together. Go bird watching together lying in a hammock. Build rafts from branches and leaves and set them afloat. Collecting boulders along a quietly flowing river or an afternoon canoeing on a quiet lake can also work wonders. These low-stimulus activities help your high-sensitive child unwind and fully recharge their batteries, ready for the next day.


Tip 6: Use travel time as de-stimulation time

During holidays, we often spend a lot of time in the car, train or plane. These moments of travel can also be perfectly used as time to de-stimulate.

Here's what we do to turn travel time into rest time:
Listening to soothing music 

Make a playlist of soft, calming music that your child knows and loves. Choose songs that don't generate too much energy or emotion, but instead help soften the mood and create a calming environment while travelling.


Choose an audiobook instead of movies or games on the tablet or phone. Screens provide a lot of visual stimuli. Beautiful stories read aloud give your child's eyes a rest. You can literally listen to them with your eyes closed. This is an excellent way to make the most of travelling time without your child getting overstimulated by a screen or a computer game.
Breathing exercises
Introduce simple breathing exercises that your child can perform while sitting. A good exercise is the "5-5 breathing technique". Teach your child to inhale deeply while counting to five together and then exhale slowly in five seconds. Repeat this a few times to help them relax.
Fidget toys
Give your child fidget toys such as a stress ball, fidget keychain or other sensory toys. Fidgeting, squeezing, rubbing with these materials will help your child regulate and maintain focus, especially during longer travel periods or when your child has to sit still for a slightly longer time in a restaurant, for example.

Weighted toys and accessories
Use a weighted cuddly toy or a soothing weighted shoulder collar. Their weight gives them a pleasant pressure and has a calming effect when you are tense or edgy. You will be amazed at how wonderfully calm it makes them feel. We always take it with us on (long) car journeys and use it in turns. You put it on your shoulders or on your lap for 15 minutes and feel the tension and agitation decrease. This subtly de-stimulates us and we arrive at our destination relaxed. I wish the same for your family.


By doing these de-stimulation activities while travelling, you turn these necessary parts of the holiday into valuable moments of sensory processing and relaxation.

We hope you will benefit from these tips and that you too will have a carefree summer.


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We wish you a very happy summer!


Photo's: SAM Sensory & More


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