A Special Needs Friendly Easter Egg Hunt
On Easter weekend, I posted some shout outs on Facebook thanking our children’s minister for the changes he made to make our church’s annual community egg hunt outreach more friendly for kids with special needs. I had several people ask what we did and how it worked. I promised a post, but my content calendar was already booked, and I had a child’s birthday party and a dance recital to take care of. So, here I am, a few weeks later.
Background: I have long advocated for children with special needs in our children’s ministry. I am always the mom who calls to find out what the menu is for any children’s activity to make sure that my daughter and the other children who have food allergies that I’m aware of will have something safe to eat. I’m always the mom questioning how we could have handled a behavioral situation better or what might be behind that behavior (sensory issues?). I’m the mom who is always asking the “what if” questions related to assisting a child who comes in who needs extra support. Yes, I’m *that* mom.
Fortunately, we have an understanding church who sees my point and is constantly making adjustments to accommodate children who need extra assistance and support. And because I’m always thinking a few steps ahead, they just made me the special needs coordinator for our children’s ministry.
So, I sat down with our children’s minister and discussed some of the issues I’ve seen with past egg hunts and my concerns about how we would handle various situations if they occurred.
The set up: We have our annual egg hunt outreach in a small local park. The space is limited, but we have an area set up for games, face painting, and bounce houses, an egg hunt area for preschoolers, grades K through 2nd, and grades 3rd through 6th, and an area where we serve a lunch of hot dogs, chips, and drinks.
This year, we made changes to create a special needs friendly Easter egg hunt. I’m sure we’ll continue to improve on this, but we had a lot of positive comments about what we did this year, which tells me we’re off to a good start!
- We made sure there was a first aid kit at each of the three registration tables.
- Each registration area had signs posted reminding people that the candy at the egg hunt might contain common allergens. (Hint: READ LABELS! And don’t feed someone else’s child without checking out the situation!)
- Some of the wieners in the food area were kept separate, without buns, for our gluten-free participants. There were chips that didn’t contain cheese or milk for our dairy-free participants, and we served water as well as lemonade for those who didn’t need the extra sugar.
- Each of the three egg hunt areas had a “reserved” area roped off next to it, which was for children with special needs. This provided them a place to hunt eggs where they had a fair chance and didn’t get run over by the other kids in their age group.
- The children’s minister and I constantly made the rounds between registration areas during the check-in process, seeing if there were any obvious special needs we needed to address with something other than what we already had in place.
It’s not perfect, and I know we still have a long way to go, but it’s definitely a start! It brought tears to my eyes to see children who are usually left out, knocked down in the rush of the other kids’ searches, and crying at the end of the hunt because they didn’t get any eggs feeling happy and excited because they got eggs, candy, and prizes! That definitely makes all the extra work worth it!
How does your church or organization make the community Easter outreach more friendly to children with special needs?