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How to Overcome Your Toddler’s Deadly Fear of Fireworks

I can’t believe I’m going to do this. I’m going to start this “Fear of Fireworks” post with a disclaimer.

(Yes. Already.)

When I say the word “overcome,” I don’t mean “cure”. As ANY parent of a toddler knows, trying to “cure” your toddler of anything is going to prove impossible. Nose picking, private-scratching…there are just some personal preferences that are going to be there for a while, and a deep-seated fear of fireworks may be one of them.

That’s okay, though, because the person who is overcoming in this article isn’t your toddler.

It’s you!  Yay you!

Just like you have to overcome your child’s public temper tantrums, the goal here is to help you overcome your child’s fear of fireworks by providing him with various coping skills and anti-anxiety strategies. These smart distractors and tools will hopefully allow you to get out of the “Mom in the Car Club” and sit with the rest of your family for a change.  

So let’s start at the very core of his fear of fireworks. Once we’ve figured that out, we can nail down how to help minimize that fear.

What’s Causing This Fear of Fireworks?

There are usually two things that give toddler anxiety and stress during fireworks.

  1. The loud noises. Obviously.
  2. The large crowds of people you’re navigating around.

Take a few minutes to think about your child’s unique personality. Is she terribly shy and easily overwhelmed when around a lot of people? Does he startle easily and get distressed when loud noises unexpectedly occur? Or perhaps it’s both?

Once you’ve identified the core issues driving this fear of fireworks, we can start alleviating them.

Bombs Bursting in Air:
Overcoming the Noise Problem

This is probably the most common cause for your toddler’s overwhelming fear of fireworks.  

The NOISE! The “I’m playing nicely with my cousins when ALL OF THE SUDDEN THE WORLD EXPLODES.” I get it, little one. Sometimes being blissfully aware of anything but the train set in front of you has its drawbacks. Even I still jump at those cherry bombs.

Here are three strategies to help your toddler by minimizing the decibel levels as best you can. 

Strategy #1: Location. Location. Location

The most obvious way to help your toddler with the loud noises is to find out where exactly the fireworks are going to be set off, and then find a sweet spot that’s far enough away to dampen the noise, but close enough that you can still see something.

For example, in my city of Racine, Wisconsin, they launch the fireworks on a platform floating in Lake Michigan. The first time I EVER managed to leave the “Mom in the Car Club” was the year we discovered a beautiful beach spot in front of our local zoo.

It was far enough that my kids barely noticed the sound, but close enough that we could all clearly see the night-flowers. Go to your local muncipality’s website and find out where ground zero is going to be located, and then see if you can’t find a spot a mile or two away.

Strategy #2: Go for the Big Bucks

Smaller cities and towns are going to have a lot more of the VERY loud fireworks that are just a flash of white light, because they are a lot cheaper than those fireworks with all the purty colors. (Purty colors = possible toddler noise distractions.)

It might be worth a little extra drive to attend a slightly larger city, who won’t have as many of those useless ugly economic firework bangs.

Strategy #3: Have a Back-Up Plan

If those strategies don’t work, I would recommend having one of these emergency noise back-up plans.

Do you have a baby as well? The Hush Hat will really come in handy!

So Proudly We Hailed:
Overcoming the Crowd Problem

The other reason toddlers can have a fear of fireworks has to do with the pressing crowds. Just as adults can often be categorized as extroverted or introverted, so can children.

Does your child seem to feed off the energy of groups of people, getting more animated and excited? Or does she seem to withdraw and get more clingy? That’s a good indicator of where her stress level is going to be when the evening festivities begin.

Strategy #1: Constant Connection

Part of the anxiety a toddler can have in large crowds of people, is the fear that he will get lost in the sea of faces and become separately from his mom and dad. Okay, let’s be honest, that’s your fear too. 

Sure, you can talon-grip his hand for a few minutes…but usually this event takes HOURS. There are three solutions to your dilemma:

  1. Start strengthening your back muscles so you can carry him all evening. (Maybe he’ll even fall asleep!)
  2. Let Dad perform the traditional piggy back, with a non-traditional gear hack.
  3. Use these matching anti-lost bracelets.
  4. Try a backpack safety harness like this monkey, dinosaur, or shark. (Insulated for late-evening snacks!)
  5. A GPS smart tracking watch, just in case you get separated in the crowd. (Or something worse happens.)

Don’t forget, if you are an Amazon Prime Member, you can get all these things delivered in two days or less.

Strategy #2: His Special Space

If your toddler isn’t a cuddler, strapping him to your back is going to be an epic fail. Once again, we’ve got to go back to thinking about your unique child’s personality clues.

  • How active is he?
  • Does he hate having to sit still?
  • When you’re holding her, will she rest her head on your shoulder? Or crane her neck away from you, trying to get back to the game she’s playing?

These are indicators that your child values his personal space, and will feel overwhelmed and anxious when he’s not given a little of literal wiggle room. The best thing you can do for that personality space is to prepare in advance to provide a buffer-zone for him to feel safe and comfortable.

Pick up an inexpensive toddler play tent to provide a little “house” for your little one to escape to, when he’s feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the faces pushing and talking around him.

Sometimes providing her with her own little special lawn chair can have a similar calming effect. Melissa and Doug make several adorable versions that won’t break the bank. Check out this butterfly, octopus, or caterpillar.

2 Final Smart Ideas to Help Your Toddler
with a Fear of Fireworks

I’ve got two final tips for you, friend, in the battle to re-frame your toddler’s fear of fireworks and replace it with excitement and wonder instead. Yes, they’re a bit on the “common sense” side of things, but with as crazy as your life is these days, can you help it if common sense left for summer vacation back in February?

Smart Idea #1: Teach Him What to Expect

If you have an inkling that your toddler isn’t going to be a Fireworks Cheerleader, do your future self a favor and don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. (If you do, have fun heading home early…) Now’s the time to be proactive!

  1. Talk about what’s going to happen. Describe the beautiful lights, the people, the sparklers, etc. “It’s a big birthday party!” (If you say that…prepare to have a cake for dessert. I learned that the hard way!)
  2. Do some fun firework crafts to help him visualize what fireworks are. I really like these Rice Fireworks or Fireworks in a Bottle.
  3. Watch some fireworks on Youtube. Perhaps even slowly increase the volume a little to help him understand what the experience may feel like.

Smart Idea #2: Make Sure He’s Meeting His Daily Nap Goals

Your child is going to be staying up a lot later than normal (hopefully). This means it’s going to be likely that he’s going to be overtired by the time the fireworks happen. This means that instead of secreting the sleepy hormone (melatonin), his brain is going to be producing the stress hormone (cortisol). This is going to give him a “2nd wind.” This can translate to a lot of extra emotions and a higher tendency for a complete public meltdown. 

Again, you can do yourself a future favor by trying to make sure he gets to his nap goal for the day and possibly adding an “Emergency Nap” in the early evening.

Here are the average daily sleep needs most children need:

  • Babies 9 – 11 months need around 3 hours of sleep during the day.
  • Babies 12 – 28 months need around 2.5 hours of sleep during the day.
  • Toddlers 2-3 years old need around 1.5 – 2 hours of sleep during the day.

If you track your child’s napping habits for several days and see that he’s not getting anywhere near those numbers, set up a one-on-one Napping Session with Certified Gentle Sleep Coach Amy Potts. She will listen to you talk about your family, your baby, your situation, and then propose several nap coaching techniques that may be a good fit. Together, you can create an effective nap plan to get those numbers up.

Remember, sleep begets sleep! The more overtired your child is at the end of the day, the more nighttime and early pre-6am wakeups you have to endure!

Making Memories Together

As a longtime member of the “Moms in the Car Club” for every 4th of July, I can’t tell you what a huge difference it made to use these techniques to help overcome my own toddler’s fear of fireworks. It’s just too bad it took me until Toddler #3 to figure them all out!

Hopefully, you can do better! True, your toddler may not become a fireworks cheerleader overnight, but if you can stay out in the lawn on a blanket for just 15 minutes longer than last year…that’s a huge step in the right direction!

Have you used any of these techniques in the past? Were they helpful? Or perhaps you have an idea that I overlooked? I’d love to hear about it!

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