Overstimulation occurs when an abundance of stimuli is beyond the child’s processing “threshold” and causes confusion and/or anxiety. It’s the feeling some of us may experience when facing 300 options in the cereal aisle, deciding what to binge on Netflix, scrolling through Pinterest… Don’t even get us started on choosing the “best” anti-wrinkle cream in the cosmetics section!
The point being, life often offers too many choices. The same phenomenon is happening to our children and we are a part of it. It’s tempting to buy them every “Hot! New! Now!” toy on the market. Yet studies show that less is more when it comes to toys for kids. We haven’t yet seen a similar study about anti-wrinkle creams for their moms or dads – but we‘re waiting.
3 Strategies to Stop Overstimulation in Kids
- TOYS: LESS IS MORE
Limit the number of toys they have access to during playtime. Passive toys for active children increases their focus, attention and brings creativity to life. Read THIS article to learn more about recent studies and the incredible results.
- BURSTS OF 1:1 TIME
Overstimulation affects all of our senses adversely and makes our “fight or flight” mechanism work overtime. Children and toddlers with Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism or other sensory vulnerabilities are more easily overwhelmed. In our pediatric occupational therapy, we focus on play-based and relational learning. One-on-one time with parents and people they trust anchors children and gives them a safe place to turn when the rest of the world becomes too much. Taking time to play with your children and being present is the first step to overcoming many childhood anxieties – even brief bursts of as-present-as-possible, child-led play is proven to build your child’s level of calm almost like building a muscle.
- CONNECTION TO CALM
Stopping the noise, removing your child from the situation that is causing sensory overload, and taking breaks are all good, common sense steps to practice. Yoga, breathing exercises and even meditation helps, too, yet in the moment – focus on connection alone to get them back to calm. Breathing exercises are too high level for these little ones in times of big upset (even adults too:)), yet can be valuable for times they are calm or on the mild edge of stress. While toddler meditation seems like an oxymoron, one quick Google search will prove it’s real.
Remember less “stuff”, less on the calendar, and more love is key to keeping overstimulation at a minimum.
AZ+A’s Building Blocks Preschool Boost program is aimed at developing these essential self-regulation skills that will set the foundation for all relating, engaging, and learning to come.