Strategies for Preventing Overstimulation in Kids

Multitasking Motherhood

While calming an overstimulated child is important (obviously), it's equally as important to learn how to AVOID overstimulation as best you can. This is going to look different for each family and even different for each child in the same family.

Here are some general strategies for preventing overstimulation in children.

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Establish Routines and Boundaries:

Establishing routines and boundaries is important in preventing overstimulation in young children. A consistent daily routine (not a strict schedule!) helps children understand what to expect throughout the day, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Setting clear boundaries for behavior also helps keep kids from becoming overwhelmed. Parents often feel guilty for setting boundaries, but it's important to understand that boundaries actually help children feel safe and secure (even when they are pushing them!).

Monitor Screen Time and Media Exposure:

This is huge, and I know it's controversial, but I will always share my expert opinion based on research and what we know about child development. Too much screen time is not good. Period. Now there are MANY nuances to this conversation, but as a general rule, limiting screen time is a good idea.

The research shows that too much exposure to screens can be overwhelming for young brains (it's overwhelming for adult brains, too!). So it’s important to limit their time with devices, and it's also important to monitor what type of content they consume on these devices; make sure that it is age-appropriate and not overly stimulating or violent.

Reduce noise and visual clutter.

Excess noise and visual stimulation can be overwhelming for children. Try to create a calm and quiet environment by reducing background noise and visual clutter. This means organizing your space and often parents can get rid of about 75% of their toys (this also helps children play more independently!)

Provide sensory breaks (preferably outside).

Children who are easily overstimulated may benefit from sensory breaks throughout the day. This can include activities like deep breathing, stretching, or spending time in a quiet, calming space. Being outside is also a naturally calming environment for many children, so taking breaks outside can be great. Here are a bunch of activities you can do outside with your kids that are free or low cost.

Encourage physical activity

Exercise can help children burn off excess energy and reduce stress. Encourage your child to engage in gross motor activities like running, jumping, or playing outside.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can help children learn to regulate their emotions and reduce stress. Encourage your child to practice mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Incorporating yoga is also a great way to incorporate mindfulness and movement into your child's day.

Create a calm-down kit.

Put together a collection of calming sensory items like a stress ball, a fidget toy, or play dough. Even including a weighted blanket can be helpful for children who need a little extra support when they're feeling overwhelmed.

Providing opportunities for playtime and exploration.

Allowing children plenty of free play where they can explore their environment without adult interference will give them a chance to process all the new information they take in during the day without feeling overwhelmed by it all at once.

Additionally, providing toys that stimulate their senses naturally vs. artificially is best. Basic toys like blocks, dolls, trucks, and play silks will provide enough stimulation. You do not need toys that flash, dance, or sing. 

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Alanna Gallo is dedicated to combating parental burnout by empowering parents to move away from Pinterest perfection and embrace a simpler approach to raising children. She is also a mother of four little ones and holds a master’s in teaching.

Stamford, CT
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