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How to Prevent Overstimulation in Your Child's Play

September 14, 2021

Do you ever look at your spice cabinet to decide what to make for dinner? Likely not because too many spices means too many choices, and can result in feeling overwhelmed or even frustrated. The same can be true for your child when they play – especially when they’re exploring new play ideas or materials. Fortunately, there are small adjustments you can make so your child’s play isn’t overwhelming or overstimulating! This will help their play to be a fun and meaningful learning experience. Here are 3 ways to prevent overstimulation in your child’s play.

1. Remember That Less Is More

Start with fewer materials and allow your child to add more toys and objects as they play. This is especially helpful when introducing something new as it helps to prevent overstimulation.

Toddler sprays water onto a table using a spray bottle.

Above is a photo of a child playing with water in a spray bottle. Even with just this spray bottle they are learning:

  • – to use their small muscles (hands and fingers) to hold and control the spray bottle,
  • – how the bottle works – “when I push this piece, water comes out!”
  • – and about the sounds the bottle makes when sprayed (making for a great sensory experience!)

With so much learning happening with just one item, adding any more before your child is ready can become overstimulating.

2. Rotate Their Toys

Children can feel overwhelmed by choices when all their toys are available at one time. It’s ok to limit the selection available at one time. Having fewer options can enhance their play experience by encouraging your child to use their imagination! Plus, when you bring out a toy that hasn’t been played with in a while it can feel new and exciting to your little one.

Toddler plays with toy animals.

3. Expand On Their Interests

Sometimes children have a favourite toy or game they LOVE to play over and over again. A great way to expand on their passion is to add a new item to what their current interest is. Whether they love to play with cars, dolls, balls or books – incorporating their interests and familiar toys/objects to different play experiences may help your child feel more comfortable when exploring new materials and objects in their play.

Toy cars are used to paint and in a water sensory bin - showing how one toy can be used for different play ideas

In the photo above, cars are being used to paint and as part of water play – making these experiences less overwhelming and maybe even more interesting to children who love cars!

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