5 Signs Your Child is Overstimulated

Do you ever come home from work and just need to sit still in a quiet place for a while? Maybe you zone out in front of the TV or you rock in the rocking chair and watch the hummingbirds or you soak in a hot, bubble bath.  If so, you’re demonstrating how you relax and decompress from too much stimulation.

Running a house, raising children, and maintaining a career are a lot to juggle. One minute the baby is crying and the next minute your phone beeps with a call you must take. And all of it must be done now!

Today’s moms are often overstimulated and so are their children. Stress is apparent but often it is unrecognized or misidentified. Here’s some help.

The 5 signs your child is overstimulated are:

  1. They seem cranky, tired, or upset.
  2. They cry and can’t explain why.
  3. They throw themselves on the floor in tears or anger.
  4. They refuse to do an activity anymore.
  5. They refuse to do simple things, such as put on a seat belt or put on shoes.

Now I know these are signs of many other things, such as hunger or sleepiness; however, it has been my observation children are often showing us they are overstimulated and stressed.

We’ve all seen a young child having a meltdown at Target. Right? It’s called overstimulation which leads to emotional distress. They’re not being bad as much as they are stressed.

I must admit, I also hate being told no when I see so many things I want. I’ve just learned not to have a hissy fit in public; but, I have yelled at my children or overreacted to someone who almost bumped into my car in the parking lot. Why? Because I was overstimulated.

God has wired us to function better at the slower pace of nature. Yet, we’ve created a world where we can’t stop ourselves from doing more and more and thinking we’re smart because we are totally booked. Yeah, I don’t think God likes that.

As spring approaches, most of us get the urge to do some deep cleaning and sprucing up. We switch out the children’s clothes from winter to summer and toss out items that are ruined or too small. It’s also a great time to do a serious inventory of toys and toss out what isn’t worth keeping.

As a PT, I go in a lot of homes and most, if not all, are cluttered. There are electronic toys discarded because the batteries are dead, piles of useless Happy Meal trinkets (which are fun only until the next day), or blocks, balls, crowns or dolls. Piles of them. I’ll admit these scenes make me a tad anxious and distracted.

Disorder or clutter overstimulates me and makes me nervous and distracted. Children can react to clutter in the same ways. While they can’t tell us this, they may show us by becoming fussy or start to “bounce off the walls.” They may complain of being bored, etc. And, as they step over a million pieces of entertainment, we ask, “How could you possibly be bored?” Please reread the list of the 5 ways your child may demonstrate overstimulation.

As the weather warms up, and possibly while your children are at daycare or not at home, go through the toys and discard, or temporarily put in the attic, those items you rarely see them truly play with. Picking up and dumping on the floor does not constitute playing with something. If your children are old enough to understand, donating the toys to a mission provides a great opportunity to teach about charity.

Next, find a place on the shelf or in the closet for each item. This is where it should be kept when not being played with. It will take some work and just thinking about it may be overstimulating you. But, schedule the time and you’ll be thankful you did.

Free up floor space and create breathing room for you and them. And, I ask you to prayerfully consider stopping (or severely limiting) the times you buy them a Happy Meal or whatever they call it where you eat out. My children did much better when they learned meals don’t automatically come with toys.

Disney and McDonalds, to name a few, have successfully tapped into our lust of the flesh nature and trained our children, and us, to think eating means toys. It does not. It is simply a time to feed your body and socialize in a face-to-face way with others at the table.

God has promised to give us everything we need but not all we want. And we all want more than we need. Children are no different.

If we’d focus on simplifying our lives, maybe we’d experience less stress and overstimulation. If we were less stressed, maybe our children would experience less, as well.

More time with God and with our children is at the top of the list. I hope you’ll take the time to remove some things, such as more toys, from your life.

I’d love to hear of your suggestions and successes and if you have a topic you’d like to hear about, please list it in the comments.


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