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Is your child stressed, irritable, overactive, or easily frustrated? This may be a result of something known as overstimulation. Overstimulation happens when a child is swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise and activity than he/she can cope with. The stress caused, which is often unconscious, can result in many negative behaviors such as the ones mentioned above.
What can be overstimulating to a child?
Too many toys
Many times, in our efforts to keep our children occupied, we actually provide too much stimulation. Research shows that too many toys can increase attention problems, as children don’t learn to focus, but rather can always jump to the next toy at whim. But don’t worry about boredom. Studies find that the more toys a child has, the more bored they are! Having fewer toys actually encourages contentment in a child, not to mention creativity and focus.
Too much in the schedule
Quick! Grab breakfast, rush off to school, stay for after-school programs, soccer practice, dance lessons, and music lessons, rush home for supper, and cram homework in before bedtime. Repeat the following day.
Your specific situation may vary, but most of us, in our efforts to provide an enriched learning environment, actually overstimulate children in the process. The reality is, a more simple and relaxed learning process is more effective than trying to cram too much in at once. Better to learn a few things well than to try to fit everything in and learn superficially.
By definition, media is overstimulating. Even the best forms of good-content media typically bombard children’s brains with too much information in rapid succession – leading to overstimulation. For more on this topic, check out our iChild seminar series
So what’s the solution?
- Give children time.
Children need time to process things, time for reflection, time to organize their mind – quickly rushing from one activity to another does not give children this necessary time. Parents and teachers should guide and work with their children through activities, not moving on to something else until the child has had a chance to explore the subject and process the information. And this applies to any age – allow your infant time to simply look at something and take it in without quickly moving from one scene to another, encourage your toddler or young child to “study” those ants for as much time as he needs without telling him it’s time to learn science, and allow your teenager to take the time she needs for researching that project.
- Encourage exploratory learning.
Much can be learned from exploration, and this capitalizes on a child’s interests. Take advantage of the incidental learning opportunities that present themselves.
- Eliminate the media.
Research is clear that media is unnecessary and even harmful for young children.
- Avoid the artificial.
Find natural toys or activities in place of the artificial ones. That’s not to say that a doll or a toy truck or bike is wrong, but don’t rely on artificial toys for entertainment. Children should learn to entertain themselves with natural materials.
- Avoid constant “doing”.
Be careful of constant “doing” – always going to this person’s house, or doing this task, or getting this done, or going to this event. Take time for quiet, for the simple, peaceful enjoyments in life. That doesn’t mean send your child off to have quiet time so you can catch up on Facebook or the dishes. No. Together, take quiet time. Talk together. Go outdoors.
A child should learn to observe and have peaceful “entertainment.” To sit quietly and watch the birds in the forest is a wonderful form of entertainment. Look for the beauty and entertainment in nature.
Quiet and Simple
“Quietness, calmness, and freedom from artificial excitement build strength in the immature child.” – Dr. Raymond Moore. School Can Wait, 81
“The more quiet and simple the life of the child—the more free from artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature—the more favorable it is to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength.” – Child Guidance, 139
For more on this topic, and much more helpful information for following God’s plan of education with your children, you’ll want to get our new DVD series, Educating A Thinking Generation, available in DVD or USB format, here.