Every kid can become overstimulated. If you’re a parent or a sibling or have been around children at all, you’ve most likely witnessed kids screaming and crying at an amusement park, at the grocery store, or even at their own birthday parties.
Meltdowns and emotional behavior can arise due to several reasons, but overstimulation is often a major contributing factor. Kids don’t know how to deal with what they’re feeling and are not yet able to articulate their distress, so they resort to loud, tantrum-like behavior. By recognizing the signs, parents can learn to avoid overstimulation.
What Is Overstimulation And Why Does It Happen?
Overstimulation occurs when a child, or even an adult, becomes overwhelmed by too much activity and stimuli. Everybody responds to certain sensory information differently. Some children have a lower threshold for certain stimuli, such as those with autism or anxiety. However, even children with relatively high stimuli thresholds can be prone to experiencing overstimulation.
The threshold of overstimulation can vary due to several factors. A child who typically does well in crowds may become overstimulated if they are hungry or didn’t sleep well the night before.
Children can be overstimulated by anything, whether it’s sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell. It could be a combination of different sensory information. An itchy sweater, bright lights, food textures, or a long day out and about can elicit an emotional reaction from kids.
How Do You Know When A Child Is Overstimulated?
Depending on the age of the child, the signs of overstimulation can look a little different. Babies may cry, clench their fists, jerk their limbs, or turn their heads away from the stimuli that are overwhelming them.
Toddlers may cry, become irritated and cranky, and display other tantrum-like behaviors. Older children may also throw tantrums and demonstrate hyperactivity, aggression, or wild excitement.