There’s no doubt that your baby’s development depends to some extent on the level of stimulation you provide for her at home. For instance, she’s more likely to babble loudly if you speak and sing to her in the early months of life. Likewise, she’s more likely to show an interest in her surroundings if she’s given exciting toys that attract her attention. Quite simply, stimulation helps her thrive. But it’s easy to overdo it, too.
Signs of ‘too much’
Knowing when to spot the over-stimulation indicators is key to making sure you don’t overload your little one. Generally the big signs include irritability, tiredness or sleeplessness, lack of cooperation, over-excitement and dependency.
Finding a balance
Because nobody knows your baby better than you, you’re the best person to spot how she shows you it’s all getting too much. For example, when there’s a lot going on around her, she may get fractious or tearful. Your baby has natural curiosity and instinctively tries to grab for a new toy placed within her reach. Failure to react could mean that she’s had enough new toys for one day and she’d rather play with the ones she’s already got.
At the end of the day
Stimulation makes the mind very active, so the final time to really focus on avoiding it is before bedtime. It’s important to let your baby wind down and have her ‘quiet time’ just like us at the end of the day. A baby who is over-stimulated may be so excited that she can’t get to sleep easily. Make sure you use a soothing voice, soft movements and keep things calm and quieter as you prepare her for bed so her mind can switch off in time for sleep.
Carefully place three or four toys beside your baby while she’s in her cot or maybe while she sits upright on the floor. Instead of encouraging her to play or showing what she can do with the toys, leave her to make her own choice. If she sits passively without attempting to play, consider the possibility she has become so dependent on you to stimulate her that she has lost the desire or confidence to plan her own activities.
Ways to regulate stimulation through the day:
- Avoid over-planning. It’s good to structure your baby’s day, but make sure you don’t do so much that she’s exhausted by all the different activities you arrange for her.
- Allow free play. She needs to have time to herself, to play spontaneously without your guidance.
- Watch her reaction. She should be actively involved in play. You may be over-stimulating her if she seems uninterested in the activities you provide for her.
- All change! If something seems like it’s overloading her senses, step away from the activity.
- Keep it fun. Play should be fun and your baby’s face should light up when she sees her favourite toy. Over-stimulation takes the pleasure out of it for her.