Toddlers have started to gain control over their ability to react to stimuli in the environment. They learn to shut things out in ways they couldn't as infants. However, they're still new at this skill and can get overstimulated after a long day or by being around too many people or too much excitement. Watch for signs of overstimulation in your toddler and help remove him to a calming, relaxing spot when these signs start to appear.
Avoiding Eye Contact
A toddler who has become overly stimulated will start avoiding eye contact. This reduces the amount of input she receives. The toddler may start hiding her eyes, putting things over her head, crawling under tables and refusing to look at people talking to her. Even if you bring yourself face-to-face and look at the toddler, she may avert her eyes or quickly move from one thing to another without stopping to focus on anything.
He Behaves Irrationally
While 2- and 3-year-olds aren't exactly known for highly rational conversations, the overstimulated toddler will be even less rational than usual. He might make unusual demands, refuse to eat, fight getting into a car seat and express emotions that don't seem to fit the situation. An overstimulated toddler may even be more aggressive in uncharacteristic ways.
She Cries More
While toddlers cry less often than infants, tears are still a major communication tool for children of this age. When a toddler gets stressed out, she may lose access to the limited language skills that she has developed so far. She'll find it too difficult to form words and sentences and will fall back upon crying as a way of letting you know that she needs attention and help.
He Becomes Disobedient
By the time a child is a toddler, he's likely started obeying simple commands and begun to cooperate with routines. When the toddler gets overly stimulated, he may become disobedient and willful. The disobedience is often a way of grasping for control when things start to feel out of control for him. He'll violate limits as a way of expressing how overwhelmed he feels.
She'll Just Completely Melt Down
When a toddler just can't handle all that life is throwing her way, it isn't uncommon for her to have what parents refer to as a "melt down." This melt down can occur in a variety of ways for different children and can include screaming, crying, throwing herself on the floor, being aggressive and throwing things. It often combines all the symptoms listed above in a major bid for attention and help.
- "What to Expect the Toddler Years"; Heidi Murkoff; 2008
- Family Education; Five Signs Your Child is Overstimulated; Kyle Pruett
- BabyCentre: Toddler Sleep Concerns: Overstimulation