When Less Is More
Living and Loving|February 2017

Why rushing from one play date to the next and planning endless activities for your little one might not be in her best interests.

Tammy Jacks

Although there’s a place for stimulating activities and social events, downtime – when your little one can rest and play on her own – has merit and will go a long way in creating a contented child, believes childcare expert and author of Toddler Sense, Sister Ann Richardson.

The dangers of over stimulation

“The current emphasis on a baby’s need for stimulation, along with the boom in group activities for toddlers and preschoolers, has pushed children’s social development forward by about a year. That single year is a quarter of a four-year-old’s lifetime and, sadly, some children just can’t cope,” says child psychologist Penelope Leach.

While you might think it will be fun to take your child from her swimming lesson to a play date and then to a pizza place for an early dinner, she might show you that it’s not OK through behavioural issues like tantrums, endless crying episodes, irritability or sleep problems that translate to: “Help! I’m only just managing.”

The truth is, your child’s sensory system can become overloaded quickly, explains Ann. It also depends on her individual personality and how her nervous system interprets external input from the environment, such as loud noises, strong smells or a room full of people.

Your child’s personality plays a large role in how she handles the world around her, too. For example, if she’s shy and reserved, she might prefer quieter activities and need less interaction with others, compared to another child who might crave attention and affection from others. However, even if you have a busy child who likes to be entertained, it’s still important to regulate whatever she’s exposed to and help her deal with it daily, says Ann.

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