I’ve noticed that children vary widely in how excitable they are.
Children depend on us to help regulate their excitation.
We aim to foster engagement rather than excitation or entertainment.
The central focus here is that the child is getting opportunity both to be excited and to be calm. Both are important and contribute to a natural, healthy rhythm. It is also important that the child is not always reaching a level that is the limit of their excitation.
If your child tends to be very excitable, here are some suggestions you might experiment with:
- Re-read the same picture books many, many times instead of reading different books. This may be a practice in patience for the adult.
- This applies to other kinds of media as well. If you allow the child watch television or movie, replay the same episode or section many, many times.
- When reading a picture book, before changing the page, allow the child to study the page/image until the child is ready for the next page. You may be able to sense this naturally because the child may turn to look at your face. You may want to ask the child to say “next please” or “all done” when they are finished studying the page. I watch their eyes as they study a page and wait for a clue that they are done.
- I don’t think tickling is appropriate for any children but it is especially important not to tickle children who are very excitable. I never tickle a child at school, and this is a rule at Little Quail School.
- Do not make attempts to excite the child by making faces or tossing the child in the air. We emphasize engagement rather than excitation. Children find plenty in their environment to be excited and stimulated by.
- Down time is extremely important after exciting activities or events. This may look like “doing nothing” but it is a crucial time for integration and learning. Quiet, protected, imaginative play is an excellent way for young children to process.
- Limit choices. This likely includes limiting the number of toys that are available during play time. Limiting the selection of books to choose from is recommended by child expert, Kim John Payne. This can also apply to clothing, foods, and activity options.
If your child seems to lose interest quickly, this may be a sign that the child actually has reached the level of input/stimulation that is appropriate for his/her capacity. This is not a sign of need for increased stimulation, another activity or being entertained by an adult.
Identifying over-excited states:
- Crying easily
- Crying without resolution, one crying episode leads to the next and the next for hours or the rest of the day
- Screaming, screeching, high pitched noises. At Little Quail School we redirect the energy once this level of excitement occurs. For example, if a child is screeching they may be encouraged to sing a song they already know or help with a tactile, grounding activity such as folding washcloths. This moves the child down one rung on the excitation ladder, rather than forcing stillness or quiet which is likely to be jarring and incite significant resistance.
- Speaking quickly and/or loudly.
- Wakes up often during either or both nap and nighttime slumber.
- Has difficulty going to sleep
Typical of over-stimulated children is an inability to listen, hear, and/or follow instructions. I have seen this in children that otherwise respond to a request or join in a song.