Too much of a good thing? Early stimulation vs. overstimulation

mom playing with her baby

As parents, we all want to boost our child’s development and give them that extra push that enhances their coordination, strength, attention span, memory, curiosity, and linguistic skills.

Early stimulation achieves all of these and more. However, in our efforts to push our baby’s cognitive and physical skills we can end up overstimulating our child, which can be counterproductive or even damage their development. But when does early stimulation become overstimulation? Keep reading to find out.

What is early stimulation?

According to the CDC ​​ “early stimulation” are those actions that facilitate the gradual acquisition of cognitive, language, motor, social-emotional, and adaptive behaviors and skills during the first year of life. These actions consist of providing children with opportunities to explore their surrounding world with all the senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory).

By providing your child with a program of early stimulation, you’ll be giving them that highly desired boost to develop their brains and bodies.

How can I stimulate my baby?

Adequate stimulation does not necessarily require complex activities or expensive toys. Within your usual daily activities there are multiple opportunities you can take advantage of: 


For babies, simple activities performed consistently provide early stimulation:

  • Make eye contact
  • Make faces, blink, and stick out your tongue
  • Speak and sing to your baby
  • Encourage tummy time to strengthen back and neck muscles
  • Help newborns focus by providing black and white toys or mobiles
  • Sing nursery songs or play gentle rhythmic music
  • Build eye-tracking by moving objects slowly across your baby’s field of vision 

For older babies and toddlers:

  • Have your child creep or crawl on the floor
  • Encourage them to sit up or roll over
  • Offer toys with different shapes and textures to build fine motor control
  • Play Peek-a-boo games, hide objects, and let your baby find them
  • Describe your activities, for example, “I’m cooking, it smells good, right?”, “I’m folding clothes of different colors. These pants are blue, this shirt is pink”.
  • Take advantage of your baby’s care routines (such as bath time, dinner, or changing clothes) to stimulate the sensory awareness: “The water is cold/warm”, “Dessert is sweet”, etc.

All family members and adults who are taking care of your little one can perform stimulation functions, including siblings. The greater the number of new experiences, the greater mental and physical benefits.

So, what could go wrong?

In your enthusiasm to provide early stimulation, it’s relatively easy to overstimulate your child. Proper stimulation is evident when the baby or toddler is attentive, involved in an activity, and enjoying themselves. Overstimulation occurs when children exhibit disinterest or rejection towards activities that they regularly enjoy. Signs of overstimulation might include whining, rocking back and forth, corporal rigidity, turning away from the parent or adult, or simply withdrawing.

If you detect overstimulation signals, it’s time to moderate the activities and noise levels, cuddle and comfort your child, and let then play alone. It’s important to learn to recognize and respect the signs of proper stimulation and overstimulation in your child.

Although early stimulation provides short and long-term developmental benefits for your child, resist the temptation to dampen their enthusiasm by falling into overstimulation. Rest assured that your little one will benefit from any early stimulation that is appropriate and respectful, and that its impact will leave a positive imprint on your baby’s brain and body during their lifetime.

Would you like to know more about each of the stages of your child’s development? Download Kinedu! This app allows you to better understand your baby’s milestones and offers personalized activities to support them in all areas of development.

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