I am the type of person who gets easily overwhelmed. Too much noise, light, movement around me, too many strong smells, too many people, too much to do... All this sensorial input creates an imbalance in me. Sometimes it results in hyperactivity, sometimes in lethargy, but I'm always exhausted inside no matter how my body reacts.
Many people are like that but few recognise the cause. Children are especially vulnerable to an abundance of stimuli which they respond to with stress and anxiety, visible to us as what we call misbehaving. Misbehaviour is very often due to a feeling of loss of control over children's lives. Too much stuff (toys, clothes, books...) can soon become uncontrolable, as can too many planned activities.
Consciously eliminating causes of stress in the home is a constant work in progress. In our house, regular declutter is essential to our family's well-being. We try and keep the things we really need and really love. If something doesn't meet these two criteria, we donate it.
At least, that's the aim.
I find toys especially hard to tackle. Because they are not mine, for a start. For the most part, they were all thoughtfully chosen and of great quality, which makes them hard to part with. But how many toys does a child need? Take building toys for example. Does a child need Lego, gears, three types of building blocks, magnets, Knex, Brio, Kapla... all at once? No. Too much is overwhelming and causes anxiety. You will do your child a great service if you resist the temptation to buy more. Even if it's great quality and a bargain at the charity shop, even if it was given to you for free. Why? Children engage with materials so much better if choice is reduced. Their focus improves and real creativity can happen. It's a bit like trying to make a dish with 50+ ingredients. Try a handful instead and see how much easier it is. Can you be more creative with fewer choices?
Books are just as difficult to sort through. I am in charge of keeping them to a manageable level (which they are not) and this must be the hardest task of all for a book loving person. We are keeping a few of Finn's very favourites from baby/toddlerhood, but otherwise we donate them as he outgrows them. The books that enter our house are only of exceptional appeal and quality.
Too many activities outside the house can also become overwhelming for a child. We try and keep our schedule mostly free, with few planned trips/outings each week. It can be hard to select just a few things to do. It means you have to choose one playgroup, not three. One great class over three average ones. One playdate. Remember, children are slow beings. They need time, plenty of time, to explore and just be. Being busy does not make you or your child happier. It just makes you busy.
What does your life look like? Do you try and be mindful of maintaining a simple schedule for you and your child?