The range of toys that are available for babies is absolutely staggering. Walk into your nearest baby store or toy shop and you’ll immediately feel an overwhelming pressure to buy things for your clearly deprived child. Your reaction is perfectly normal. Most of the toys loudly proclaim that they’ll enhance development and provide just the right amount of stimulation a baby needs. Clearly babies need these toys if they are to develop to their full potential and we’d be irresponsible to deprive them.
Well not really. In fact, too much stimulation can actually be a bad thing… Your baby’s brain is less developed than ours and for the first few months of life, your little one is unable to control what sensory information she takes in and how she responds to that information. Too much stimulation will actually have no beneficial developmental effect as your child’s brain will go into overload and will not absorb any more information. When there’s too much sensory information going to the brain, your baby hits a state of overload and becomes stressed. That stress on the neurological system hinders neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain cells to develop and change and form connections. In other words, a baby in a stressed state will not get any benefit from the well-intentioned stimulation she’s receiving.
So what should you do? Listen to your baby and be aware of her signals. If you can see that she’s becoming overexcited or tired then remove her from the stimulating environment she’s in and provide calming sensory input to reduce her sensory load.
Regulating your baby’s environment with either calming or stimulating input as appropriate is the key to keeping her calm and contented while enhancing her development.