As a new mom, the toddler stage caught me off guard. The tantrums that started from 18 months onwards just went on and on until 2.5 years old. These tantrums were often accompanied by flailing arms, head budding and rolling endlessly around the floor. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to close to an hour. After a while, through trying to anticipate and prevent them, I discovered that most of these very long drawn out tantrums were actually meltdowns from sensory overstimulation.
As a mom of a sensitive child who is very social. I have to tell you that dealing with multiple meltdowns everyday after going on social excursions is not my idea of fun. After a while, I find myself wanting to bang my own head against the wall trying to find a solution to these meltdowns.
One of the benefits of being a stay at home to my son and taking care of him 24/7 is that I can slowly see the patterns to his meltdowns. I can usually find the source of the meltdown if I think back to the events that led up to it. I slowly realized that overstimulation from his environment accumulates.
At some point, all of his coping mechanisms fail. This accumulation of stress leads to the epic meltdown. Having had to deal with the aftermaths of multiple meltdowns over and over again, I began to look for ways to prevent them.
The minute I see signs of sensory overstimulation in him, I start us on a sensory detox day. This detox day purifies his senses, resets his rhythm and relaxes him.
It’s basically a spa day for my toddler. The next day, when we go out again into the world, the sun seems brighter and my son seems happier.
5 Ways to Detox from Sensory Overstimulation
1) STAY IN
This is obvious. On this day, we stay in. We don’t go anywhere. No one comes over. We turn the music down, turn the tv down. We create “space” so that we can refill our senses. We often hangout in my bedroom: read books, bounce on the bed and have pillow fights. Often, the whole morning would be spent that way. By the time nap comes around, JJ is usually tired from our morning activities.
2) EAT WELL
On this day, I tend to make soup in my instant pot. We also drink a lot of vegetable juice on that day. Usually, JJ has two bottles of green juice in the morning. But on this day, I give him four bottles. Green juice helps to remove toxins from his digestive tract. I really think there’s a sensory connection between physical health and mental health. Vegetable juice helps to fill his system with fiber and vitamins. In turn, his body automatically flushes all the toxins out. Since JJ has a “wetness” aversion problem with food, I usually soak lots of noodles in the “chicken soup” or the “beef stock” that I make on that day. He loves eating those noodles with lots of chicken or beef. Protein helps to give him energy. It also levels out the sugar in his body.
3) SENSORY PLAY
On this day, we often play a lot with sensory materials. JJ takes a bath before nap so that he gets to soak in warm water while playing with his dolls. Sometimes, I will give him little water balls so that he can do some activities in water. In the afternoon, I would set up a tray of slime, play dough or flour at the kitchen counter. He would stand on his learning tower and play with the sensory materials for at least 20 minutes. Our sensory play often involves punching, cutting, slicing and kneading the sensory material. All of these actions help to get the stress out of his fingers.
4) SLEEP WELL
On this day, I pay extra attention to his nap. I darken his room, cover him with his favorite blanket and cuddle with him until he falls asleep. His nap on this day can last for 3 hours. This is every unusual for him. He usually only takes an hour to an hour and half nap. When he wakes up again, I prepare lots of fruit snacks to replenish his system.
5) CHILD’S LEAD
On this day, I definitely cater to JJ more. I let him lead as far as the schedule is concerned. I don’t care if he naps at 2 in the afternoon as long as he naps. I don’t care if he takes 4 baths on this day as long as water play makes him happy. I don’t care if he eats in my lap. I don’t care if we watch his favorite shows in bed. The objective of the day is just to fill his soul with whatever makes him happy. Yes, it sounds a bit like when he’s sick. We end up spending lots of time hiding in forts and tents talking about nothing in particular. I also end up being his play partner while he free plays in his playroom.
I hope this description of our “spa” day help to give you ideas of how to alleviate your toddler’s oversensitivity. I hope it gives you less tantrums to deal with and more connection with your child.
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