Being stimulated is key in the development of children, especially when they’re little and their brains are growing rapidly! Stimulation develops their senses and helps their brain learn to process information. This all is part of what they need to improve their attention span, focus, memory, motor skills, and more.
However sometimes people can experience sensory overload, or be easily overstimulated. It occasionally can be managed. For example if your child is sensitive to loud music you can turn down the volume, or if a fabric makes them itchy you can dress them differently. But other times being overly stimulated can affect their quality of life and cause them to become restless, unfocused, frustrated, distracted, anxious, or uncomfortable. This may require an active approach to managing it.
If you think your child may be experiencing overstimulation there are simple ways that parents and caregivers can help support them from home. Activities like playing with sensory balls are easy, affordable, versatile ways to calm your child (and even you!) or help them focus on whatever is the task at hand.
What is a Sensory Ball?
Sensory balls are great ways to offer tactile and sensory stimulation to kids (and even adults)! They come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials, and can be very valuable for anyone in need of extra stimulation, help calming down or focusing, or a little support with sensory processing. They also are just great fun! For adults, they can be great to keep at your desk or in your bag in case you need a little jolt of calmness or focus throughout the day.
Sensory toys are popular in schools and daycares, and are often used and recommended by experts and doctors for play. They are as fun as they are developmentally supportive, and are great to incorporate into activities you do at home.
There are tons of types of sensory balls. The Original Sensory Balls by Edushape are an absolute bestseller and have over 20 variations! Think different colors, shapes, textures, sizes, sounds - you name it!
How Do Sensory Balls Calm Children?
People learn best and retain the most information when they are appropriately stimulated. This is because similarly to how working out builds muscles, stimulation strengthens your brain.
However, being overly stimulated can often do the opposite, and cause kids to lose focus and become irritable and anxious.
Sensory balls are magic when it comes to calming children who may be overstimulated. They can help them:
- expel energy
- feel calm and grounded
- reduce stress and anxiety
- be present
Everyone can feel overstimulated at some point. If you think your child may have a sensory processing issue, get in touch with your pediatrician or a child development expert to discuss further.
How to Know if Your Child Is Experiencing Too Much Stimulation
If your child is overstimulated, they may become overwhelmed, anxious, irritable, or have trouble focusing. It’s important to know the signs of overstimulation and take steps to calm and soothe them.
Signs may include:
- Intense reactions to loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights
- Crying uncontrollably if they feel, see, hear, or taste something they dislike
- Anxiety before entering group gatherings
- Discomfort in or avoidance of crowds
Children who are overstimulated can also display various mental, physical, or emotional issues. These may include:
- Physical exhaustion. The increase in adrenaline and cortisol in the body (hormones that are often produced when overstimulated) can make children very tired.
- Headaches or heart palpitations. Anxiety, which is common in people who are overly stimulated, can cause both physical and emotional symptoms, such as headaches, heart palpitations and panic attacks.
- Difficulty paying attention. Cognitive overload is when your brain is overwhelmed, which can make it harder to pay attention, whether it be at home or in the classroom.
- Difficulty making decisions. Another sign of cognitive overload is having a hard time making choices.
- Trouble sleeping. Overstimulation can mess with sleep patterns and cause your child to have issues falling or staying asleep.
If you notice any of these signs in your child, there are healthcare professionals and child developmental experts trained to help support you both.
What Calming Activities Can I Do With My Child Using a Sensory Ball?
Sensory balls are easy, non-disruptive, affordable ways to support your child if they’re overly stimulated.
Here are 10 ways to use a sensory ball.
- Roll the ball gently over their arms or legs. The pressure and texture of the ball can be soothing.
- Encourage them to squeeze the ball. This can help them release tension and feel more relaxed.
- Have them roll the ball between their hands. This provides a soothing sensation and helps them feel grounded. Rolling them along their arms and legs works, too.
- Have your child bounce the ball gently on the ground. The rhythmic motion of bouncing can be calming.
- Bounce the ball against a wall. This can be a fun and energizing way to release tension or energy.
- Play catch. This can help focus their attention and energy, and is a fun way to play with peers or you!
- Massage. Use the sensory ball to provide gentle pressure on their back, shoulders or feet. This can be relaxing and grounding.
- Use it to engage their senses. Ask them to describe how the ball looks, smells, or feels. Simple mindfulness activities help children to feel more present and grounded in the moment.
- Make sounds! Use the ball to make some calming sounds for your child, or encourage them to do the same. Music can be a powerful tool for promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
- Play. Use the ball as part of another calming activity, such as playing with kinetic sand or water beads. These activities can help distract and soothe an overwhelmed child.
These activities can be beneficial for both you and your kids. Remember to be patient and open when introducing a sensory ball, and be prepared to tweak your activities until you find what works best for your child.
The Bottom Line on Sensory Balls for Over Stimulation
Sensory balls are not only a fun and engaging way to play with your child. They also can help support children who are overstimulated.
There are many varieties of sensory balls that you can buy, depending on what may be causing your child to be overstimulated. They also can be used to support other development issues, such as children who may need additional stimulation. Edushape works directly with child development experts and parents to create toys that support development and play.
If you think your child may be overly stimulated it may be a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional to discuss if additional support may be helpful.