At a glance
Some kids with learning and thinking differences may be more likely to get overexcited.
There’s no instant fix to make your preschooler stop being overexcited.
Learning how to read the signs that your child is starting to get overexcited can help you nip overexcitement in the bud.
Learning to calm an overexcited preschooler is a process. There aren’t any quick solutions, but there are things you can do that can help over time.
Try using the three R’s: recognizing when your child’s getting overexcited, reading what cues could have tipped you off, and finding ways to respond the next time you see the cues. Below are some common reasons your preschooler may get overexcited and how you might apply the three R’s.
Recognize: Your child is playing tag. The other kids stop playing, but he keeps chasing and tagging them, laughing even when they get mad.
Read the cues: Your child got caught up in the game—screeching and laughing louder than the other kids. He wasn’t able to look around and notice that the game was over, and he couldn’t stop.
Respond: Put yourself physically between your child and the other kids. If he doesn’t mind being touched, try putting your hands on his shoulders and saying, “The game is over now. You seemed to have a lot of fun playing, but now it’s time to stop.” Guide him to a new activity.
Plan for next time: Set up a signal that you and he agree would work well to help him know when it’s time to stop. Plan on giving your child a five-minute notice when you see him start getting louder and too excited.
He’s overly absorbed.
Recognize: At a birthday party, your child refuses to leave the ring toss and move on. The more you try to make him, the more upset he gets. Before long he’s kicking and screaming.
Read the cues: Your child got really into the game. The more he played, the less he noticed other kids talking to him. He kept saying, “Just one more turn!”
Respond: If your child is in full-on meltdown mode, he may not be able to accept your help or even move away from the area with you. Make sure he and everybody around him are safe. Ask the others to give you a little space and tell him, “I’ll just sit with you until you’re feeling calmer.”
Plan for next time: When you see signs that your child is getting overly absorbed, interrupt and give him a 10-minute notice. Check in again at five minutes and three minutes. When time is up, you can say, “You really enjoyed that! It’s time to move on to the next game.”
Recognize: At the park, another preschooler is using your child’s favorite swing. He yells that the other child took “his” swing and tries to push him off.
Read the cues: Your child talked all morning about using “his” swing. When he saw the other child on the swing, he started clenching his fists and huffing and puffing.
Respond: Get your preschooler out of the other child’s way to keep him safe. Try saying, “I know you’ve been looking forward to swinging and you’re upset.” Attempt to redirect him: “Let’s use the slide until that boy is done.”
Plan for next time: Prep your child. Try saying, “There might be another kid on your favorite swing. You can wait calmly or use another swing. If you can’t, we’ll have to leave.” And help him learn to be aware of his reaction. “Did you know you’re making fists? I notice you do that when you start getting angry.”
Learn more about how to respond when your child gets fixated on something.
Your response may not always calm your child in the moment. But learning to recognize tricky situations and read your child’s cues can help you both find ways to respond more effectively to them in the future—or even prevent them.
It may help your preschooler if you have an agreed-upon signal to give him when he seems to be getting too excited.
Making your child more aware of how he acts and feels when he’s getting overexcited can eventually help him stay calmer.
Giving your child a heads-up that he’ll have to move on to another activity soon can help him prepare—and may reduce meltdowns.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.