Rationing Learning – there CAN be too much of a good thing!

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My six year old is a precocious learner. He picks up on things quickly, is highly observant, and taught himself to read at age 3.
I can still remember running to the library for the first time, once I realized he could read, to pick out books that would be “at his level”.

Put Me in the Zoo (‘I can read it all by myself’ Beginner Books) by Robert Lopshire (aff. link) was one of the first ones I brought home. Month by month, his capacity for learning grew – what he could handle, what he was interested in. It was exciting. We wanted to feed this curiosity and love of reading, so we kept going, finding more books, more topics of interest.

Until it became too much.

Sometime around when he turned five, we got to the point that he could handle higher level non-fiction texts. The problem was that he could actually “overload” on new information. His brain couldn’t process and synthesize that much at the same time, and so, like an overworked CPU on a computer, we started having issues. More frequent meltdowns, the inability to make eye contact, regression in social awareness and interactions.

What’s one to do? As parents, we’d never thought about having to slow a child down, but that’s what we ended up doing. Just like we ration screen time and sweets, we ration new information.

It seems strange to talk about withholding good things, but it makes a big difference.

We deal with Intellectual Overexcitabilities (OE’s) around here. One of the first things his preschool teacher ever said to me was, “He gets SO excited about learning.” As a proud parent, my response was, “Isn’t it great?”  And it is. But there’s another side to the coin as well.

I organize our activities into 2 categories: organizing and stimulating.  There are probably better words to describe them, but it’s what I have for now.

Category 1: Organizing

We need LOTS of these types of activities. They include brain puzzles (like Kanoodle – aff.), regular puzzles, logic games, reading good fiction literature, calming sensory input like kinetic sand or play-doh, repetitive building that doesn’t stretch too much (like Magnatiles, Duplo), and physical activity that is already at the near mastery level (running, scooting).


Category 2: Stimulating

Here’s where we have to watch out and be careful that we don’t overdo it. This includes new non-fiction topics for us, new math concepts, new games, new skills, and most open-ended activities, since his brain starts buzzing with all the possibilities.

I bought a lot of Basher Science books through ebay. But they’re stored in a closet (shhhh!), ready to pull out one-by-one as he is ready for a new interest. In fact, I have a whole closet full of resources that I know he’s going to love and dive into, but we take it slowly.

A couple weeks ago, I borrowed a library book for him called Cool Scripts & Acting: How to Stage Your Very Own Show (aff.) – and he read it, sat down, and started going through the steps – creating a storyboard, characters, background, title page, and dialog. On his own. Because he wanted to. But I had to make sure that he had time and space to enter into this new book and mental realm.


When we embark on a new topic, there’s almost always a rough mental patch as his brain reorganizes to synthesize new loads of information. It means that as that area takes a certain amount of brain space, other things will suffer. Executive function will decrease temporarily as the brain is hyperactive in another area.

I love that he loves learning. But I also need my boy to be able to function in a social world, and so, for his sake and ours, we slow down.


This blog post is part of a Blog Hop about balancing boredom and burnout hosted by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page. “Hop” on over and check out some great advice and insight from other bloggers as well!



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