If your child has sensory processing difficulties, then your occupational therapist may have recommended heavy work as part of their sensory diet, but why is it important? Heavy work sensory input is any activity that uses our muscles to push or pull against a body part. These kinds of everyday activities can be helpful for people with sensory processing disorder because they can help promote body awareness and make a child feel centred, calm, and ready to concentrate. Fitting heavy work into their daily life can help the sensory system, make them more focused, and make the day more manageable.
Here are some simple ways to fit heavy work ideas for kids that you can easily fit into their day.
Activities you can do at home.
- Yoga is an excellent activity for your sensory child as it involves lots of stretching, pulling, and balancing, using your body weight against you.
Jumping on a trampoline provides good feedback and uses many of your muscles. If you don’t have a trampoline, a game of jump rope will give the same effect.
Doing an army crawl on hands and feet is an easy way to get some sensory input and can be lots of fun. Push-ups are another way to get the same kind of input.
- Kneading playdough or pastry is an excellent way of incorporating heavy work into play.
- Having pillow fights with you or other children is a fun way of getting sensory input into their day.
- Bear hugs not only make us feel good but give our children deep-pressure proprioceptive input to help them to feel calm. Make sure you ask your child how much force they would like. You will often find that children with sensory processing issues will prefer a deep pressure hug to a light touch.
- Pulling exercises with exercise bands or lycra. A resistance band or a strip of lycra can be a great resource to keep at home and doesn’t take up much space.
- Play tug of war with a sheet. Tug of war is heavy work made fun. They use their body to pull against the other person, giving great feedback to the joints and muscles.
Household chores to incorporate heavy work.
- Unloading the washing machine into the laundry basket is a great heavy work activity that children enjoy doing.
- Putting the shopping away is a heavy work activity. Canned goods, bottles, and dry rice are all heavy enough to work the muscles and joints; think about how tired you feel after doing it! Get your child to help, and you will also be helping them!
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher is a great heavy work activity to get the body working.
- Carrying a full laundry basket of clothes upstairs. Carrying heavy objects can help our children self-regulate, helping them feel calm.
- Chopping vegetables is a good activity for older children. Many cooking activities are great for increasing body awareness.
- Cleaning the windows or mirror. (You might have to redo them when they are finished!) Children actually enjoy doing it!
- Stapling paper together or getting your child to rip paper will make them aware of their muscles and joints. This is a cheap and easy heavy work activity for your child with sensory processing issues can do at home.
- Hoovering the living room gives just the right amount of heavy resistance to awaken the proprioceptive system.
Playground equipment can provide the perfect amount of calming proprioceptive input for a child with sensory issues. Here are a few ways to use playground equipment to incorporate heavy work through play.
- Pushing someone on a swing.
- Digging in the garden or a sandpit.
- Pushing a wheelbarrow.
- Riding a tricycle.
- Playing on a see-saw.
- Pushing the roundabout.
- Play catch with a large ball.
- Do handstands against a wall.
- Climbing on the monkey bars.
- Playing on an obstacle course.
Ways to incorporate heavy work into the school day.
Your occupational therapist will probably recommend some heavy work activities to incorporate into the school setting as part of your child’s sensory diet. Here are a few proprioceptive activities that are easy to add to your child’s day without drawing too much attention to your child. Brain breaks throughout the school day can help your child self-regulate and keep them calm.
- Carry books.
- Carry a heavy rucksack to and from school.
- Push the packed lunch trolly.
- Write on the blackboard.
- Use a wobble cushion.
- Elastic around the chair legs.
- Play with blue tack or sensory putty.
- Punch holes in paper with a hole punch.
Here are some sensory tools that may help your child with sensory processing issues at home and school.
This clever little tin of putty is a great way to get proprioceptive input into the school day and the added bonus is it smells of lavender so it is a perfect calming activity.
A wobble cushion can give just the right amount of input for a child who needs to constantly move without being a distraction to the other children.
Fancy hole punch.
These pretty little hole punches are a great way to fit heavy work into your child’s day.
Excercise band or lycra strip.
These little beauties are perfect for heavy work exercises at home and at school. They could also be tied to the back of your child’s chair legs to provide sensory input when they kick their legs in the classroom.
Trampette (Small trampoline)
A trampette is a portable trampoline that can be used at home or school. Jumping is a great way to provide proprioceptive input.
Weighted lap pad.
Weighted items such as weighted blankets, lap pads, and weighted teddies are great tools for calming our sensory children.
Weighted blankets can have a calming effect on a sensory child.
This clever tool is made out of stretchy lycra, you can push against the material to get the sensory input needed for self-regulation.
I hope you have found this post helpful if you would like to learn more about sensory processing disorder check out my post Could my child have sensory processing disorder spd?
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