Heavy Work Activities to do in the Home
Guest Authored By Ashley M, MS, OTR/L
“Heavy work” activities involve pushing or pulling movements that provide input to the proprioceptive sensory system. You may ask “What is the proprioceptive system and why is this important?” The proprioceptive system is the body’s internal sense of where it is in space. Sensory receptors found in our muscles and joints send messages to our brain to help understand where our bodies are in space, how our bodies are moving, and how each body part is moving in relation to others. The proprioceptive system also helps us to understand how much force we need to complete a task such as when brushing our teeth, closing a door, or writing. When feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, the proprioceptive system can serve as a way to balance or modulate other sensory systems and help us better respond to other sensory information in our environment. Thus, providing input to the proprioceptive system via “heavy work” activities is a great way to help your child feel calmer, more regulated, and increase focus and attention to support participation in daily tasks.
Below are a few ideas of heavy work activities that can be done in the home:
- Animal walks: bear crawls, crab walks, frog jumps – you can incorporate these during play or when transitioning to a new activity
- Turtle walks: place a pillow on our child’s back and see how long they can crawl with the shell on their back
- Wall push ups
- Marching or jogging in place
- Wheelbarrow walks
- Wrestling (safely of course!)
- Tug of war
- Jumping or crashing on a couch, bed, or pillow
- Jump on a trampoline
- Jump rope
- Play catch with a heavy pillow
- Playing with yoga ball or medicine balls (making sure that the balls are not too heavy and that your child is safe when using them)
- Sensory bin: use large containers to move around water, sand, or dry rice/beans
- Play with Playdough or kinetic sand
- Rip paper: use heavy cardboard materials such as cereal boxes or other boxes
- Pushing or pulling a toy shopping cart/laundry basket with books or heavy items inside
- Chores- There are many chores that incorporate heavy work such as unloading groceries, raking leaves, taking out the garbage, moping the floor, vacuuming, cleaning windows, and carrying laundry baskets
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