Apart from helping your child develop proprioception and body awareness, heavy work activities are very regulating and can help your child’s body feel more organized.
Weighted blankets have gained popularity over the last few years as it helps people relax and sleep. This is because of the deep pressure stimulation that weighted blankets provide.
However, this is the same with heavy work activities, which are activities and actions that people can do to receive a similar deep pressure stimulation that can help with anxiety and feel calmer.
What is Heavy Work?
Heavy work activities are tasks that involve pulling, pushing, lifting, running, jumping and so on.
Occupational therapists often use heavy work to help children who have sensory processing issues or those who lack gross motor skills. However, heavy work sensory input also helps children with anxiety as it has a calming effect.
Heavy Work Activities for Kids with Autism and SPD
Children with developmental or learning issues like autism or sensory processing disorder (SPD) experience an improved focus and relaxation of the senses with proprioception input.
When most kids get enough physical input from their regular activities, children with sensory processing, developmental or learning issues might not experience the same. They need extra assistance to control their balance, body awareness and movement and there, heavy work activities come in.
In saying this, most children will benefit from heavy work activities regardless of whether they have special needs or not.
Here, heavy work activities help to provide these children with the right input through organized activities.
Activities like vacuuming or swimming pull or push your child against the body and help to improve their body awareness and control. Also, activities like jumping, hanging or running help kids to build resistance with their own weight.
Children with developmental or sensory processing issues often look for proprioceptive input to perform a task with ease. In such a scenario, heavy work activities help them to calm their body, feel oriented in space and concentrate on a task. Without the use of their proprioceptive system, they might crash or jump off things in more unsafe ways.
On the other hand, heavy work activities provide the same input in much safer and consistent ways. Practising heavy work on a daily basis might help these children feel more organized and thus, do not seek unsafe external input much.
Why Is Heavy Work Good for Children?
Heavy work includes activities that push or pull against the body. Children seeking input from their proprioceptive system mostly benefit from such activities. There are several reasons as to why paediatricians or occupational therapists prescribe such activities to kids with sensory processing issues. The reasons include:
- Provide proprioceptive input to your child’s muscles and joints. This type of sensory input is important for regulating, calming and organizing body activities and plays an important role in reducing stress and anxiety.
- Kids with SPD often struggle to determine the time and space they are in. This is the reason they often crash into things, as they try to get grounded. Heavy work activities help them to feel grounded and improve their body awareness.
- Many kids with SPD tend to chew as they find the activity self-regulating. Though there are several chewing items available in the market to meet this need and chewing is an effective calming strategy. Some kids have a very overwhelming need to chew that might affect their quality of life. As heavy work activities make your child feel grounded, they play a vital role in increasing focus and attention.
- For example, if a child is impulsive, activities like running, jumping or hanging might regulate their system and help to calm their senses and improve focus.
- Most heavy work activities come with a residual effect. Lifting weight or pulling and pushing against your body weight makes the person feel the stress. This is an effective way to build body awareness. For this reason, providing the right amount of proprioceptive input to your kiddo can prevent sensory overload and improve their focus.
Indoor Heavy Work Activities
There are several hard work activities to practise at home and indoor school setting. So, just pick the ones that fit your child’s need and of course your space. Here are some heavy work ideas:
Push a Laundry Basket
To improve your child’s self-control, balance and body awareness, encourage them to push a filled laundry basket. To make it more effective and interesting, turn it into an obstacle course.
You can make it more engaging for your child by filling books, toys, stuffed animals or anything that interests your kid the most into the full laundry basket. Ensure that the basket is not too heavy that they struggle to practise this activity.
Kids who seek proprioceptive input, crash things often. They either jump off the furniture or bump into walls and people at school. To make these children calm, it’s important to provide them with controlled crashing experiences.
Such activities give them the right amount of input they are looking for and that too in a safe way. Pilling up blankets or bean bags or making a ball pit are some activities that can involve crashing in a safer, more controlled manner.
Indoor Obstacle Course
Create an indoor obstacle course which requires your child to army crawl, jump, and manoeuvre around can provide your child with some great proprioceptive input.
For indoors, get your child to army crawl under tables, climb over the couch and jump on small cushions. This is not only an interesting and fun play for your kiddo but will also improve their gross motor skills.
To further increase heavy work during this game, you can get your child to set up the obstacle course by pushing chairs and tables around, obviously with adult supervision.
Clean the House
Cleaning your house and household chores is an effective way of providing adequate proprioceptive input to your child. Encourage your child to push a vacuum or use a broom and mop to clean the house.
Indulge them in cleaning activities that do not require additional setup or tools. Simply encourage them to help you out around the house as it’s a great solution for heavy work at home.
Give Weighted Lap Beanbags
When your child is doing homework or during class time, give weighted beanbags on their laps. Beanbags are easy to make. Just put beans or rice in a bag and place it on your child’s lap during study time. These bags provide added input to your little one and help them become more attentive and focused on learning.
It is important for the beanbags not to be too heavy that it is hard for the child to remove, or if it stops circulation in your child’s extremities.
Sit in Bean Bag Chairs
Bean bags chairs are great sensory chairs that can replace your child’s conventional seating options. It provides your child with a nice hug along with a calming effect. These chairs help kids to focus while studying or doing other activities.
Pillow fights are an effective way to provide your child with proprioceptive input. However, while they do so, ensure they are well supervised and it doesn’t get out of hand.
Take out the Trash
Just like cleaning, taking out the trash is an amazing heavy work option for your kid. Encourage your little one to empty smaller trash bins and transfer the waste to larger trash bags. Carrying or pulling those bags or bins out to the street helps to improve your child’s strength, balance and mobility.
Push a Rolling Chair
This activity can be performed in both the classroom and home. Pushing an office chair is an activity that encourages your child to challenge their own body weight and thus, provides a proprioceptive input that they always seek.
To make this activity more interesting, sit on the chair and then ask your kiddo to push the chair.
The human mouth has many proprioceptive receptors. Thus, during snack or break time, consider giving your child some crunchy food or chewing gum. This is a great option that kids enjoy a lot.
Chewing gum or having crunchy food improves your child’s level of concentration and attention.
Scooter Board Around the House
Scooter boards are a fun tool for children to practise heavy work at home. It is a simple board where your child can lie on their tummies on the board and use their arms and legs to move around the house. To make this an even more interesting play, consider setting up a course around the house for your child to scoot along.
Sip Water from Straw
Sucking water through a straw is yet another activity that provides proprioceptive input. If your child has oral sensitivity and often puts things in their mouth, this is a great practice.
Outdoor Heavy Work Activities
Just like indoor activities, there are ample outdoor heavy work activities you can bank upon for proprioceptive input. These activities are fun and provide your child with the right amount of sensory stimulation they look forward to.
If you have a trampoline in the backyard, encourage your kiddo to jump into it along with their friend under your supervision. You can also provide them with pogo sticks or jumping ropes to practise jumping exercises that are fun and provide the right amount of stimulation to your child.
Though it is an old-fashioned play, it makes an amazing heavy work activity for your kid. In this play, the kid balances on their hands and someone holds their ankle up off the ground.
In this position, you need to encourage your child to walk on their hands. As they get better with the play, add obstacle courses or races to make the game more interesting. This is a great activity where your child builds balance and strength.
Push a Trolley
Whenever you are visiting a supermarket store for shopping, consider taking your child along with you. Ask them to put the items you are supposed to buy in the trolley and push it to the checkout.
Of course, you must pay attention to their activity and teach them to be aware of their surroundings. It’s a great activity to boost their self-control and build their body awareness.
Help with Yard Work
While gardening or doing any other yard work, consider involving your children in the activity. Whether it’s about moving soil with a shovel, moving small rocks, filling trash in a wheelbarrow or digging in the soil, each activity is great for building their balance, self-control and body awareness. Also, these activities work on your child’s gross and fine motor skills.
Swimming is a great exercise. It involves the movement of most body parts. As per occupational therapists, it also makes a great heavy work activity as it lets your child work against the water to move forward.
Washing the Car
Car washing is a great heavy work activity. Thus, whenever you are washing your car, ask your child to join you in the activity. Ask them to get the hose pipe and bucket and wash the car thoroughly. Ask them to gently rub the car using a soft cloth. This helps them to practise pushing.
If you live in cooler countries and have snow, encourage your child to shovel snow from the footpath. Ask them to put the snow into buckets and then carry the buckets to empty them in a different part of the yard.
Tug of War
This is another classic game for children and adults alike. This is a great game for children to learn to pull and develop their muscles.
Go to the park
There are so many activities to do at the park. Whether it is playing on the playground equipment, like hanging on the monkey bars, pushing siblings on the swing, or climbing up the rock wall, these are all great proprioceptive activities.
Heavy work activities are great for kids, with or without sensory processing disorder, to help them feel more regulated and calm. There are so many ways to encourage heavy work into everyday activities.
Each child is different so they may enjoy some activities more than others. Try a range of activities with your child to see what works best for them.
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