You may have heard your therapist suggesting to provide your child with heavy work activities at home when they appear to be sensory seeking and dysregulated. But what is heavy work? What if I don’t have a crash pad or other “sensory equipment” at home?
What is heavy work?
Heavy work is just another name for providing proprioceptive input. Heavy work, or proprioceptive input, can be any task requiring your body to work against weight or resistance, such as pushing, pulling, or carrying. Through heavy work, we receive sensory input to activate the joints and muscles, telling us about our movements and body position in space.
What does heavy work help address?
Heavy work, or proprioceptive input, can help calm and regulate the nervous system for individuals who are easily overwhelmed by certain sensory stimuli. This can help regulate emotional and behavioral responses to sensory stimuli. In addition to providing calming input, heavy work can also help improve body awareness, coordination, and postural activation.
How do I incorporate heavy work activities at home?
The following activities are examples of easy ways to facilitate heavy work into your child’s day at home, at school, or in the community:
- Animal walks (bunny hop, elephant march, snake slither, frog jumps, bear crawl, crab walk, log rolls)
- Pushing/pulling a laundry basket
- Pouring water from a watering can or pitcher
- Helping vacuum/sweep
- Digging in dirt/sand
- Carrying laundry piles or switching loads of laundry
- Pushing heavy strollers
- Pulling a wagon
- Wall pushes
- Squeezing play-doh
- Tearing thick paper
- Kitchen activities (kneading, stirring)
- Crumpling paper
- Pushing feet against a resistance band tied to the legs of a desk
- Wheelbarrow walking
- Push a chair (can continue adding things on top of chair to increase weight and resistance)
When is the best time to provide my child with heavy work activities at home?
- Before bedtime (at least 15 minutes prior)
- Before mealtimes
- Before transitioning to tabletop activities (tasks in which your child is expected to sit still and maintain attention for more than 10 minutes)
- Part of daily routine if necessary, for example:
- Upon waking up
- Before going to school
- Returning home from school, prior to beginning homework
- Before brushing their teeth