Snowy days provide great opportunities for heavy work proprioceptive input! Proprioception refers to our sense of awareness of body position, which our bodies process by receiving input through the muscles and joints. This type of input is typically calming for most children, but can also be alerting for some children. Proprioceptive input generally occurs through heavy work activities that involve deep pressure or weight through the muscles and joints.
What is heavy work?
Heavy work is a strategy used by therapists to target the sense of proprioception, helping children to understand where their bodies are in space. Heavy work refers to activities that push and pull on the body, specifically on the joints. When participating in heavy work activities, messages are sent from receptors in our joints to receptors in our brainstem. These messages serve to remind the brain and the body where we are in space. For children, this type of input is specifically helpful in promoting a calmer demeanor, increased attention and regulation, body awareness, improved sleep, and more organized behavior.
Try the following activities in the snow for increased opportunities for heavy work!
- Have your child pull or push a peer or sibling on a sled. Heavy work is most effective when done until you child seems visible tired, so try supervising a trip around the block if your child seems up for it!
- Have a snowball rolling contest! Compete with your child to see who can roll a bigger snowball. Pushing a large object, such as a snowball, provides excellent heavy work proprioceptive input to the shoulder joints.
- Make a snow castle. Have your child pack snow into buckets, carry them to the other side of the yard or park, and flip them out to create a tower or castle. The body retains feedback from sensory input for about 90 minutes at a time, so you can always have your child go back and add on to his or her snow castle later in the day, when he or she may need more input.
- Shovel! Shoveling is excellent heavy work. Give your child a shovel and allow him or her to help you clear off a porch, driveway, or some steps. Having your child carry the shovel full of snow over to make a snow pile will also be a great test of balance.
- Explore some snow mounds. Supervise you child while he or she climbs up snow mounds made from shoveling or plowing. Walking uphill and through the snow provides plenty of resistance that makes for great heavy work!
- Play snow hide and seek! Use a shovel to dig a hole and place a waterproof toy inside before covering the hole with snow again. Make sure this is a toy you wouldn’t miss in case it gets misplaced until spring! Have your child dig the toy out using his or her hands, a shovel, or a bucket.
- Have your child pull a rake through the snow to create snow art!
- Bury your child’s legs in the snow and let him or her move against the resistance of the snow to get out.
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s sensory regulation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Photo Credit: Katie Gerrard on Unsplash