Snow Day! Heavy Work Activities to Promote Sensory Regulation in Your Child

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 info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: Katie Gerrard on Unsplash

SNOW WAY! Sensory Activities for Winter Days

Winter can be cold and snowy, but it’s always a wonderful time to engage in different sensory activities! Use the snow, cold weather, and holiday season to expose your child to countless sensory-based play activities, both indoors and outdoors. Playing with objects of various scents, textures, colors, and sounds, or engaging in activities that require your child to move their body in different directions and transition between various positions are great for providing sensory input. This will help them learn more about the world and how to process the sensory information they are constantly receiving.

Build a Snowman

Do you want to build a snowman? Yes! Getting outside to roll snowballs and build a large snowman provides great proprioceptive input. Proprioception is also known as the “joint sense” and lets us know where different body parts are in space, how they move, and how much pressure our body wants or needs to stay regulated. Encourage your child to pack the snow in their hands, roll it on the ground to gather more, and build massive snow balls to stack on top of each other!

Watch those Snowflakes

While you’re still outside, why not lie in the snow, make some snow angels, and stare at the snowflakes falling down? This provides great visual input! You and your child can pretend you’re inside a snow globe, looking at all of the snowflakes falling around you. You can also gather snow in your hands and encourage your child to blow it into the air! This provides great oral and visual input, all while your child is simply enjoying the snow day.

Sip Something Tasty

Go on inside and warm up with some hot chocolate! Sipping and sniffing a warm cup of hot-cocoa will give your child some great tastes and smells for their sensory system to process. Put a spin on the classic hot chocolate by stirring it with a candy cane or adding whipped cream or marshmallows. The added flavors and textures will provide increased oral input for your child.

Create a Snow Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are a great way to explore different textures, colors, and smells in one place! Help your child create a snow sensory bin by gathering some snow and adding other items. Feel free to include items from outside, such as rocks, leaves, or sticks. Add some from inside the home too, such as spoons and cups to scoop and pack the snow. Hide waterproof toys inside the bin and encourage your child to search for them. Sprinkle some glitter, paint, or food coloring into the bin for a visually-exciting spin on the usual white snow. The options are endless!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to different kinds of sensory input, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

 

Morgan Haak

Occupational Therapy Student Intern

 

References

Proske, U., & Gandevia, S. C. (2012). The proprioceptive senses: their roles in signaling body shape, body position and movement, and muscle force. Physiological reviews92(4), 1651-1697.

 

Photo Credits: Nelly Aran via Pexels; Victoria Borodinova via Pexels; Nelly Aran via Pexels; Jill Wellington via Pexels; Matej via Pexels