By: Meghan Matusiak, MS, OTR/L
Heavy work is any activity that engages both muscles and joints of the body, whether it involves pushing, pulling, lifting, playing, or moving. These activities engage the sense of proprioception, which controls our body awareness. This tells us where our body is in space, where each body part is, and what it is doing. Heavy work activities can help children increase their body awareness and motor coordination.
In addition to increasing body awareness and coordination, these activities regulate the neurologic system. Heavy work releases neurochemicals in the brain responsible for calming, organizing, and regulating responses. This ultimately leads to an increase in focus and attention and decrease in stress and anxiety.
Listed below are heavy work activities that can be incorporated into chores or playtime at home.
- Carrying groceries: Use handled bags and encourage children to hold the bag of groceries close to their body to prevent muscle strain
- Taking out the trash
- Carrying laundry up and down steps in a child-size basket
- Playdough activities: Rolling it out with a rolling pin or pinching, pulling, and rolling it with your hands
- Playing in a prone position (on belly), propped on elbows while completing puzzles, reading, or doing homework
- Helping in the kitchen: Have children help with the cooking by stirring thick consistency recipes (e.g., cookie dough and brownie batter) or carrying heavy ingredients (e.g., flour, sugar, cans)
- Animal walks: Bear walks, crab walks, snake crawls, and frog jumps
- Wall push-ups (“Try to make the room bigger by pushing on the walls!”) and/or wheelbarrow walks
- Jump and crash into a bed mattress, large beanbag, pillows, or couch cushions
- Vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, wiping down tables or countertops, wiping/washing mirrors or windows
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