Heavy Work Activities and Sensory Processing Disorder: 32 Ideas to Try

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32 Heavy Work Activities for Kids | If you’re looking for proprioceptive activities to help your child with body awareness, self-regulation, and focus at school, at home, or in Occupational Therapy, these fun and engaging gross motor activities are a great place to start! Engaging students in regular brain breaks can help make learning easier, making this list a great tool for teachers and parents of kids of all ages and abilities. #heavywork #sensoryprocessingdisorder #proprioception

If you’re looking for heavy work activities kids, this collection of ideas is suitable for children of all ages and abilities.

I used to think the term ‘heavy work’ meant nothing more than lifting heavy items and transporting them from point A to point B, but when I started digging deeper into the world of special needs parenting, I learned a ton of helpful information about the proprioceptive system and how heavy work activities can benefit children with sensory processing disorder, autism, and other developmental delays and challenges.

Read on for a deeper look into heavy work activities and how they can benefit children and adults alike!

What is Heavy Work?

Simply put, ‘heavy work’ refers to activities that push and pull the body. Kids of all ages and abilities can benefit from engaging in heavy work, but these activities are particularly helpful to children with sensory processing disorder as they engage the proprioceptive system.

Heavy work has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps children with things like body awareness, organization, and self-regulation. Your child might benefit from engaging in regular heavy work activities if he or she:

  • Appears unaware of personal space
  • Has difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Excessively chews things (pencils, clothing, etc.)
  • Struggles with attention and focus

What Are the Benefits of Heavy Work Activities?

1) Helps calm and organize the nervous system. Since heavy work activities help calm and organize the nervous system, they can help lower feelings of stress and anxiety. Heavy work activities can also help reduce aggressive behaviors, improve self-regulation, and reduce proprioceptive seeking behaviors like excessive chewing.

2) Improves body awareness. Children with proprioception dysfunction have difficulty understanding where they are in relation to the space around their bodies, which can impact their ability to sit, stand, stretch, bend over, climb stairs, run, etc. Heavy work activities help improve this awareness, thereby making these activities easier. Heavy work activities also help reduce proprioceptive seeking and avoiding behaviors.

3) Promotes greater focus and attention. The calming effects of heavy work activities have the added bonus of improving a child’s ability to sit still and concentrate. Scheduling regular ‘brain breaks’ throughout the day is important for kids and adults alike, and if your child struggles with things like focus, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity, this small change in your daily routine can be extremely beneficial.

4) Improves muscle tone. Kids with sensory processing disorder (and autism) tend to have low muscle tone, resulting in challenges with strength, flexibility, and endurance. Heavy work activities can help strengthen these muscles and skills.

Heavy Work Activities and Sensory Processing Disorder

Before we share our favorite heavy work activities for kids with sensory processing disorder, it’s important to note that not all children can tolerate them in the same way. An activity that is calming to one child can cause another to become over-stimulated, so you may need to play around with a few different ideas before you settle on a list of heavy work activities that works best.

32 Heavy Work Activities for Kids with SPD

One of the best ways to help children with developmental delays and challenges is to find activities that feel like play instead of practice, and this collection of heavy work activities is designed to do exactly that! As mentioned above, it’s important to be mindful of how your child reacts to each activity – the things one child finds calming may have the opposite effect on another child.

You’ll notice that many of these activities offer age-appropriate ways to get your little one to help out around the house. A little responsibility can go a long way in making a child feel as though they are a contributing part of the family, which subsequently helps to build their self-esteem and self-confidence, making these activities a win for everyone!

  1. Carrying groceries to and from the car
  2. Mowing the grass
  3. Raking leaves
  4. Shovelling snow
  5. Carrying garbage cans to and from the curb
  6. Carrying a bucket of water
  7. Washing the car
  8. Pushing a friend or sibling on a swing
  9. Pushing a grocery cart around the grocery store
  10. Lifting groceries from a shelf and stacking them into a grocery cart
  11. Cleaning table tops and windows
  12. Pushing items around the floor on a scooter board
  13. Tying a rope to a scooter board and pulling items on the scooter board around the house
  14. Lying with tummy on top of a scooter board and pushing self around the floor with hands
  15. Vacuuming
  16. Jumping on an outdoor trampoline or indoor trampoline
  17. Mopping
  18. Push-ups
  19. Pushing and pulling a laundry basket filled with various weighted items
  20. Pulling a wagon filled with stuffed animals around the neighborhood
  21. A family pillow fight!
  22. Moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer
  23. Wrapping your child snuggly in a blanket and pretending she’s a burrito!
  24. Carrying laundry/laundry baskets up and down the stairs
  25. Pushing an exercise ball up the stairs (ensure you stand behind your child for safety reasons!)
  26. Challenging your kids to a friendly game of Tug of War!
  27. Wheel barrow races
  28. Swimming
  29. Bean bag toss
  30. Animal walks
  31. Jumping jacks
  32. Using weighted lap pads*, weighted vests*, or weighted blankets* to improve body awareness and promote a sense of calm

*Make sure to follow directions when ordering weighted products to ensure the weight is correct for your child’s age and size. For safety reasons, your child must be able to remove the item from his or her body independently.

I hope this collection of heavy work activities for kids inspires you find creative ways to help your child with body awareness, organization, self-regulation, attention, and focus. Remember to try several different ideas to find the activities that work best for your child’s challenges, and to keep things fun and engaging so it feels less like practice and more like play!

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32 Heavy Work Activities for Kids | If you’re looking for proprioceptive activities to help your child with body awareness, self-regulation, and focus at school, at home, or in Occupational Therapy, these fun and engaging gross motor activities are a great place to start! Engaging students in regular brain breaks can help make learning easier, making this list a great tool for teachers and parents of kids of all ages and abilities. #heavywork #sensoryprocessingdisorder #proprioception

And if you’re looking for more tips and ideas to help kids with developmental delays like autism and sensory processing disorder, please follow our Special Needs Parenting board where we share all kinds of helpful ideas we find each day!



Gwen
Gwen
Gwen is a 40-something freelance writer and social media consultant who has an unhealthy love for makeup, hair, and fashion. She lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Toronto, Canada and hopes to move to a warmer climate someday. Preferably tomorrow.