Sensory Processing: Heavy Work

Another great tidbit from Sensational  Kids:

…”heavy work” is a term applied to any activity that engages the muscles and joints of the proprioceptive system…stimulating the proprioception can generate calming messages to the brain.

Dr. Miller describes how carrying a stack of books to a classroom is calming to a child who finds the stimulation of school to be overwhelming. She also discusses the lack of heavy work in the lives of children today.  As children grow more sedentary, and often do not ride their bikes to school, play outdoors in their neighborhoods, or do farm chores, we have to create “heavy work” for them.

…Heavy work is one of the most important components of a complete and healthy sensory diet.

Just today my friend Signe and I were talking about the upcoming summer and how we want to keep our kids busy, happy, and productive.  She made the comment that at least our family has a lot of yard work.  I guess I should be thankful. Maybe her kids need to plant a big vegetable garden at my house.

I’m almost inclined to encourage Russ to get more cows…Eby would love carrying hay and grain to them and it is definitely “heavy work”.

Question: What “heavy work” activities do your kids do?  Do you find that “heavy work” is calming to them?

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

23 Comments

  1. paige
    February 20, 2010

    carrying a backpack full of items is really helpful–some kids come up with that on their own, if not you can add some books for them to carry around whenever they need a little extra input. taking out the garbage and dragging the can or cans to the curb helps my guy–he's been in charge of the trash since he was 7ish? he loves to unload the groceries and move laundry around the house too.

    Reply
  2. heather Antoine
    February 20, 2010

    It sounds silly, but some really good heavy work for Olivia is putting wet clothes into the dryer. Most 7 year olds would not find this too heavy, but she's so small, and has such poor muscle tone, that this is really good work for her. We also work on wheelbarrow walking, bear walking, and crab walking.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      Heather, I just tried wheelbarrow walking with Eby and he liked it for a short time. I remember the crab walk…but what is the bear walk?

      Reply
      1. Donna
        February 20, 2010

        We do these too and add weights or weighted balls to it, like pushing with their feet or rolling them in front of their hands, whaterver they think of. We also bike ride or run around the culdesac, shoot hoops, sweep porches, rake leaves, and kick soccer balls.

        Reply
      2. Amy AJ
        February 23, 2010

        Bear walking is walking with your hands and feet only on the ground and your back and legs straight. When we bear walk at school I sing the rhyme, "Walk like a bear with your booty in the air like you just don't care." If that doesn't give you a silly mental picture, nothing will!

        Reply
  3. justice
    February 20, 2010

    yes. my son gives himself heavy work in order to organize his body. he loves pushing cars around so i load them up with rocks and stuff. he also likes pushing boxes and laundry baskets so i have him be my laundry helper and push the basket to the rooms while i put them away. i try to have him carry things or wear a backpack but he won't do either. so we stick with the pushing.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      Great ideas! Thank you.

      Reply
    2. Christine
      February 22, 2010

      This sounds so much like our 5 year old. He likes to push stuff so much it starts to drive me crazy. Mostly because, he dumps what ever is in the box or basket he wonts to push out.:) Thinks for the Idea of making the fun of pushing helpful to me. I am so slow sometimes:)

      Reply
  4. Dawn
    February 19, 2010

    I have always loved the fact that since my husband & I are directors of a Christian camp- there is plenty of outdoor space to do work. They ride bikes a lot, help pick up pine cones, sticks, push around the wheelbarrow. I would love to hear more of what others do. Something I am just finding out about. Thank you for your post on it.

    Reply
  5. heather Antoine
    February 20, 2010

    The bear walk is basically just crawling, only on your hands and feet instead of hands and knees. – Hope that makes sense. I forgot, Olivia also really enjoys yoga poses.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      I see – Eby does that and says he is a Jaguar. He has a long torso and shorter legs so he does it really easily!

      Reply
  6. Tonggu Momma
    February 20, 2010

    Recently, after three feet of snow dumped on our area, the only heavy work available to us was having the Tongginator shovel snow. She's shorter than the shovel, but she loved it. And it kept all of us sane.

    At other times… let's see… She always pushes a kids shopping cart at the grocery store. I place the heavy, small items in it. She is responsible for bringing those items into the house, too, when we get home. She carries up small, filled laundry baskets for me. She is also running around, playing outside ALL of the time. We are fortunate that our neighborhood lends itself to that – relatively safe (not 100%, but what place is?), with many, many similarly aged children around. She rides her bike several times a week. She goes to ballet/ tap class once a week. Swimming in the summer, which I've found to be the BEST therapy ever. And, when all else fails, the Wii helps. *grin*

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      I am already looking forward to lots of swimming this summer. My kids are all fish and Eby, in particular, will stay in the water for hours. Fortunately we have a very nice city pool only a short drive away.

      Reply
  7. DeeDee
    February 20, 2010

    My three year old loves to push his little sister in the umbrella stroller. At first, I had to stay really close to make sure he didn't run into things but now he does it perfectly and since she is almost two I even let him run and push her, which they both love!

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      Great idea, DeeDee.

      Reply
  8. Michelle Q
    February 20, 2010

    Our son loves to bear walk (walking on your hands and feet – sometimes with straight legs but B can't go fast enough that way so has dev'p his own style =)
    He also loves to fill up our laundry basket with food from the pantry and his sister's dolls. He wraps a scarf or dog leash around the front and is a reindeer. He delivers the food to 'all the poor people' in the world as he moves around the house.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 20, 2010

      I love this. Eby would be very into this.

      Reply
  9. Kelly
    February 20, 2010

    We do a lot of the same sort of things already mentioned. We have a lot of books on the second floor and a lot in the basement, so I will often send them up or down to bring a stack of books. To bring a stack up/down, they have to swap out a stack so that's at least two trips each carrying books. Any time I need something picked up/carried/moved around I have someone do it for me (or help if it's too heavy). Yard work is a big one…shoveling snow in winter, gathering sticks, moving rocks, digging, gardening. The bigger boys help with taking trash to the curb and bringing the cans back to the house.

    Reply
  10. jen
    February 21, 2010

    Wasn't doing it consciously, but laundry. My youngest loves to carry the full laundry baskets around, so I "let" him carry the basket to the laundry chute then pick up all the laundry to put it down the chute.

    Thanks for all of the ideas – really encouraging and helpful!

    Reply
  11. Karen
    February 22, 2010

    Even going for a long walk will help my one kiddo tremendously. She will often complain, gripe, and whine about the walking but she also knows she needs it. One day, a friend called me while we were walking and my daughter was having an exceptionally "loud" walking day. I explained to my friend what was happening (she thought my daughter was hurt) and my friend called it the Walk and Wail session. Funny!
    Another thing I do is have my daughter replace/refill the toilet paper in all of the bathrooms. Each bathroom is supposed to have a set amount in storage (she knows the numbers) and so she goes to check each bathroom and then comes back to me with a grand total of rolls needed. I give her all of the roles for the 3 bathrooms and she carries them all, taking them around to the bathrooms. It not only gives her "heavy work" but she feels like she is doing a lot to help the family.

    Reply
  12. Wendy
    February 23, 2010

    This post makes me feel better about all of the "heavy work" my boys do! Living in Alaska, we of course have shovelling snow 8 months of the year. Outside, there's bringing in a stack of firewood every other day, helping clean out the goat pens, hauling buckets of sawdust to the chicken coop, watering the animals. In the summer, riding bikes, pushing each other on the swings, gardening. Inside, they take turns being the laundry helper for the day-which means hauling a full hamper to the laundry room, and transferring all the loads and taking the clean load back to my bedroom. When there's no laundry (ha!), they like to push their little sister around instead!
    But why is it that the boy who needs it the most complains the most and tries to quit the earliest?!

    Reply
  13. Amy AJ
    February 23, 2010

    Carrying a putting away lots of shoes – especially Daddy's…laundry…groceries…pushing around cardboard box cars/boats/cages/etc with stuff in it….vaccuuming….scrubbing – sometimes I give him a box of baby wipes and let him have a go at the bathroom (so worth the couple of bucks!)…toy drum set….moving furniture while I sweep….filling water bowls for pets (sometimes it spills, but it's just water!)…yard work….these are the first few that come to mind. I love that you have created this forum for sharing information about kids with sensory stuff going on. So many kids benefit from a little "sensory balance" to their day! It does get better. My oldest (12 now) who had the hardest time as a preschooler is now able to fidget or do "chair push-ups" in class. Other times, he shoots baskets, chews gum, or flops around to self soothe. You would have to look to find that preschooler who "melted" that he once was!

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 23, 2010

      Amy, great ideas and encouragment. Thank you.

      Reply

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