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What Is Heavy Work And How Can It Help My Child?

Does your child crave movement? Do you find them often bouncing off the walls trying to let out their energy? Read on to learn how to harness this love for movement to help your child regulate throughout their day. 

 

What is heavy work and why is it calming? 

Heavy work refers to activities that involve effort from the muscles and joints of the body, through pushing, pulling or carrying movements. Just like deep pressure input, heavy work activates the proprioceptive sense. When we do heavy work, it sends extra information to our proprioceptors that help us understand the position and movement of different parts of our body, which produces a calming effect. 

 

Benefits of heavy work for kids

Heavy work activities offer a wide range of benefits for kids of all ages and abilities, this includes: 

  • Improved Focus and Attention: Engaging in heavy work activities can help kids channel their excess energy in a productive way, leading to improved focus and attention span in the following activities.
  • Emotional Regulation: Heavy work provides kids with a healthy outlet for releasing their emotions, while also activating the proprioceptive sense to help calm their bodies. 
  • Enhanced Body Awareness: By providing consistent proprioceptive input, heavy work activities can help kids develop a better understanding of their bodies and how they move through space.
  • Increased Strength and Coordination: Many heavy work activities involve physical exertion, which can help kids build muscle strength, endurance, and coordination over time.

 

How can I incorporate heavy work at home? 

Heavy work can be easily incorporated into your day, and is often best used as a proactive measure. For example, if you notice your child often becomes dysregulated at a certain time of day, implement heavy work directly before this happens. 

 

Alternatively, you can use it after they have become distressed to help your child regulate through movement. Movement is a regulating tool that doesn’t have a high cognitive load (e.g. compared to mindfulness or meditation) so it can be powerful in times of distress when our fight or flight response has been activated, and our brain isn’t as able to think things through clearly. Learn more about this in our blog on the upstairs and downstairs of the brain!

 

Some examples of heavy work you can use at home include: 

  • Carrying or lifting heavy objects, like their backpack or a few books. 
  • Pushing or pulling heavy items. This could include having a race involving pushing around a half-full laundry basket. 
  • Full body yoga moves, like downward dog, upward facing dog, and bridge pose. 
  • Do walks or races pretending to be animals – like a bear, gorilla or snake. 
  • Outdoor play like wheelbarrow walks, climbing and jumping. 
  • Exercises like wall push-ups, squats, and planks. 

 

Heavy work can be a powerful tool for children to regulate and learn about their body. It can be easily incorporated into transitions or free time at home, and you only need 5-10 minutes at a time. 

 

Our Occupational Therapists love using this as a tool, and are happy to answer any questions during our sessions. If you think this would be helpful for your child and would like to learn more, contact us to book in with our Occupational Therapists!

 

SIENNA SMILEY

Occupational Therapist.



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