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20 Heavy Work Activities for Kids by an OT

Dec 08th, 2023 | by Miranda Dichairo, MS, OTR/L

Miranda Dichairo, MS, OTR/L

December 08th, 2023

As the weather gets colder, it can be harder to find activities to keep our busy kids entertained and moving. In this blog, we’ll cover what heavy work is, how it helps our bodies, and what kind of indoor activities we can incorporate to help keep our kids feel regulated.

What Is Heavy Work?

Heavy work consists of movement that involves the larger muscles of the body and provides sensory input, particularly proprioception, to our bodies. Proprioception is related to the awareness we have of our body in space, and we receive this information through resistance to our muscles and joints. The input we receive through heavy work can be especially calming. Think about it – when we get a massage, we are receiving resistance to our muscles and joints and instantly feel calm!

Movement is important in our ability to learn, focus, attend, and participate in daily tasks. When we don’t have opportunities to move our bodies, we can struggle to remain calm and organised.

What Are the Benefits of Heavy Work?

When we engage in heavy work, our proprioception improves, which in turn improves our regulation. Heavy work also improves our interoception, or the ability to feel what’s happening within our body. This can include feelings of hunger or thirst, pain, temperature, bathroom needs, and even more complex emotions and problem-solving. Our children who struggle with recognising when they’re in pain or hungry, or those who struggle with understanding their emotions, can benefit from improved interoception.

Heavy work also significantly impacts our motor development and functioning. With heavy work, we can improve our core strength, shoulder stability, wrist and hand strength, motor planning, and overall coordination. That’s why heavy work is a great activity for kids with decreased strength, low tone, or difficulties with coordinating their bodies for complex movements.

What Are Some Examples of Heavy Work Activities?

Heavy work can consist of a variety of movements. It can include carrying, pulling, pushing, jumping, chewing, squeezing, climbing, lifting, pinching, and more. The great thing about it is that many of these heavy work activities require little to no extra equipment and space!

20 Heavy Work Activities for Kids by an Occupational Therapist

Here are 20 ideas you can do at home to provide heavy work for toddlers or children.

  1. Wall push-ups or chair push-ups
  2. Pushing or pulling a weighted laundry basket across the room
  3. Pushing or pulling a weighted cart or stroller
  4. Pushing a weighted medicine ball along the floor or up the wall
  5. Tug of war
  6. Jumping on a trampoline
  7. Jumping on a mattress or couch cushions
  8. Seated bouncing on a ball
  9. Carrying bags (i.e. groceries)
  10. Carrying stacks of books
  11. Wearing a weighted backpack
  12. Holding a weighted stuffed animal
  13. Weighted blanket or vest
  14. Doing yoga or animal walks
  15. Chewing gum, dried fruit, or crunchy snacks
  16. Drinking thick liquids through a straw (i.e. yogurt, milkshake, smoothie)
  17. Blowing through a straw or blowing bubbles
  18. Climbing
  19. Squeeze stress balls, theraputty, or playdough
  20. Rolling up tightly in a blanket (“burrito”)

Happy moving!

Find Additional Therapist-Approved Activities in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author

NAPA Boston occupational therapist Miranda loves using a play-based approach when working with kids to reach their goals! In her free time, she enjoys drawing, and anything outdoors such as hiking, camping, and snowboarding. She hopes to visit all National Parks one day!

About NAPA Centre

At NAPA Centre, we take an individualised approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualised programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customised program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

TAGS: Blogs, OT
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