“Heavy Work” Activity Ideas
Many children benefit from performing “heavy work” activities in order to help them with body awareness, coordination, and regulation. “Heavy work” activities involve using muscles for pushing and pulling, and ideally involve enough repetition and weight to lead to muscle fatigue. These can be helpful activities to include in a child’s daily “sensory diet”.
There are so many great pieces of equipment that can be helpful to meet a child’s heavy work/sensory diet needs. However, there are lots of times during the day where you may not have access to a big space or equipment. Here are some examples of “heavy work” that do not require any equipment, and can therefore be performed while waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting in line at school, sitting in the car, sitting at the lunch table, etc.
- Chair push-ups
- Wall push-ups
- March/stomp feet
- Push hands tightly together
- Hug yourself tightly
- Massages (give or receive)
Activities that require a bit more space, but no equipment:
- Animal walks (bear crawl, crab walk, donkey kicks, frog jumps, bunny hops, 1 foot hops, crawling, army crawl)
- red light/green light game with animal walks, forwards/backwards walking, skipping, marching, etc.
- Wheelbarrow walk
- Log rolls
- Jumping jacks
- Ski jumps
- Over/under and side/side ball game (2 people stand back to back, and pass a ball back and forth over head/under legs)
- Hopscotch on different tiles of floor
- Cross crawl marches (alternating elbows touch opposite knees, while marching)
- Tall kneeling (kneeling with bottom not touching feet) position during play
- Quadruped (hands and knees) position during play
Try incorporating a few of these activities into an obstacle course, into a Simon Says game, or performing them in “slow motion” for an added challenge!
Also, remember that involving children with daily chores can incorporate “heavy work” into their daily routine!
- Home: Sweep, vacuum, rake, wash windows, wash counters/tables, unload groceries, carry bags to/from the car, carry or push laundry baskets, take out the trash.
- School: “Teachers helper” to pass out snacks, hold open doors, carry a crate of books, push in the chairs, erase the chalk board, wash the tables and windows.
Please consult your pediatrician about your child’s health and wellness prior to engaging in these exercises.
Written by Kara Syrek, OTR/L, occupational therapist at NTS Therapy
Northwest Houston clinic: 713-466-6872
Katy clinic: 281-392-4221