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Heavy Work Strategies for the Busy Family

Young Boy Holding a Pile of LaundryLife can get heavy from time to time and everyone gets stressed out. Unknowingly, many adults cope with said ‘stressors’ by incorporating various self-regulating strategies into their daily routines. They may take a deep breath or find their ‘zen’ in a yoga class. Some may take pleasure in the simplicity of sipping a warm cup of tea, while other more physical individuals resort to running a mile or two. Yet others prefer to lounge under a tree to read an enchanting romance novel. Children, like adults, need to have the ability to calm their bodies and self-regulate. One way for children to gather themselves in times of stress is by incorporating “heavy work” into their daily routine. ‘Heavy work’ activities provide deep proprioceptive input into a child’s muscles and joints, and thereby help them self-regulate in the same way that exercise may help an adult deal with stress.

Here are some examples of preparatory methods that can be incorporated into everyday life and used before a child encounters a stressful situation such as a loud birthday party, busy school day, or long car ride.

Heavy Work Activities To Provide Deep Proprioceptive Input For Children:

  • Help Mom: The completion of many chores can help incorporate ‘heavy work’ into a child’s daily routine. Examples include: carrying laundry, stirring recipes, pushing a grocery cart, or carrying shopping bags from the car.
  • Relay races and other forms of exercise are wonderful ways to build endurance and self-regulate. Examples include: wheelbarrow walks, froggy jumps, bear crawls, army crawls, crab walks, skipping, galloping, yoga, swimming, and gymnastics.
  • Play Outside: Take a walk and pull a wagon full of goodies, push a friend or sibling on the swing at the playground, build a
    sandcastle at the beach, or help around the house with yard work.
  • Rearranging Furniture: Pushing heavy chairs and couches provides deep proprioceptive input to the major joints and muscle groups of the body. You could put a fun spin on the activity and make a fort using furniture and blankets right in your living room!

‘Heavy work’ strategies can be incorporated into everyday life no matter the context or season. The use of these strategies may assist your child with more independence and self-soothing when they are feeling upset. This will also allow them to strengthen their muscles, increase their endurance, and may just help you cut back on the time spent completing housework chores. For other self-regulating ideas, please contact a NSPT occupational therapist.

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We are Going on a Treasure Hunt!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, sequencing and memory activities are important for people of all ages. These skills help to keep our minds sharp and active and allow us remember old skills as well as learn new patterns and routines. A “treasure hunt” is a fun way to work on these two skills, all wrapped into one child-friendly activity!

How To Create A Treasure Hunt For Your Family!

Parents help son with handwriting

Materials: construction paper, markers, equipment needed within treasure hunt (e.g. ball; scissors etc)

Directions:

  • First, talk out loud together with your child about how many steps you are going to include in your treasure hunt.
  • Next, determine what these steps are going to be (e.g. dribble a tennis ball 10 times, cut out a circle, copy a block design, balance on one leg etc).
  • Make sure that you include age appropriate tasks that your child needs to be working on.
  • Some of these tasks should be ones that are easier and your child can be more successful with, and some should be more challenging to help work on a novel skill and/or skills your child has a harder time with.
  • After you have verbally determined what will be in the treasure hunt, have your child repeat these steps back to you, first verbally, and then by copying the steps onto construction paper in a treasure map format (e.g. working towards the “X” which signifies the ‘treasure’ and the end of the treasure hunt). Lastly, help your child to implement the treasure hunt by having him tell you which step he will be completing first (e.g. first I will ______, and then I will ______).
  • If your child is having a hard time recalling which step comes next, have him refer to his treasure map to visually study the steps again, and then have him state the steps out loud again to help the information stick in his mind. Feel free to do this as often as needed throughout the activity.
  • Your child will show progress in his memory and sequencing skills by requiring less and less visual and/or verbal cues for the sequence of activities. Provide a small reward of your choosing for the “treasure” that your child will enjoy after he has completed the hunt!

Skills addressed in a Treasure Hunt:

  • Fine motor (to draw/write out the treasure map)
  • Auditory processing and memory (to listen to and repeat back the steps of the treasure hunt)
  • Sequencing (to complete the treasure hunt in the correct order)
  • Following directions
  • Attention (staying on task throughout the activity)

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