8 Ways to do Heavy Work at Home: Sensory Regulation

Aug 02, 2023

As therapists, one of our top recommended regulation strategies is heavy work! Heavy work activates our proprioceptive system, which is the sensory system that informs our brain where our body is in space. The best part about our proprioceptive system is that it supports our body in achieving the appropriate arousal level (not too slow and not too fast). A body operating too slowly may appear as if they are zoning out or falling asleep. A body operating too quickly may look like being extra talkative, showing an inability to stay still, or experiencing strong uncontrolled emotions (excited or mad). Activating our proprioceptive system through heavy work can allow us (or our child) to regulate and get back to the appropriate level of calm, alert, and engaged. 

Heavy work (aka deep pressure) activities can be incorporated at home, in the therapy clinic, at school and in the community! They can be done with just body weight or other items in the environment can be used. So, not only are deep pressure activities useful to regulate our sensory systems, but they are easily adaptable!

Here are 8 ways to do “heavy work” at home:

1. Wall push-ups

Standing about a shoulder width away from the wall, place both hands on the wall at shoulder height. Bend your elbows to lean towards the wall and push away! Repeat 10 times. The farther away from the wall you stand, the deeper the pressure!

2. Bear/Crab walks

Bear walks: crawl on 4-point (all four limbs on ground), count to 20!

Crab walks: crawl on 4-point but this time put your belly towards the sky, count to 10!

3. Use a Laundry Basket: Fill a laundry basket with clothes, toys, or books! Carry or push around the house. This is also a great way to involve your child with daily household chores; incorporating them into the routine can provide them with the structure they thrive on!

4. Jump!

Jumping is a great proprioceptive activity as it specifically targets applying pressure in the lower body. Add some input for the upper body by adding a backpack or holding a weighted item (that won’t crush little toes if they drop it). 

5. Make a Pillow Fort

Pillows can be surprisingly heavy, especially the couch cushions that make a perfect fort. Dragging a comforter over the top (to make the perfect roof) can add some more deep pressure input!
6. Bear Hugs

Cross arms to place hands on the opposite shoulder, and pull down, breathing out as you do. Repeat this 10 times. A strong hug from a trusted grown-up can also provide deep input, just be sure to listen for a ‘no’!

7. Slithering Snake

Laying on the floor on your stomach, use your arms to pull you forward! This works best on tile or laminate, but be careful, carpet might give a rug burn!

8. Play with Putty

Putty or play dough can provide some great deep pressure, especially if you flatten against the table using both arms to squish! You can add small toys or beads for your child to search for, which provides heavy work for the fingers. 

Heavy work is a great regulator, both for children and adults. Helping your child to do a deep pressure activity can allow them to be in a calm, alert, and engaged state, which in turn allows them to access their thinking brain for whatever task is next!

Written By Abigail Pichardo MOT License #21520


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