As there are many strategies you can use to help get your child back to that just right state for learning and function, ideally it’s best if you first determine what state your child is currently in, in order to determine the best sensory strategy.
But… when in doubt use deep pressure and heavy muscle work.
Why? Deep pressure to our joints and heavy muscle work stimulates the proprioceptive system (which is a big word for our body awareness sense). The proprioceptive system takes information from our muscles and joints and tells us things like the position of our arm without having to look at it or how much pressure we need to apply to a pencil to write with it without breaking the lead.
When our muscles and joints are stimulated this generates calming messages to the brain. As such, deep pressure and heavy muscle work tends to lower our arousal state when we are heightened and helps to reduce sensory overload. Because this system sends calming messages to our nervous system, activities that provide deep pressure or heavy muscle work do not result in a child becoming over-stimulated.
Alternatively, deep pressure and heavy muscle work activities can also work to kick us into gear when we are feeling low energy.
And this is why when in doubt … use deep pressure and heavy muscle work!
Here is a list of activities that you can do at home that will provide opportunities for deep pressure and heavy muscle work (and maybe a little extra help with the household chores, as that’s never a bad thing, right?!)
Activities around the house:
- Sweep the floors, vacuum, mop
- Help carry in the groceries
- Empty garbage cans / take out trash and recycling bins
- Carry the laundry
- Wipe the table
- Dig and shovel
- Build a garden and water it with a watering can
- Rake leaves
- Help wash the car
Inside Play Activities:
- Have pillow fights, wrestle, tickle fights with lots of pressure
- Do wheelbarrow walks
- Push against a wall or sideways in a doorway, or do bum lifts in sitting
- Lie on the floor, on tummy and elbows, and do puzzles, draw, or read
- Give others and yourself a firm hug
- Press hands together or down on a table or chair
- Bounce on or kick into a stretchy band around chair legs at meal time
- Push your body into a bean bag chair, sofa, a stack of cushions or pillows
- Wrap a blanket tightly around you (keeping face exposed!)
- Do animal walks (crab walk, bear walk, etc.)
- Practice yoga poses / pilates positions
- Do jumping jacks / burpies
- Pull, roll and squish objects in hands (play dough, putty, clay). Hide objects inside the dough and find them
- Play tug of war
- Push or pull other children while they sit on a blanket / wagon
- Play mini sticks, soccer with a mini ball or throw, bounce and catch a weighted ball (5-10 lbs ball)
Outside Play Activities:
- Carry rocks or pull a loaded wagon or push a wheelbarrow
- Paint the walls outside with water
- Draw in sand and build sandcastles
- Draw with sidewalk chalk
- Run up and down hills
- Climb trees
- Ride a bike (the bumpier the terrain, the more muscle work)
- Trampoline play to jump, run, crash, do bum drops
- Participate in swimming, gymnastics, skating, martial arts, play team sports
- Chew chewy or crunchy foods
- Drink from a water bottle that requires lots of suction
- Drink milkshakes or smoothies from a straw (the skinnier the straw, the more muscle work)
Try this out for yourself! Pick 5 activities and try doing one when you or your child is feeling over-stimulated or feeling low energy. See if it brings you and/or your child into that just right state!
Good luck! And as always, be the hero you are meant to be!
Courtesy photo by John Morgan