Tuesday, June 9, 2015

An OT’s Tips for Summer #SensoryHop

Heavy work is more fun when you do it with a friend!
Last week, before school let out, I had the chance to sit down with Ben’s occupational therapist to discuss ways that I can reinforce what he has learned in therapy during the summer.  

We talked about lots of things, but she continued to emphasize the importance of including lots of push/pull/lift/carry activities throughout our day.  These are also often referred to as heavy work. 

These activities keep the child calm and organized.  Ben’s emotions tend to swing between the extremes.  He can become over-excited, which can quickly spiral into frustration, anger, and meltdown mode.  Ben calls heavy work tasks “money in the bank” because they can help to “buy” a little calmness for later.  This is especially important to do before a potentially exciting event, such as a birthday party or a trip to the toy store.

Here are a few ways I plan to incorporate heavy work into our summer routine.  I’d love to hear your ideas as well!

1)   Heavy work at the beach
The sand and the surf provide lots of natural opportunities for heavy work.  Carrying a bucket of water to and from the ocean and dumping it into the sand provides a nice heavy weight to lift and carry.  Sometimes Ben digs a hole and fills it with water to make a “pond” for his plastic sea creatures.  Other times he likes to dig a hole and fill it with water to make his own personal pool.  On rainy days we can still dig and mold using kinetic sand.

2)   Walk like an animal
Ben used to HATE it when his OT would ask his group to “bear crawl” to the lobby at the end of a session.  I think the reason may have been because his core muscles weren’t strong enough at that point.  Now he loves animal walks, and they are great heavy work opportunities!  Ben has begun inventing his own variations.  During rainforest night at school, he jumped around his classroom like a red eyed tree frog, slithered like a snake, and walked on all fours like a jaguar.  In addition to the traditional bear crawl, another fun walk to try is the turtle walk.  Put a pillow (aka shell) on the child’s back and have him walk around on all fours.  Ben loves using his imagination so I’m sure we’ll be inventing all kids of new animal (or alien- his new passion) walks this summer.

3)   Help in the garden
Nana and Papa have a garden, and Ben loves to help when he visits them.  There are lots of heavy work opportunities here, such as pushing the wheelbarrow, digging out the weeds, and pouring water from a pitcher onto the plants.  And, of course, picking the produce and carrying the basket proudly to the house is the best part of all!

4)   Books in a Bag
We're planning regular trips to the public library throughout the summer to keep a steady supply of new books in the house.  As we travel to and from the library, Ben can wear a backpack with his books inside to build in some extra heavy work.  Climbing the stairs to the second floor children’s area offers an additional boost of pulling and carrying work.

5)   Shop ‘til you Drop
During trips to our local grocery store, I plan to put Ben to work.  He loves pushing the shopping cart (with assistance), and sometimes I have him carry a basket to fill with certain items.  This has the extra bonus of teaching responsibility during our shopping ventures.

Incorporating heavy work tasks throughout the summer doesn’t have to be a chore.  Finding ways to incorporate it into your daily routine will keep everyone in a great frame of mine. 

Have a fun summer!

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop -- a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it's like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!Want to join in on next month's Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!


  1. This stuff should tire 'em out too...for sleeeeep!!!! One hopes ;)

    1. Yes, exactly! Here's to bringing back nap time (or at least an early bedtime)! :)

  2. Great ideas! We had a great OT like yours, with wonderful ideas. Your list has brought many back to mind that I want to incorporate into my boys days!

    1. OTs are the best! Glad you had a great one also. I also put a picture schedule in place today after a bit of a rough start to our morning. Have a great summer!

  3. These are all fantastic ideas! I appreciate the reminder to incorporate heavy work into a kiddo's routine. My little guy really benefits from this as well.
    My goal is to remember to build in these kinds of activities - like the walking around like a turtle - before heading out to do something new and exciting.
    Sharing this on my FB page. Great advice!

    1. Thanks, Mommy Catharsis. I'm not always good about remembering to including the heavy work tasks into our routine but I know that it benefits him when I do. Thanks for the share! :)

  4. These are great reminders! We have been without an OT for awhile now, but this reminds me to incorporate these types of activities, because they really did always help my boy stay regulated. I love the beach one, because if I could get to one of those...that would help me too!!! :)

    1. We love the beach, though I don't always get there as much as I'd like, which is a shame when we live so close.

      At what age did your kiddo stop going to his OT?


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