As a parent of children with sensory integration differences, I know that being in the water is an especially perfect opportunity for my kids to do some heavy work. My kids and I are lucky to have a shallow creek about a mile away that we love to go play in when it's too hot for anything else outside. I love that my kids can use the time to get some exercise, look for frogs and bugs, learn about wildflowers, and breathe in some fresh air. And, of course, get some heavy work into their day!
What is Heavy Work?
If you have someone in your family who has sensory processing differences, ADHD, or autism, you may already be familiar with heavy work. Heavy work is not actually "work," but rather a term used to refer to any activity that creates a push or pull against your body. Some examples are swimming, jumping on a trampoline, carrying heavy objects, or even vacuuming the floor.
Heavy work can help you recognize where your body is in space, and regulate how much effort your muscles put into each task. And, if you are someone who regularly crashes into walls or jumps off furniture, heavy work can offer a safer, more regulated way for you to get more consistent input to your muscles and joints.
7 Ways to Get Some Heavy Work in the Water
There are any number of ways to get some heavy work in when your family goes to the water! Here are some ideas I came up with for my kids by the stream, but you can adapt this to any body of water based on your kids' needs.
Caution: Please always watch your kids near the water, and be careful. Even children who know how to swim can drown in under 30 seconds, and most drownings are quiet. You need to keep a close eye and pay attention when your children are near the water.
Without further ado, here are 7 ways to get some heavy work in at the water!
Wading with the stream
Get into the water, and wade in the same direction the stream is moving. This requires you to maintain your balance, which is great input on your muscles and joints. Plus, you get the sensory input of the rocks and sand on your feet, the sensory input from water moving past you, and some enjoyable auditory input from water as well.
Find a stick and wade against the stream
Now, turn around and wade against the water. This offers all the same of the input as wading with the water, but offers even more weight against the body, making your muscles work harder. Having a strong stick is a great way to help counterbalance without slipping.
Find a stick and pretend you are rowing a boat
Find a good, safe place to stand in water about waist high. Take your stick, and pretend to row your boat! Try front-to-back, and back-to-front, on both sides of your boat. This will offer muscle and joint input for your upper body.
Find some medium-to-heavy rocks and give them a toss
Check your surroundings and make sure you're not going to hit anyone, please. See how far the rocks go, and compare what sounds they make in the water. This offers auditory input as well as heavy work!
Explore different water speeds
Find a place in the creek with a small, safe rapid, and practice going through the fast water and then back to the still water. The difference in water strength is an interesting input and requires some good balancing skills. Carry your stick with you for extra balance if you need it!Bring a bucket
You can use a bucket or cup to carry water from one part of the stream to another part. This offers input from the weight of the water, requires balance as you move through the water, and is adjustable depending on how much water you put in your bucket. Have fun with it!
Push the water
Show your child how to use their hands to push against the water and then with it. Try this in different parts of the stream and see which areas have water that is moving faster and harder to push against. You can also splash the water in different directions and see how far it goes!
Now Get Going!
We honestly had so much fun at the creek, and my kids were much more relaxed for the rest of the day after getting their bodies more organized with heavy work. I hope some of these ideas will work for your family too.
What's your favorite way to get heavy work into your day? Leave a comment below and let me know!
If you're interested in learning more about neurodiversity in general, or in reading more about autism, ADHD, or sensory processing challenges specifically, here are some of my favorite books!