If you're a sensory seeker, or you have one at home, you know you're supposed to be incorporating heavy work into your routine every day. But what if you're struggling to come up with engaging heavy work ideas for sensory seekers? Let me help!
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. It can help you recognize where your body is in space, and regulate how much effort your muscles put into each task. The most effective heavy work activities as many muscles and joints as possible at the same time, for a short period of time.
Heavy work is recommended by many occupational therapists for its calming effect on the nervous system, especially for people who are sensory seekers, or who feel like they have trouble getting the heavy pressure on their muscles they need.
So, we understand that heavy work is an important part of the routine for a lot of people with autism, ADHD, or sensory processing integration issues. But sometimes, it's easy to become too overwhelmed to think of heavy work ideas for sensory seekers, like yourself or your kids.
That's why I've made this list of 21 heavy work ideas for sensory seekers for you! There are plenty of opportunities right in your home, or your yard!
21 Heavy Work Ideas for Sensory Seekers
Help in the house!
Housework is a great way to get chores and heavy work in at the same time. My kids love to sweep, wipe down the windows with a spray bottle, and help with meal prep.
1. Vacuum or sweep the floors - This is a great way to incorporate pushing and pulling movements. Some kids find sweeping kind of stimmy, too!
2. Help to move furniture when cleaning the floors - Pushing heavy objects really calms those bigger muscles. Just teach your kids how to push safely!
3. Clean the windows - Another pushing activity, a good arm workout, and fun with a spray bottle! Use vinegar cut with water for a child-safe window and mirror spray.
4. Carry the laundry (especially up stairs) - My daughter loves dragging the hamper down from her room to the laundry room in the basement. It engages all her major muscle groups, makes her feel like she's contributing to the household, and improves her balance too.
5. Knead bread or pizza dough - We make a lot of our own bread, and kneading gives the kids some pushing and pulling, plus a fun sensory experience. Even if you don't usually make your own bread dough, you should try it out - it's easy, fun, and one of my favorite heavy work ideas for sensory seekers.
6. Wash down counters and tables - Water play, but practical! This is pushing, pulling, and sensory play in one.
7. Bring in packages and the mail - Once again, make sure you know how to lift properly, but carrying packages is good input for your arms and legs.
8. Dust shelves, counters, and furniture - Okay, I admit it, I hate dusting, and I'm happy to pass it on to my kids under the guide of heavy work. But it does engage a lot of muscle groups as you pick up an object, dust under it, put it back down, and repeat. Moving furniture to dust around it adds even more weight.
9. Empty small house trashcans into a larger container - My kids find this ridiculously fun, and I find it ridiculously helpful. Give them a big trash bag and have them go around to all of the bathrooms and bedrooms, emptying smaller cans as they go.
Help in the yard!
Yardwork uses a lot of the same movements as housework, but often with heavier weights (and some fresh air)! My kids especially like piling rocks, collecting sticks, and pushing the wheelbarrow.
10. Push and pull stones, sticks, or leaves in a wheelbarrow - Pretty self-explanatory, and one of my kids' favorites!
11. Dig holes in the garden, sand, or dirt - My kids will dig whether I set them to it or not, but it really is one of the most perfect heavy work ideas for sensory seekers. It offers good muscle input, as well as the sensory input from the sand and dirt.
12. Weed the garden - I'm always exhausted after a really good weeding session, and there's a reason; I just spent an hour pulling! Set your kids after weeds they can recognize, and give them gloves if possible, and you're golden.
13. Use a watering can to help water the plants - My daughter's other favorite job, you can do this for the vegetable garden or your indoor plants. Carrying water requires strong muscle input and good balance, plus your child is learning to take care of your previous plant babies.
14. Drag a hose around to help water the plants - My son is out watering our giant sunflowers as I write this. Unwinding the hose and carrying it around the yard requires a lot of push, pull, and lifting action, and involves all the major muscle groups. Plus, you can play in the water afterward for some sensory input, too!
15. Rake leaves - Pulling, pushing, lifting, this is a 3-in-1 heavy work activity. And you can always jump in the leaf pile for some sensory input later.
16. Mow the lawn - So this one is obviously geared toward teenagers and adults, but the fact is that a push mower is a fantastic opportunity to pushing, pulling, and lifting with your body. There's a reason I always want to take a nap when I finish mowing!
17. Push snow off the car or house - In the winter, my kids love to get their gloves on and clear off the cars. They even like to pull the icicles off the bottoms of the cars.
18. Shovel snow - Shoveling snow is good lifting, pushing, and pulling. Plus, a kid can use the leftover snow to make a snowperson, fort, or a giant pile to jump into!
19. Carry firewood - I know not everyone has a fire place, but we do, and my youngest loves to bring in wood for us.
20. Collect branches in the lawn - We set our kids to do this when we mow the lawn, but also whenever they're bored and looking for something to do outside.
21. Climb a tree - The ideal kid activity is an ideal for a reason. Pulling oneself up those branches requires lifting your own body weight. Plus, the height satiates some childrens' need for the thrill!
I hope these ideas are enough to get your started on incorporating some heavy work into your routine.