Kids love to play and kids love games but at the end of the day, there is bedtime.
Night routines are a hot topic and as parents, we all try to create the best possible wind-down routine for our little ones.
Sometimes, all the consistency in the world still doesn’t seem to be quite enough to wind down those excited toddlers. In the world of Occupational Therapy, we often talk about Proprioception, more commonly known as “heavy work” to help the body receive input through the skin, muscles, and joints and transfer information from the brain to the nervous system so that the body can sense itself.
Although proprioceptive input is often associated with children who have been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, it can actually be beneficial for all children! Many young children struggle with modulating or regulating their body at any given time depending on level of arousal, and heavy work can be helpful for winding down any and all children.
Heavy work is any activity that provides deep pressures through the joints and muscles which often times has a calming and/or centering effect. While it is certainly not a catch all answer for all children as with any other developmental suggestion, it is definitely worth a try to incorporate some level of heavy work into your nightly routine and see if it helps your little one’s body calm down leading up to sleep.
Some activities that involve heavy input include:
Helping carry/push the laundry basket: There really doesn’t even have to be laundry in the basket, it can be filled with toys and dolls, as long as there is weight being pushed, they will be receiving the pressure through their long bones.
Crashing: It sounds a little counter intuitive and for some, it can be arousing so trial and error with your own kiddos. Jumping into pillows is a great crashing activity.
Hanging/swinging: Those doorframe fitness bars are perfect for this!
Pulling/squeezing: Tug-a-war, pillow squeezes, Playdoh, wall pushups are all fun ways to get in some deep input.
Jumping: Trampolines, jumping on the bed, jump roping, etc.
Chewing: Is also a type of heavy work so including something chewy in dinner can be a way to start winding down as well!
The key to successfully incorporating heavy work into night routines is to make them fun and engaging so that it doesn’t feel like “work,” or become a non-preferred part of your routine. Some creative ways to incorporate some of the suggested heavy work include obstacle courses, quiet game times, and a personal family favorite, transitions in between the items in your routine items.
Building obstacle courses in and of itself can include a lot of heavy work – moving cushions, lifting pillows, scooting tables, etc. Quiet time games can be scheduled as the last activity of the day such as Playdoh, putty, rolling on the bed while someone squishes your body with a pillow, etc.
This last suggestion may be the easiest to incorporate into your already established routine. During transitions (i.e., going from cleaning up to brushing teeth, brushing teeth to story time, etc.), try adding one of the heavy work tasks. Maybe It’s having a box full of books at the bathroom door that can be carried or pushed to the bedroom when going to story time, or wheelbarrowing from the living room to the bathroom to go brush teeth.
Adding heavy work into your nighttime routine shouldn’t be a daunting task, just a simple adjustment to add a little extra input into your child’s nervous system to see if it will effectively help calm their bodies down in preparation for bedtime.
I was compensated for this blog post but the opinions are my own.
Lina Awshee is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with a background as a Pediatric Vision Therapist. Currently, Lina is practicing in the school systems where she works with students of all ages. When she isn’t working, Lina enjoys sharing purposeful ways to include skill development into daily playtime. You can find fun suggestions by following her on Instagram @motormommy.co.
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