Often considered the sixth sense, proprioception is essential for body awareness and movement. The sensory receptors are in the muscles and joints. These receptors send messages to the brain about body positioning and the direction and strength needed for a particular movement. For example, how to precisely stack blocks without knocking them over or pouring water from one cup to another.

 

Development of the proprioceptive system began when your child was still in the womb. Early activities like skin-to-skin contact, tummy time, shifting weight all help babies understand where their body is and how it moves. As children develop and participate in increasingly complex activities, feedback from their proprioceptive system is essential to their success.

 

While all children benefit from heavy work, your child may especially make gains from activities that provide proprioceptive input if he or she:

 

-Is constantly on the move: Jumping, bumping, and crashing.

-Frequently knocks over construction projects such as blocks or magnetic tiles.

-Constantly seeks out bear hugs or is too rough with friends.

-Rips paper or breaks writing tools when writing or coloring from using too much force.

-Bumps into peers or furniture regularly.

 

Activities to try:

 

Obstacle courses- Climb, crawl, hop, march. Use equipment or furniture that you already have. Place a puzzle piece at the beginning, and each time your child goes through, they will collect pieces to put together at the finish.

 

Hopscotch- As a bonus, this is an outstanding balance and motor planning activity. If your child is old enough, let them sketch out the board. Using chalk on the rough surface tar will also provide proprioceptive feedback.

 

Pull, push, or carry- Let your child pull a sibling in a wagon, push furniture, or bring a stack of books from one room to the next.

 

Complete chores- A great way to get consistent proprioceptive input is to build it into a routine. Designate a task for your child that involves heavy work. It could be pushing the chairs in after each meal, vacuuming, or wiping down the table. Let your child be in charge of bringing in groceries from the car or moving the laundry basket.

 

Try a sport- Many sports are great for getting heavy sensory input. Swimming, soccer, football, track, basketball, and gymnastics are sports children who seek proprioceptive input tend to seek out.

 

Chew- There are many joints and ligaments (and therefore sensory receptors) in the upper and lower jaw. Have your child eat something crunchy or try a ‘chewy’ for stimulating oral motor input that doubles as regulating.

 

Animal walks- Try bear walks, frog jumps, crab walks, donkey kicks, and crawling. Let your child make up new animal walks to practice forming a new motor plan while getting the proprioceptive work in.

 

Squishes- Get comfy laying on your belly under a weighted blanket, couch cushion or provide pressure with an exercise ball. Let your child determine the amount of pressure they want and let them read or color while they relax.

Affirmations are a quick, easy (and free!) intervention for children who are working on building their self-esteem.  These positive messages can foster a growth-mindset.  Affirmations can be especially impactful for children who have excellent self-awareness skills.  Especially when there is a gap between their potential and what they can actually do.  When a child recognizes a challenge (whether it is listening to the teacher or sharing with a friend), they can withdraw from the activity.  This limits their practice and ultimately growing skills in that area.  Affirmations can help kids reframe the situation and recognize their strengths.

 

Of course, honor what is unique about the child when creating your own affirmations.  Does the child have a deeply creative imagination?  Share that!  Are they loving to animals?  Let them know that you recognize that and teach them to recognize that in themselves.  Older children can be guided to contribute their own ideas for affirmations.  Here are some ideas to get started:

 

Affirmations for Relationships:

 

Reciprocal play and communication can be challenging for many children with developmental delays.  The back and forth nature of conversation and the inability to control the other individual can make for a difficult scenario.  These affirmations will help children see their ability to interact with others in a positive light.

 

 

Affirmations for Regulation:

 

These will look different depending on what tools the child uses to regulate and what language they respond best to.  The point of these affirmations is to help the child understand that they have control over their body and how they feel, and can make positive changes to make their body feel good.

 

 

Affirmations for Executive Functioning:

 

If we want our children to be as independent as possible, we need to be sure to give them a mindset to empower them to try when things are tricky or present a challenge.  These affirmations are great for children of all ages and abilities:

 

 

Affirmations for Any Day:

 

Starting each day with a positive affirmation can create a growth mindset and build resilience for when any challenges inevitably arise.  When children are empowered, feel in control, and their self-esteem is nurtured, they are better able to access the higher level skills that help keep them at their best.

 

 

Do you use positive affirmations with your child or students?  Share any favorites in the comment section below!

The expectation for kids to start writing is getting earlier and earlier all of the time. However, the youngest children don’t have the physical development needed to use the small muscles in their fingers and hands to hold and control a pencil. Writing is a foundational learning skill that helps requires visual-motor integration, bilateral coordination, midline crossing, etc. It is correct that it is an important skill to master. But how do you get young children started before jumping in with a pencil and paper? Read on for several ideas to help kiddos get ready to write without actually writing.

 

Strengthen Big Muscles First

 

For a person to write successfully, they need to be able to stabilize their upper arm. If the movement comes from their shoulder joint when they write, they will get tired out quickly. Use play to strengthen the upper body. Wheelbarrow walking, crawling, and animal walks all work well for this. For an extra fun activity, tape a big piece of paper to the bottom of a child-sized table. The child can lie underneath it and straighten their arm to paint.

 

Get vertical!

 

Tape a piece of paper to a wall or find an easel with a chalkboard or blackboard. Let the child color to their heart’s content. Kids enjoy the novelty of this activity, and it allows for practice with grasp and getting the wrist into the correct position for writing. If this feels tricky, tape a sheet of paper to the wall and let them place stickers on it for a similar effect.

 

Draw!

 

Creating simple drawings is a great way to work on visual-motor integrations skills. Sometimes referred to as hand-eye coordination, visual-motor integration involves using coordinated movements to make marks with intention. Start with easy drawings and work your way up. An excellent progression could be drawing a smiley face, then a person, then a teddy bear. First, demonstrate how to make it so that your child can copy you. For ideas and inspiration, check YouTube or your local library for drawing guides.

 

Letter Recognition

 

Letter recognition is a part of learning to write. Point out letters in books, on signs, blocks, and in their name. Focus on capital letters, to begin with since those are the first letters they will most likely learn to write. Alphabet magnets are a popular exploration item. With adult support, kids can start learning the names of the letters and recognize them.

 

Write… But Not On Paper

 

Practice creating letters in new and different ways! Try rolling out play-doh letters, making letters with sticks, lines and curves cut out of paper, Legos, and anything else you have handy. You can make a sensory tray with a box lid and fill it with rice or salt to trace letters. As a bonus, many children are kinesthetic learners, and this activity can help reinforce the other work you do.

 

Kid-Size Tools

 

When the concepts and skills are coming together, and your child is ready to start writing letters, use child-sized writing utensils. This promotes the development of a mature grasp. Start with bits of chalk and broken crayons. For older kids, try golf pencils.

Most children benefit from proprioceptive sensory work built into their day. The proprioceptive system receptors are located in our joints and muscles and tell us about where our body is in space. The benefits of stimulating this system vary for different children but can help children feel regulated, calm, and ready to focus. Unlike the vestibular system , the proprioceptive system cannot be overloaded. The benefits of heavy work last for up to two hours after engaging. Try to build planned activities into your day to support your student or child’s participation all day long.

 

1. Play:

 

Play is a creative and natural method of learning and exploring the world. Encourage running and jumping as part of play, draw a hopscotch game in chalk or offer a jump rope. Indoor and outdoor trampolines provide lots of sensory input to the lower body. If you have monkey bars nearby, try to test how long you can hang on. Create an obstacle course including several of these activities to make a memorable play experience.

 

2. Animal walks:

 

Common in occupational and physical therapy and physical education classes, animal walks are fun and motivating and great for sensory input and motor planning. Try crab walks, bear walks, snake crawls, dinosaur marches and wheelbarrow walks. Get creative and make up a new animal walk!

 

3. Clean up a space:

 

This is a functional life skill that children can practice at any age. Some cleaning activities like vacuuming or sweeping provide proprioceptive input. Younger and older kids can use a towel and wide sweeping motion to wipe down tables or spills. For even heavier input, delegate the task of pushing in chairs or pushing light furniture into place to kiddos.

 

4. Carry:

 

Carrying heavy items can be a purposeful activity where children get a chance to help out. Try letting them bring in groceries, carry books to another room, move their chair by themselves or wear a slightly weighted backpack.

 

5. Get outside:

 

For children of all ages, the outdoors provides lots of opportunities for proprioceptive input. Go on a nature walk. The more challenging the climb, the more proprioceptive input they will get. Using a small shovel to move snow or dig dirt is another way children can help out.

 

6. Snack time:

 

Do you know anyone that chews on a pen or pencil? The jaw has several proprioceptors, and by chewing on something hard, people get lots of regulating input. A more functional strategy would be to eat something crunchy or chewy. Carrots, celery, nuts, and granola work well and can easily work into your usual snack time. Older kids (and adults) can get the same benefit by eating crunchy foods or chewing on gum.

 

7. Use a weighted ball:

 

Try a soft weighted ball for a quick and easy way to get input. Starting at two pounds and increasing to higher weights, weighted balls are versatile and easy to have nearby. Try throwing and catching the ball, rolling it back and forth to each other, or slamming it onto the ground.

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