Ways to help improve your child’s sleep, fitness & muscle tone.

The body is fascinating and thrives on movement, we’re designed to run, jump and manipulate objects. The more we move, we don’t go back to the way we were because the feeling is too great. Our health, productivity and so much more, all get better with movement.

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving” – Albert Einstein

Enter the big word: Proprioception

So, what exactly is this and how does it affect your child?

Proprioception is based around your child’s physiology and the importance of them engaging in regular physical activity. Daily and continued physical activities improve our children’s quality of sleep, cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle tone, postural control and gross motor coordination. Along with minimising the risk of health conditions such as depression, anxiety and childhood obesity.

Here at OTFC we also believe that along with the physical activity, the sensory activity is equally as important: The Proprioceptive Sense.

The Proprioceptive Sense plays a large role in sensory regulation, emotional regulation, attention and executive functioning skills (like paying attention, organising, planning and prioritising). Movement is key in assisting your child to stay calm, focus and engage in meaningful tasks.

Your Occupational Therapy sessions at OTFC in Adelaide will help with proprioception

Here at OTFC our aim is to support your child’s sensory and emotional regulation. Both of these combined helps to improve their ability to plan and process movement.

When your child attends occupational therapy sessions, they participate in a range of activities which provide them with prolonged proprioceptive feedback, meaning a continuous loop of feedback between the sensory receptors throughout your child’s body and their nervous system.

This aims to support their sensory and emotional regulation and improve their ability to plan and process movement. Therefore, when we move, our brain senses the effort, force, and heaviness of our actions and positions and responds accordingly.

Why your child needs movement breaks (and what they are exactly)

Think: running, jumping, crashing, swinging, climbing and so on! All the things that engage in sensory based activity providing your child with a range of proprioceptive, tactile and more generally helping with a sense of balance.

We encourage movement breaks for your child every 30-45 minutes throughout their day, especially before or after tasks which require their specific attention, sensory processing, problem-solving, or ‘table work’. At least 3 times a day for 10 or so minutes, in the morning, middle of day and after lunch are all beneficial in assisting your child’s self-regulation, concentration and arousal levels.

What is the proprioceptive sense and how can it help your child?

Our bodies are amazing objects and proprioception is the sensory information the body receives from the joints about where they are and how they are moving in space. This plays a critical role in telling our child’s brains how they are moving when they aren’t looking at what they are doing. Like brushing our hair at the back of our head, writing without looking at the page, typing without looking at the keyboard and doing the zip up at the back of our pants.

Our muscles, joints, and skin all contain sensory receptors that send information from our muscles and joints to inform motor movements and postural control.

Proprioception is also closely related to the vestibular system (our anatomy), and together they help us to develop body awareness, inform our sense of posture and balance and help us to stabilise our head and eyes whilst we are moving. Like we mentioned earlier, our bodies are fascinating in every single way.

25 great ways you can incorporate regular physical and sensory activity at home

The following activities will provide your child with lots of proprioceptive sensory input and ‘heavy work’, which can support your child’s regulation and develop their body awareness:

  1. Identify body parts, eg: “This is my head. Touch your head”
  2. Ask your child to close their eyes and touch parts of their body as you call them out
  3. Talk about body parts when dressing and bathing
  4. “Mirrors”: do slow movements and have your child copy you as though they’re standing in front of a mirror
  5. Simon Says. Try with eyes open to begin with and as your child improves, play it with eyes closed. Uses typical phrases eg hands on head, and variations “put your foot on your knee”
  6. “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
  7. Have your child lie on a large piece of paper and trace around them
  8. Roll child up in a blanket, place pillows on top and push down on your child to provide deep pressure feedback
  9. Trampoline games
  10. Running, jumping and crashing into soft surfaces
  11. Arm wrestles
  12. Tug of war
  13. “Row-Row”. Sit opposite your child, legs slightly bent, feet touching, grasp each other’s wrists.  Sing “row row row your boat” you move up and down
  14. Playdough/Theraputty – squeezing, pinching, poking, rolling, making shapes – find hidden marbles
  15. Climbing on play equipment, Hanging onto monkey bars
  16. Animal walks: bear walk, crab walk, bunny hops
  17. Bouncing and catching a large or heavy ball
  18. Shovelling sand, soil
  19. Burying objects deep in sand, mud, playdough or a bucket or rice
  20. Punching a boxing bag or bean bag
  21. Bouncing on a hopper ball
  22. Crawling through tunnels or large cardboard boxes
  23. Playing or hitting drums and cymbals
  24. Kicking balls
  25. Blindfolded games – feel for treasures in a box of dried rice, make a shape out of playdough

Occupational Therapy For Children
, we’re putting the pieces together helping your family achieve their goals and dreams.

We’d love you to come visit us at OTFC.

OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.


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