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The Best Proprioceptive Activities for Kids

Most people when they learn about proprioceptive activities do not realize just how important these activities are in the world of child development.

It is so important that many refer to proprioceptive input as the 6th sense. Not only does it help with body awareness, but it is also a crucial component of attentiveness and learning.

Let’s dive further into what proprioception is, why it’s important, and the different types of proprioception activities that will help your child develop.

What is Proprioception?

Proprioception literally means body awareness and it is how we perceive the location and movement of different body parts in space.

This sensory system is located in our skin, muscles, and joints and it helps us identify the different forces and pressures within our environment. When someone gives you a hug, these sensory receptors will tell the brain where and how much pressure is being placed on your body.

Proprioception is also responsible for helping us coordinate our movements so we can run, hop, skip, and even walk across a room without bumping into anything!

Why Proprioception is Important

Proprioception is incredibly important because it helps us interact with our environment. Everything we do involves precise movements and through this sensory system, we learn how to exert the right amount of strength, force, and coordination for each movement.

This system also works very closely with the vestibular system to help support our balance. The proprioception receptors provide our brain with information about where our body is to help us stay balanced, especially when walking on uneven surfaces.

Proprioceptive activities are also a great tool for children with sensory issues. These calming activities help kids maintain a certain level of focus which helps to improve their level of learning and attention.

Examples of Proprioception:

  • Being able to touch your nose with your finger while having your eyes closed
  • Holding an egg with enough strength to not drop it or break it
  • Drawing on a piece of paper with the right amount of force
  • Playing a musical instrument like the piano or violin
  • Walking through a room without bumping into things

The 2 Types of Children Who Truly Need Proprioceptive Activities

While these activities are excellent for all kids, two types of children can especially benefit from proprioception exercises.

1. Children Who Have Proprioceptive Seeking Behaviors

Children who fall into this category often have a very high threshold for sensory stimulation. Many times these children are labeled as ‘hyperactive’ but in reality, they are just trying to find the sensory stimulation that their high threshold body requires.

Proprioception Seeking Behaviors:

  • Chews on everything (pencils, books, clothes, etc.)
  • Excessively rough when playing with others
  • Holds onto drawing utensils tightly and writes heavy
  • Always standing and moving when they should be sitting and quiet
  • Has a hard time keeping their hands to themselves
  • Walks on tip-toes
  • Flaps their hands

2. Children Who Have Low Registration Proprioception

There are also children who are under-responsive to sensory input. This is essentially because their proprioceptive system isn’t registering the sensory information from their environment.

Low Registration Proprioception Behaviors:

  • Very clumsy – accidentally bumps into things when walking
  • Moves slower, and always seems tired
  • High pain tolerance
  • Slumped posture
  • Always leaning on objects or people
  • Aren’t phased by loud noises
  • May not notice changes in their environment

5 Types of Proprioceptive Activities for Kids (With 30+ Exercises)

There are 5 main types of proprioception activities. All of these exercises involve putting a bit of tension and stress on those muscles and joints to help the body understand sensory input. These are great activities to stimulate a child with sensory dysregulation and they will help the average child develop body awareness, balance, and coordination.

1. Aerobic Exercises

These are cardiovascular activities that involve a lot of movement which is great for proprioception development.

  • Running
  • Jumping (hopscotch, jump rope)
  • Climbing (on trees, stairs, rock walls, or at the playground)
  • Wheelbarrow walking (walking on hands while someone holds their feet)
  • Hanging (from a tree or the monkey bars)
  • Sports activities (soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.)
  • Animal crawls (crab, bear, frog jump)

2. Oral Activities

If you notice a child is constantly biting on things, try using some of these alternatives to provide safe oral sensory input. While these may not be full-body exercises, they are a great way to keep kids calm if they need to sit for extended periods of time.

  • Drinking through a straw (especially thicker substances like a milkshake or apple sauce)
  • Chewing on bubble gum
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Eating crunchy foods like baby carrots or pretzels
  • Blowing up balloons
  • Playing an instrument (harmonica, flute)

3. Heavy Lifting Activities

These activities require children to use their muscles to lift, push, pull, and carry heavy objects. Our proprioception system works very hard when using these types of resistance exercises.

  • Carrying heavy bags (groceries, backpacks, laundry baskets)
  • Pushing or pulling objects (vacuum, shopping cart, wheelbarrow)
  • Holding heavy doors open
  • Shoveling (sand, snow, dirt)
  • Gardening and raking leaves
  • Wiping down tables and chairs
  • Tug-of-war

4. Therapeutic Activities

These simple fine motor activities will give your child that little extra sensory input they are seeking. These are great activities to help a child remain calm and focused.

  • Play dough or silly putty
  • Stress ball
  • Picking up marbles with toes
  • Drawing
  • Squeezing a sponge

5. Deep Pressure Activities

Deep pressure activities are often known as passive activities because they have a calming effect on children. Since these exercises require a lot of contact, they may not be very useful if your child has a sensitivity to touch.

  • Tight hugs
  • Wearing a weighted blanket or vest (not to exceed 10% of their weight)
  • Burrito blanket (tightly roll them up in a blanket)
  • Squeezing and hiding in tight spaces
  • Deep pressure massage
  • Steamrolling (use an exercise ball to firmly roll over your child’s body)

There you have it! Now you have the tool necessary to implement proprioceptive activities into your daily routine. The more you active this system, the better your children will learn and develop.

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