Ideas for HEAVY WORK in the classroom


Heavy work has been used to help calm and stimulate students with sensory needs for years! You are probably already using some heavy work activities and you might not even realize it!

So what is heavy work?
Heavy work is an activity that either pushes or pulls against the body and provides the muscles and joints with input. Heavy work activities can be beneficial to EVERY student but can be particularly helpful for students with sensory processing needs. Heavy work can help students feel regulated and focused.






Heavy work activities fall into 3 main categories:
  1. Whole body/ gross motor activities (like pushing, pulling, lifting, and moving)
  2. Oral activities (like chewing, sucking, and blowing)
  3. Fine motor/ use of hands (like squeezing and pinching)

1) Examples of gross motor/ whole body heavy work at home and school include:
  • Pushing & pulling objects / items:
    • Vacuuming, sweeping, moping
    • Pushing someone on a swing
    • Pushing a heavy/ full grocery cart
    • Pulling a heavy/ full wagon 
    • Pushing heavy doors open
    • Raking leaves
    • Dusting furniture/ wiping tables
    • Cleaning the white board
    • Scooters
    • Climbing on the playground or obstacle courses
  • Lifting heavy objects/ items:
    • Carrying everyday household objects (laundry basket, groceries, taking out trash, etc.)
    • Playing toss/ passing games with weighted balls or weighted toys
    • Carrying buckets of sand or water
    • Yoga & exercises with body weight
    • Carrying a heavy lunch bucket/ basket
    • Stacking and un-stacking chairs
  • Jumping & bounding on/ with items:
    • Jumping on a trampoline
    • Jumping/ falling into beanbags
    • Bouncing on therapy balls/ chairs
    • Jump roping
    • Gymnastics
  • Climbing/ hanging on items:
    • Hanging/ swinging on monkey bars
    • Rope swings/ rings
    • Rock walls
    • Ladders and slides

2) Oral heavy work activities at home and school include:
  • Chewing food items:
    • Gummy candies (like gummy bears, licorice and Sour Patch Kids)
    • Bagels
    • Gum
    • Cheese
    • Dried fruit (raisins, craisins, mango, etc.)
    • Dried meat (beef jerky, turkey jerky)
    • Popcorn
  • Blowing activities:
    • Blowing bubbles
    • Blowing up balloons
    • Using whistles 
    • Blow party favor toys (like kazoos)
    • Blowing through a straw
  • Sucking activities:
    • Sucking through fun straws (bendy or twisty straws are awesome!)
    • Using water bottles with straws
    • Drinking smoothies or milkshakes with a straw
    • Hard candies
    • Popsicles & lollipops

3) Fine motor heavy work activities at home and school include:
  • Resistance toys and activities:
    • Using stamps and molds with Play Doh
    • Using spray bottles to spray cleaner on tables or water plants
    • Cutting thick paper or cardboard with scissors
    • Putting clothespins on materials
    • Bingo dabbers
    • Ripping heavy/ thick paper
  • Writing & working on vertical services:
    • Writing and drawing on vertical  or slanted chalkboard or whiteboard
    • Erasing and cleaning/ wiping chalkboard or whiteboard
    • Tabletop easels for art or writing
    • Cleaning/ wiping vertical surfaces above eye level (like doors, walls, showers, etc.)

It's also important to observe your students and take data to determine what activities calm and stimulate (or over stimulate) your students. You should remember that what calms one student might over stimulate another student.

There are so many different ways to incorporate heavy work into your day! Take the time to figure out what works best for your students and then start sprinkling the activities throughout your day!