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The Importance of Heavy Work

A friend and I were talking the other day about the challenges of social distancing. She mentioned that her preschooler was having moments where he was suddenly wildly out of control: suddenly he started

crashing into things, yelling and running around. This conversation got me thinking about the concept of heavy work. Heavy work is not something many parents are familiar with, but is essentially activities that stimulate a child’s sense of proprioception through pushing, pulling and lifting. Proprioception in its simplest form is body awareness, i.e. knowing where your body is in space. Without heavy work, children can struggle with this awareness and end up feeling out of control.

This sense of where their body is in space is something that most preschool age children are still developing; however, heavy work is normally built into a preschool child’s daily life. At the Barn children are given the opportunity to work on these skills, children run, jump, climb, roll and dig on the playground, they play a variety of active games with friends. We make sure that heavy work opportunities are available each day, but particularly on rainy or too cold days when we can’t get outside. Being at home social distancing and not being able to visit playgrounds many children may not be getting enough of these heavy work experiences, thus leading them to have more of these out of control moments. I thought it would be helpful to share a few heavy work activities that you can do at home to help your child stay regulated especially if this is something you are experiencing. You can also get creative and share your own ideas! The best part is most household chores have some level of heavy work built right in!


  • Helping Carry Laundry

  • Make the Bed

  • Give the Dog or a Toy a Bath

  • Clean Windows

  • Push Chairs into the Table

  • Empty the Garbage

  • Help Carry or Unload Groceries

  • Sweeping

Inside Games:

  • Build a Fort

  • Remove the Couch Cushions and Put Them Back On

  • Fill a Bag or Pillow Case with Stuffed Animals and Carry It around

  • Use Real Tools (with supervision)

  • Have a Pillow Fight

  • Fill a Box or Laundry Basket with toys and push and pull it around (you can even do races!)

  • Stack or Unstack cans or boxes of food (or other items)

  • Army Crawl

  • Hold Up the Wall: Lean into the wall with both palms, arms straight

  • Push a shopping cart or stroller


  • Make an Obstacle Course

  • Climb Up a Slide

  • Push Someone on a Swing

  • Stacking and Moving Rocks or Pieces of Wood

  • Digging in the Garden

  • Load a truck or skateboard with toys and push it around

  • Tug of War

  • Run Laps around the House or Apartment Building

  • Use a wheelbarrow, or push a stroller

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