The Proprioceptive System & 15 Helpful At-Home Occupational Therapy Activities

Proprioception, otherwise known as the sixth sense, is the body’s ability to detect its position in space. Input to the proprioceptive system is through the joints and muscles where most of its receptors are located. Input allows us to know the amount of force required of our muscles and where our joints and muscles are located in space.

For example, the proprioception system is functioning properly if you are able to tell if your arm is hanging by your side or raised above your head even if you were blindfolded.

Characteristics of a child who craves an increased amount of proprioceptive input are:

  • they may overstuff their mouth with food or even put inedible items in their mouth
  • high or low tolerance to pain by either crashing into walls/objects or crying at the slightest bump
  • pushing their writing utensils down so hard that they break or rip the paper
  • squeezing others for longer periods of time than is typical
  • misjudge the amount of force needed to pick things up
  • difficulty locating body parts

It is very important to make sure that your child gets as many opportunities for input and movement play as possible when it seems that they crave proprioceptive input. The more opportunities they get will better help them to regulate their body and the input needed. Listed below are 15 everyday activities that can be done at home to help your child get the input they desire.

  1. Give the child deep pressure squeezes in the form of a bear hug or wrap them in blankets like a “burrito”
  2. Let them squeeze something in their own hands such as play-doh or theraputty
  3. Provide as many opportunities for movement play as possible: bringing the child to a playground or park is a great way to let them move their bodies in the way they crave
  4. Suggest chores for them to do that require using their muscles like raking leaves, pushing a vacuum or carrying in bags of groceries
  5. Fill their backpacks with toys and let them carry it around
  6. Have them push their own stroller
  7. Play a game of tug-of-war with a rope or old t-shirt
  8. Activities that involve learning the parts of the body (singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or playing “Simon Says”)
  9. Sucking food or drinks through a straw like applesauce, pudding or smoothies
  10. Play “wheelbarrow” with your child by picking up their legs and letting them walk around on their hands
  11. Have your child crawl through small tunnels or an indoor obstacle course
  12. Jump on a trampoline
  13. Suggest crab walking or army crawling across the ground
  14. Let them bounce on an exercise ball or a buoy ball with a handle
  15. “In-door Skating” – Have your child “skate” across the carpet with two paper plates under their feet

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