By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

Heavy work is good for the soul. I repeat. Heavy work. Is good. For. The. Soul.

If you know anything about sensory integration, you know that proprioceptive input (aka input to muscles, tendons, and joints) is calming to the nervous system. Things like pushing, pulling, climbing and carrying provide proprioceptive (or heavy work) input.

Everyone can benefit from heavy work, but some students have a more intense need for it, especially in the classroom. These are some signs that a student needs extra heavy work or proprioceptive input throughout their day:

Here are some easy, practical ways to integrate opportunities for heavy work throughout the school day.

1. Hand Pushes

Before a test, before circle time, or to help a student self-regulate when they are feeling frustrated, or wiggly, try hand pushes. The student pushes their hands together as hard as they can (can extend fingers out like “praying” hands, or interlock fingers). Hold this for 10 seconds, release, and repeat 2-3 times.

Hand pushes for heavy work in the classroom. Hold this for 10 seconds, release, and repeat 2-3 times.

2. Wall Pushes

When a student seems really frustrated (maybe getting aggressive) or just restless and having a hard time sitting still, challenge them to see if they can “push the wall down”. Find a sturdy, empty wall, and have the student push as hard as they can with their arms extended. Hold this for 10-20 seconds, then release and repeat if necessary.

wall pushes for heavy work  in the classroom

3. Door Frame Pushes

This is a great one for transitioning back into the classroom from recess, assemblies, or lunch. Before entering the classroom, instruct each student to push against the doorframe for 10 seconds as hard as they can.

Wall pushes for heavy work in the classroom

4. Chair Pushups

I’m all for alternative/flexible seating when possible. However, there are instances when students are required to complete work at a desk, with a standard chair (or sit in them at assemblies, etc). Chair push ups are a great tool that is not distracting, and can be done in any sturdy chair. While sitting in the chair, have the students put their hands down on the seat and push up, lifting their entire body (feet shouldn’t be touching floor) off the seat.

Chair pushes for heavy work in the classroom.

Are you wanting more information on sensory supports for the classroom?

Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.

Follow me on instagram or facebook for more tips on sensory strategies for at home, in the community or the classroom. Send me a DM, or leave a comment, I’m always excited to connect with this community!

Heavy work activities for the classroom.


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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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