By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

We all know a kid who inherently NEEDs to move their body all day long. But have you ever noticed times when they appear to be even more dysregulated after getting more movement? This is very common for movement seekers

Keep reading to learn more about this profile and you can best support movement seekers.

*PS- this post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you purchase using my link, but all my thoughts and reviews are authentic*

The Vestibular System

The vestibular system is housed in our inner ear, and is responsible for sending messages to our brain about the position and movement of our head. The vestibular system is activated anytime our head is tilted, upside-down, inverted, if we spin, if we run fast or run slow, when we’re on a swing or going down a slide.

We need vestibular activation and an efficient vestibular processing system in order to maintain an upright position, feel balanced, have a full sense of our body in space and focus.

Some people have low thresholds, in which they perceive vestibular activation at much higher rates (e.g. hypersensitive to movement). Others have high thresholds, which means that they need more intense, more frequent and longer duration of movement in order to register it and activate their vestibular system.

Enter: the movement seeker.

What Does a Movement Seeker Look Like?

A movement seeker (sometimes called movement craver) is someone who has a high threshold for vestibular input.

Some common signs of a movement seeker include:

*This is one of the hardest concepts to grasp as it seems counterintuitive: a movement seeker who becomes more dysregulated with more input. It becomes a constant battle of trying to fight fire with fire and parents wonder: what can I do to help my movement seeker?

How to Support a Movement Seeker

When offering movement opportunities for your movement seeker, there are 2 things that are helpful to keep in mind in order to avoid further dysregulation:

1. Provide sensory activities that are goal directed

2. Provide sensory activities that have a clear start and stop:

Instead of:

Make it goal directed and structured

Have a clear start and stop

Running around outside

“How many acorns can you pick up?”

“How many acorns can you pick up in 2 minutes? I’ll time you. Ready, GO”

Spinning around in one direction

Pick up laundry, spin around to throw it in the basket, then spin back around.

After you collect 5 pairs of socks, stop and spin the other way to collect shirts.

Running around aimlessly

Play red light, green light, or freeze dance

Stop during red light, or stop with music stopping

Flipping head upside-down and hanging 

Hang off the edge of the couch to pick up a puzzle piece then sit up to add it to the puzzle

A puzzle has a nice, clear end point.

Rolling around on the ground

Log roll or somersault across the floor to pick up a puzzle piece, lego, etc and roll back to put it in place.

Count to 10 pieces, or until you finish the puzzle

Click here to read more on  my top tips for supporting any sensory seeker. 

One other important tip that’s helpful for movement seekers to avoid further dysregulation is trying to incorporate as much heavy work (proprioception) input simultaneously. This is easy because there are several exercises or activities that provide both proprioceptive and vestibular activation. 

For example, instead of pushing a child on a swing, allow them to swing themselves- which offers proprioceptive input.

Other vestibular + proprioceptive combined activities include: jumping on a trampoline, hanging from a trapeze or monkey bars, doing cartwheels or wheelbarrow walks.

You can also take a look at my sensory diet planner with a list of suggested activities and a chart to help you plan your week.

[PSST- looking for the too-good-to-be-true in door swing, under $40 that’s portable and easy to store away?? Click here to check it out]]

Little girl in a hammock swing
Portable, indoor or outdoor stand alone sensory swing.

Find Ways to Incorporate Movement Opportunities During Seated or Focused Activities

Almost any table top activity can be done with an added gross motor/movement component to it, except for those that require sustained precision (such as writing long sentences, drawing  pictures, or coloring- in which adding incremental movement breaks throughout the activity is helpful)

Toys or Activities with Multiple Pieces

Think: Puzzles, Mr. Potato Head, Legos, K’Nex, counting bears, beads. If you’re doing a craft or activity that has multiple cut out pieces to put together, this works too.

Spread out the pieces across the room on the floor and have the child do any of these movements to collect each piece:

 Add obstacles in the way to jump over or duck under for added heavy work.  

Have more time and want to encourage even more movement? Hide the pieces under pillows, in different rooms, and give the child different close to search for them around the house or in the clinic.

For puzzles, using letter tiles or other easy sorting activities, have the child lay on their tummy directly on the ground for some proprioceptive input, or lay over a yoga/peanut ball for added upper body strengthening.

Have a little one (ages 2-5) doing color sorting, shape sorting, or puzzles? Let them sit on a Sit-n-spin to sort the pieces. 

Practicing Spelling Words, Math Facts or Sight Words

Rote memorization skills can be monotonous and hard for anyone, let alone our little ones who just need movement. Integrating movement will keep them engaged longer and help with their memorization. 

EXPLORE A RELATED CATEGORY:

Sensory Processing

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MEET THE AUTHOR

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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