Weight may not help your waistline but wearable weights can do wonders for your ability to modulate, interpret and regulate sensory information. Position the weight on the joints to help develop spatial and body awareness, and act as an organizing force for the brain and nervous system.
You can use weight in a variety of healthful ways as part of a sensory diet:
VestsA weighted vest is perfect for adding pounds with great style! You can choose fleece, denim, stretch, explorer, compression with weight, or faux fur. There's a vest for just about any season. Use your vest throughout the day, at periodic intervals, or just when greater concentration is needed. Keep one or two vests handy in the classroom to help students focus or calm down. Most vests allow for additional weights so it can be adjusted as the individual grows older.
Lap PadsA lap pad is a popular choice for circle time, homework, test taking or when sitting still is important – during meals, in a car or airplane. What's so nice about lap pads is that they can also offer tactile exploration while providing weight through the lower extremities. Or drape the lap pad over the back while lying face down to provide weight through the upper or lower back.
Hand WeightsHand weights can prepare the hands and fingers for fine motor activities such as handwriting, scissoring or arts and crafts. Weights strapped in the palm of the hand can provide proprioceptive input and calming pressure to relax fidgety fingers. Use strap on weights while writing to provide extra input to the intrinsic muscles. Many hand weights can also be used on the ankles to give sensory input through the lower extremities.
Grocery RunHow about the gain from heavy grocery bags? Ask your kids to take the bags out of the cart and into the car, or unload in the house. Bags that are just heavy enough can be a great sensory tamer for the sensory seeker -- and a reminder of the hundreds of steps it takes to bring food onto your table.
Trash DayWhat about emptying out all the trash cans and taking out the garbage? It's what we like to call great heavy work training. Hard work now can translate to a hard worker later. If there is too much household garbage, break it down into steps or have your child just take care of the inside garbage.
Pantry Clean UpHow's your pantry looking these days? Need a bit of an overhaul? Don't do it alone! Grab your kids to help and let them take out all the items, clean off the shelves and rearrange or put them back into place. This can take up a great portion of a morning or afternoon (depending on the size of the pantry or closet), and helps with heavy work and organizational skills too.
Library DayI love a trip to the library, and my kids love checking out their own books. When they are done, I hand them the stack and have my kids carry the heavy load out to the car. It's a win-win situation as they get a stack of great reading and I give them some much-needed heavy work.
BlanketsNo matter the season, a weighted blanket can do wonders for the sensory system. Whether you have a sensory seeker, sensory avoider or sensory over responder, a weighted blanket can calm, orient and engage. Throw a few drops of lavender oil on your blanket for a great aromatherapy effect as well. And you can use your weighted blanket for resting but also for a sensory break or chill time with reading.
Not just SuspendersWho said accessorize? Well, let's do that in style. You can get your added weight with a scarf, suspenders or a hat! These are great for dressing up and going out – with the flexibility to add or remove weight as needed. Kids and parents give these a thumbs up for looking cool!
Have a BallLast but not least, one of my favorites are Weighted Balls. A great sensory processing tool, these balls provide weight and are also highly engaging. Weighted balls come in a variety of sizes and help develop strength, agility and eye-hand coordination.
If you need assistance selecting a weighted item for your child to use in class or at home, don't hesitate to ask a therapist or reach out to us at Fun and Function!