After waking up, you go to pour yourself a cup of coffee. In your sleepy state, you find yourself pouring a cup. However, you’re unaware that the liquid is landing right outside of the cup. Are you aware of your body position at all? This is how the proprioception sense works in our favor. Under normal circumstances, you could figure out your position in relation to the cup in front of you. You’ll be surprised to learn how the proprioceptive sense plays a huge role in how our kiddos function in the day-to-day as well. Let’s dig into proprioception piece-by-piece!
Where are We Now? What is Proprioception?
Proprioception, believe it or not, is one of our senses outside of the 5 senses that we already know. Proprioception is essentially your body awareness. The body awareness definition that we’ll use is understanding where your limbs and body are located in your environment. This way, we are able to function without having to look at everything to know where it is and how to reach it. Proprioception tells you what direction you’re facing, how far you are from objects, and how much force you use. While this sense shouldn’t be confused with our vestibular sense (sense of balance and body movement), proprioception can be an assistance to balance and coordination. Keep in mind that this sense is different from touch as well. When it comes to the touch, information comes to us through the skin. With proprioception, information comes from our muscles and joints. In short, if it has to do with body awareness and positioning, you’re dealing with proprioception.
Crashing in for Sensory Exploration
Kids are young and brand new to the world, which means that they are still exploring and understanding their senses. The way sensory information is processed differs from individual to individual. This means that kids will also process their body awareness differently. At times, kids may be looking for more feedback from their senses, including proprioception. You may notice sensory-seeking behaviors if there are issues with the proprioceptive sense. Kids may be inclined to hug too hard, crash into things, fidget excessively, play too rough, press too hard on pencils, engage in a lot of leg kicking, and prefer to wear tight clothing. Additionally, kids that need more input from their proprioceptive sense may have poor posture and/or low muscle tone. What can you do if you notice any of these behaviors? Practice, of course!
Proprioception Practice with Sensory Heavy Work Activities
One of the best ways to work on proprioception is with heavy work activities. Heavy work involves pushing and pulling weight. These activities can help your kiddo with their sensory regulation. Kids who need more proprioceptive input will also benefit from activities involving stretching, squeezing, and deep pressure for a well-rounded sensory experience. Sensory-seeking activities are a great option if you notice that your child constantly looks for sensory stimulation.
Heavy Work Activities At-Home
Try rolling, jumping, leapfrog, push-ups, big hugs, wheel barrel walk, and even give some chores. Playtime can also serve as time spent working on the proprioceptive sense. For more details on specific activities to try, you can find more here. If you are concerned about your kiddo’s body awareness and how they’re processing sensory information, it’s a good idea to consult a professional. Occupational therapy is an exceptional option when it comes to improving the sensory experience as a whole, including proprioception.
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