Ways to develop Proprioception
The idea that we have five senses — vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste — can be traced back to Aristotle. These senses are responsible for our interaction with the external world. Additionally, we have several senses that are responsible for our internal functioning.
For instance, when you close your eyes and bring the fingertips of your right hand to touch those of your left, you somehow sense that they will meet. Yet how did you know where your hands were positioned? The reason you know this is a phenomenon called proprioception.
Sometimes called the “sixth sense,” proprioception is crucial for controlling our movements and knowing where our body is in a given environment. While senses such as sight convey
information to the brain from the outside world, proprioception allows us to perceive the inner state of our bodies.
Why is proprioception important?
Our proprioceptive system helps us walk across the room without bumping into anything or
climb a ladder or hold a pencil to write. We have to know where each part of our body is and how to get it there quickly to be able to do just about anything. Proprioception plays a HUGE role in that and developing it is equally important for all kids.
How Do You Know When a Child Needs Proprioceptive Activities?
Proprioception is a big deal with kids that have sensory needs because it calms and helps
improve focus, when used the right way. The vast majority of kids like proprioceptive input, and many seek it out. And, even if your child doesn’t have specific “sensory needs”, proprioceptive activities can still be beneficial to help them calm down when they get upset or want to relax.
Your child may especially benefit from proprioceptive activities if they show the following
● Chew on objects
● Hide in small corners
● Love heavy blankets
● Play rough
● Crash into things on purpose
● Always try to jump on the couch or bed
● Be described as very physical or “wild”
● Over-step personal boundaries
● Generally low energy
● May not want to get out of bed in the morning
● Bumps into walls and objects, seeming not to notice them
● Very high pain tolerance
Below are a list of activities to help build proprioception
● Jumping on the trampoline, bed, floor, couch, ball pool
● Running activities
● Climbing a ladder or stairs
● Hanging on monkey bars, pull up bar, rope swing
● Bouncing on top of a large ball
● Animal walking (crab walking) or wheelbarrow walking
● Kicking a football or use a stretch band tied around the legs of a chair
● Crawling through a tunnel obstacle course
● Chewing on crunchy foods (raw veggies, toast , etc.) or chewy foods (dried fruits, gummy candy, etc.)
● Drinking through a straw such as a milkshake (thicker drinks give even more input)
● Squeezing some play dough or Theraputty
Heavy lifting tasks
● Push/pull heavy objects such as a laundry basket, grocery cart (could be a play version
for young children), vacuum or furniture
● Carry heavy objects such as bags or items from grocery store/pantry, school bag with
books or loaded boxes
● Shovel to collect sand or leaves
● Pull on a rope (a skipping rope can work just fine) tie it to a window grill or make it exciting by turning it into a game of tug of war
● Load/unload the dishwasher
Deep Pressure Activities
● Getting or giving hugs
● Rolling up tightly in blanket like a burrito (making sure the face and nose are not
● Sitting with a weighted lap pad or toy like a medicine ball
● Lying under heavy objects such as couch cushions or pillows or a weighted blanket (these
are an investment, but for kids that respond well to them they can be worth it!
● Getting or giving a massage and joint compressions can work wonders to help a child
Tips Before Starting Proprioceptive Activities
1. Any of the activities in the above list can be used as often or as little as your child seems
to need them. If you aren’t sure when you’re child “needs” these activities, I’d highly
recommend reading about what sensory diet are or consult an occupational therapist for a
2. These proprioceptive activities will work for kids of all ages, but you may need to adjust
them to fit your child’s development. For instance, an 8 year old can push the cart while
you’re in the grocery store, but your 2 year old could use a play cart at home with a
couple of heavy items in it.
3. Most of the activities above are actively controlled by your child. This is ideal because
they are determining how many times to jump on the bed, or how many boxes they can
pick which can be for a given time period depending on the required level of sensory
input. However, some of these activities give passive proprioceptive input, like giving a
hug, or a massage. Which can be be a good thing, and may be necessary, but you have to
watch for cues that your child isn’t uncomfortable or disliking the input you’re offering.