Rough & Tumble Play

What else can you do to help your ADHD focus better and get some of the fidgety energy out?  This post in the ADHD Tips for Parents series focuses on how and why playful roughhousing and energetic activities is so helpful for kids with ADHD.  Occupational Therapy calls this “heavy work”. 

Important NoteSafety is key with this type of ADHD strategy.  Please utilize these ideas wisely.  These suggestions are not meant to substitute common sense or the advice of a health professional.

What is Deep Pressure and Heavy Work?

Exercises increase in endorphins, powerful brain chemicals that bring feelings of happiness.  Activities that involve heavy work and deep pressure, such as jumping on a trampoline or raking leaves, also offer additional benefits for something called the proprioceptive system.A motherhood website offers this definition of proprioception: The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  In other words, this system helps the brain make sense of where the body is in space.  This strategy is particularly helpful for clumsy children with ADHD, as it helps them be more aware of where their body is in space.

Occupational Therapists have long known that strategies involving some kind of movement are very helpful for focusing.  If you think about your child, how often do they tap their feet, crack their knuckles, chew on pens, pencils, or fingernails?  I would call these fidgeting strategies.

Heavy work is another type of movement strategy that can have lasting effects throughout the day.  It involves some kind of pushing, pulling, or lifting movement that requires a great deal of a child’s strength.  I don’t mean exhausting work, but work that requires physical exertion.

What Kinds of Play involve Deep Pressure and Heavy Work?

    1. Playful roughhousing is great for this type of input; however, you want to make sure that no one gets hurt or upset.  Kids of ADHD can be notorious for irritating their siblings and the family pet by trying to rough house with someone who is not interested.
    2. Jumping on a trampoline is a great way to provide deep pressure and expending excess energy.  Jumping jacks, push-ups, climbing on a jungle gym or a climbing wall provide similar types of proprioceptive input.
    3. Pushing or Pulling something heavy.  A younger child can push a box of books along a floor with carpet.  An older child can push a wheelbarrow or pull younger children in a wagon.
    4. Tumbling, Gymnastics or Martial Arts classes can work wonders to increase coordination and focus, not to mention the sense of accomplishment and self-esteem benefits.
I would love to hear how heavy work activity has helped your child with ADHD.  Thoughtful comments and questions are always welcome.  I love to hear what my readers have to say.  For more ADHD Tips for Parents check out earlier posts in the series.

Above Photo Credit: “Mike” Michael L. Baird, 


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