Surviving January, an OT's Guide by Carla Lauren

January and February can be the toughest times of the year for some of our children with super senses. Colder and wetter days means having to layer up with coats, hats and scarves which can feel like torture to those with super senses in their skin. With more rainy days children are kept inside for playtime and told to use there “indoor voices”. With little chance to shout, run, jump or climb and the noise level and jostling approaching that of the crowd at a Justin Beiber concert it’s not much fun for anyone, especially those with super senses. By time school finishes there is only an hour of day light left and the urge to cosy up on the sofa with a screen is a strong pull for us all. Shorter days equals less time spent up the park or playing outdoors which means less day light, less proprioceptive input and more screen time. Finances (and patience) are stretched after the holidays, meaning trips to the trampoline park and swimming pool may have to wait until pay day. Children need day light to help their eyes, bones and immune systems develop and to regulate sleep patterns and mood. Excessive screen time may; become addictive, disrupt sleep and increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression. Children’s brains use proprioceptive input to plan movements and coordinate our bodies. It helps us feel organised, regulated and promotes concentration and learning. Children who seek extra proprioceptive input often: crash and bump into things, enjoy rough and tumble play, like burying under cushions, people and quilts, chew on things, use excessive force when throwing, writing, hugging, move and jump constantly They may have a high pain tolerance, appear uncoordinated or have low energy. For these children the winter months are extra tough as their opportunities to access proprioceptive input are limited. Occupational Therapists often recommend extra proprioceptive input through “heavy work” activities which offer resistance through muscles and joints. The best thing about heavy work is that it is free and can be done in the playground, garden, park or street. Allowing children to make the most of the precious few daylight hours, get a breath of fresh air and a much needed boost to their immune and central nervous systems. Why not try some of the following and see if they give a wake up boost in the morning or a wind down calming effect before bed: Walk to school and back, try; hopping like a frog, galloping like a horse, scuttling like a crab or stomping like a rhino, Scoot or cycle up hills, Shake, stamp, hop or jump the sillies out of your system, Rake and sweep the leaves, dig the garden, pull the wheelbarrow, Climb a tree, Treasure hunt for pine cones, leaf skeletons, feathers and bugs, Push someone on a swing, Tug of war and big hugs with Mum or Dad, Skipping rope games, Hopscotch or clapping games, Blow bubbles and pop with different body parts; elbow, knee, head, Do a bark rubbing, Use chunky chalks to decorate pebbles or the pavement, Jump in puddles, Walk a neighbours dog, Stack and balance pebbles or rocks, Drink from a sports bottle or curly straw to suck up a thick smoothy or milkshake, Make and hang a bird feeder, then build a den to watch them from, then build a bonfire to keep warm, The classics - Simon/Sarah says, What’s the time Mr/Mrs Wolf, Head/Shoulders/Knees and Toes, Tag, Hide and Seek, Use your “outdoor voice!” Before long pay day will come and spring will have sprung. Try this list as a helpful resource for fun ideas, it’s not a replacement for consultation or collaboration with a qualified Occupational Therapist. Activities are always more fun together and should be supervised by and hopefully enjoyed with a grown up.

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