Keeping active in the cold

child playing


Movement and exercise is important for everyone, but especially for young, developing kids.  As children’s nervous systems are maturing, they need movement to help them make sense of the world.  Children sometimes can improve their concentration and performance in school when they have movement activities interspersed throughout the day.  Active movement help children to know their physical boundaries and can help them improve their general health.  Our lives are getting more and more sedentary, especially with all the fun activities we can do with computers and all the great videos and shows for children.  It may be especially hard to find movement opportunities for our children now that the weather is getting colder.  Here are some ideas to incorporate movement activities indoors.


A mini trampoline designed for indoor use with children can  be used, especially if you have little space.  Exercise balls like you’d have for pilates can be fun for kids as well.  If you have more space, ride on toys and scooter boards can be used indoors.  Mattresses on the floor can be used for jumping on as well.  All of this equipment would require close adult supervision, of course.  To make it even better, join in on the fun with your kids sometimes!  Wrestling with a careful adult or older child involves lots of fun movement.  You can put tape on the floor (painter’s tape leaves little, if any, residue) and create lines to walk on, or jump across.  You can make shapes with the tape and have the children jump between circles, square, triangles, etc.  You could also make parallel lines with the tape and call it a river so the kids can climb into a box and row down the river.  Let your imagination soar!


Playing in the snow can be fun for kids of all ages!  You might head for indoor play places such as Gymboree or My Gym.  Other indoor attractions such as Liberty Science Center, the New Jersey Children’s Museum and indoor water parks can also encourage movement.


You can put on some lively music and dance.  Stop the music and play freeze dance.  Or you can make up dance moves and have everyone imitate each other’s moves.  You can toss a balloon in the air, or use rackets or paddles to hit it around.  You can take a sheet and play parachute and put the balloons in the parachute.  A lot of young kids like to have an adult hold onto either end of the sheet and have the child sit in the middle while the adults swing them back and forth.  You can play bean bag toss and have bins or garbage cans to throw the bean bags in.  Or you can crumble up newspapers and throw them around, throw them at targets, or throw them into bins.  You can play charades.  You can also walk like different animals – crab walk, jump like a frog, walk like an elephant – whatever!


These are ideas to get you started.  There are a lot of things you can do with children to get them moving inside.  If you have special equipment, you can use it.  But you can also just use your imagination and things you have around the house.  Have fun with it!


Linda Velwest is a pediatric occupational therapist working with early intervention. She also teaches Autism Movement Therapy classes


Sensing Our World


child playing


Everyone is familiar with the five senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. As an occupational therapist, I frequently work with two other senses: proprioceptive and the vestibular sense. The proprioceptive sense is located in the joints, muscles and tendons of the body and is concerned with the relative movement of these body parts as well as the relative effort needed to make these movements. The vestibular sense is concerned with balance and the body’s orientation to the rest of the world.

All these senses are important for us to get information about our bodies and the world so that we can do the activities we need. Sometimes we can experience these senses too much or too little. This can interfere with function, and often does with young children with sensory issues. Sometimes this over or under sensitivity can go away on its own. Many times the child is instinctively attracted to activities that will normalize their senses. Sometimes the child gets caught in a loop of unhelpful behaviors that seems to them in the moment to calm them down, but actually are not helpful at all. Sometimes we can help the child to normalize their senses.

The first thing is to make the child comfortable and safe. If they are too sensitive, help them to block unwanted stimulation. If their eyes are oversensitive, maybe tinted glasses will help. If their ears are oversensitive noise blocking headphones can help. Keep their foods tasting bland if their taste is oversensitive and use no fragrance soap and avoid perfumes if their smell is oversensitive. If a child is oversensitive to touch, they may need the labels cut out of their clothing and special socks to prevent the sock seams to rub against them. If they are less sensitive, or hyposensitive, you need to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves accidentally.

An oversensitive proprioceptive system could show up as a clumsy child who may hit or use too much force in drawing. An under sensitive proprioceptive system shows up as a child who always needs movement – jumping, crashing into things, hugging. An oversensitive vestibular system shows up as a child who seems afraid to move, especially when their eyes are closed. An under sensitive vestibular system may make a child seem to crave movement, just like an undersensitive proprioceptive system. The movements that are craved would be more like spinning and sliding.

An occupational therapist can offer suggestions of things parents can do to help normalize their children’s sensory systems. Sometimes a desensitization program can be effective in helping the child become less sensitive more quickly. More intense stimulation can help a hyposensitive child become more sensitive, Sometimes kids are hypo sensitive at some times and hyper sensitive at other times. Proprioceptive activities are often normalizing activities – they help to both calm the oversensitive and stimulate the undersensitive. Here is a list of common proprioceptive activities parents can do with children:

Jump on a trampoline or mattress on the floor, Carry heavy objects or a heavy backpack (not more than 10% of the child’s weight), Push chairs or toy boxes across the floor, eat chewy foods, suck yogurt or applesauce through a straw, crab walking, swimming. An Occupational Therapist can help come up with more specific activities for your child and help you figure out your child’s “sensory profile”.

Linda Velwest is a pediatric occupational therapist working with early intervention. She also teaches Autism Movement Therapy classes