For children with proprioceptive (muscle and/or joint) processing difficulties, activities involving “heavy work” is recommended. Heavy work has been shown to increase attention and decrease sensory defensiveness. Using activities which provide heavy resistance to the muscles and joints helps the body assimilate process movement (vestibular) and touch (tactile) information. Heavy work in the Montessori environment is generally found in the Montessori Practical Life activities.
Montessori Practical Life Activities for Sensory Processing DisorderTransferring, Cleaning, and Pounding
In the context of the Montessori Practical Life curriculum, we often think of transferring activities as moving light objects such as macaroni, rice, or cotton balls from one place to another. Children with proprioceptive dysfunction require heavier objects. What about filling buckets or jugs with water or sand and carrying them from one place to another without spilling? Or filling a wheel barrow with mulch, pushing it across the garden, and unloading and spreading it?
Carrying furniture and tables is another form of a transferring activity. Call on these Montessori students to help you set up the Montessori environment, stack chairs, or move tables for cleaning underneath them. They can also help stack books in the library.
Montessori Practical Life activities such as cleaning tables and easels, washing windows, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming all use gross motor skills and compression. The resistance between object and body help build muscle memory. Cleaning does not have to be limited to indoors. Scrubbing sidewalks, “painting” trees or fences with water and a paintbrush, washing the playground equipment, sweeping sidewalks, raking leaves, watering flowers and the garden, hanging clothes on a clothesline and shoveling snow are all examples of heavy work activities.
Cooking is also a great way to exercise muscles and joints. In this Montessori Practical Life area, children can stir, knead, roll dough, press cookie cutters, slice and wash dishes.
Some of your Montessori students may need more overt physical outlets. Activities such as wall push-ups, jumping on a mini trampoline, swinging, climbing “rock walls” or climbing nets, riding scooters or bicycles, roller skating or playing jump rope all provide intense deep muscle and joint work.
Keep in mind that not every activity benefits every child. Note which activities calm the child and which activities seem to “wind them up”. As with Montessori classroom work, sensory activities should be of interest to the child as well as fulfilling their needs. By providing a wide variety of activities, the Montessori environment adds to the overall sensory diet of children with Sensory Processing Disorders.
Related NAMC blogs:
- Montessori Education: Sensory Processing Disorder Part 1 of 4
- Montessori Education: Sensory Processing Disorder Part 2 of 4
- Montessori Education: Sensorial Activities for Sensory Integration – Part 3 of 4