How to Help Kids Pay Attention with Sensory Movement Exercises
Do you know a little one who can’t focus on school work? Someone who is always distracted or forgets details of a task? A little one who starts a project but easily gives up, never to return to the activity? A student who is always daydreaming or wiggling in their seat and misses key information?
Many children have trouble with paying attention and it can seem like it is only getting worse.
Paying attention is hard for some kids. There are a few different reasons for inattention during school work or homework, or when just participating in listening activities like conversations or reading. Learning disabilities, distractibility, poor core body strength, an overload of visual stimulation, poor working memory, ineffective executive functioning skills, and even temperament can contribute to poor attention (among other reasons).
Numerous diagnoses like ADHD, Autism spectrum, FASD, sensory processing disorders, and more also have symptoms aligned with inattention. But sometimes, attention problems can be confused with diagnoses typically associated with poor attention. Sometimes, the reason for trouble paying attention is something else.
Whatever the reason, there are easy ways to help your child pay attention. Today, I’ve got a simple way to play and work on core muscle strength and proprioceptive input through a sensory movement activity. This super easy movement activity is so much fun that your kids will want to play again every day. And, that’s a good thing, because the movement, proprioceptive input, and core strengthening involved will help them work toward improved attention.
Sensory Ball Activities for Proprioception
One technique that is often recommended by Occupational Therapists for some children is the use of a large therapy ball for sitting and movement. The therapist can guide the child in specific activities and exercises. For our activity, we used a large and partially deflated Playground Ball similar to this one for a simple sensory movement.
Proprioceptive input adds deep pressure to the body’s muscles and joints for a calming and organizing input. Using a large ball like this one can help some children with inattention issues by promoting a postural reaction to a moving surface and heavy work input.
Sensory Ball Activity for Core Body Strengthening
Inattention can be a result of core weakness of the body. The core is the child’s trunk and midsection and is needed for support and ongoing positioning in functional tasks. With a weak core, a child may slump in their seat, or have trouble maintaining and changing positions. Exercises like these with a ball can help work on the core muscle strength to help the child focus and attend while writing, cutting, and learning.
Super Easy and Fun Movement Exercises
All you need for this activity is a large ball. You could use a Balance Ball or just grab a bouncy playground ball like this one from your child’s outdoor play equipment. We partially deflated our ball and drew a heart on one side using a dry erase marker. The heart provided a visual prompt for where to sit or push. It made a fun activity even better as we tried to squish the heart!
Use the ball to sit, bounce, and squash for proprioceptive input and strengthening. A few exercises that you can try:
- Sit on the ball and bounce.
- Sit on the ball near a wall and have your child pick up their feet. Use the wall to stabilize.
- Lay belly down and roll side to side.
- Lay belly down and roll the ball front to back.
- Lay belly down on the ball and bounce.
- Squash the ball against the wall with the child’s chest.
- Squash the ball against the wall with the child’s back.
- Stand on the ball against a wall, using the wall for support (use close adult supervision and contact for this one.)