Are your kiddos jumping all over your newly confined space? Their developing sensory systems are looking to feel where the body begins and ends in order to figure out how to navigate the external world.
In the words of Lisa Feldman Barrett, “Like those ancient, mummified Egyptian pharoahs, the brain spends eternity entombed in a dark, silent box…it learns what is going on in the world only indirectly via scraps of information from the light, vibrations, and chemicals that become sights, sounds, smells, and so on. Your brain must figure out the meaning of those flashes and vibrations, and its main clues are your past experiences, which it constructs as simulations within its vast network of neural connections.”
When kids crash into stuff, jump up and down, or spin around the joints, muscles, limbs in partnership with the nervous system send information to the brain about the outside world. A solid 20 minutes of this kind of activity will set your kids up for success to get engaged in less physically vigorous and/or more focused play. My friends posted a video of their children having a dance party that no doubt delighted and supported the development of their sensory systems. I love this video because many children need and seek sensory experiences like this every day. My sensory system also needs a sensory break daily (yoga, running, rolling on a yoga ball, a dance party every now and again) – I wish I were staying in with these two kiddos!
If it freaks you out to turn your couch into a gym then make sure to set up boundaries around it’s use. For example, you can tell your children, ‘We will use the couch like this for 20 minutes – I’ll set my timer. When the timer goes off we will choose a new activity.” Expect at least one of your kids to need your help transitioning to the next activity. Ask them if they will put the big cushion back or if they will help you fold the blanket (or two other real choices that help with clean up). Prepare to get them started with the next activity. For example, if it’s legos, then help them choose the first few pieces that they want to build with.
Another way to transition from big body sensory play to a more focused play is to change the music. I’ve learned from OT’s that music with a low drum beat can be settling for some children, slow melodic music could be settling for others. Notice how these types of music change your focus, too!