The Proprioceptive System

Newsletter November 2013

Did you know?

Our muscles and joints contain sensory receptorswhich tell us where are body parts are moving. This is known as proprioception.

Proprioception enables us to know where our body parts are moving without looking eg when doing up buttons on a shirt especially the top button, or catching a ball.

Proprioception enables us to judge the correct amount of muscle force to use for a particular task. For example, when picking up a paper cup. If we use too much force we would squash the cup, too little and we would drop it. With good proprioceptive processing we automatically use just the right amount of force.

It is important in the timing of movements. For example, when catching a ball we want our hands to close on the ball at exactly the right moment in time.

Proprioception is the big regulator and organiser of the nervous system. It helps inhibit over responsiveness in other sensations.

What are the signs?

Some characteristics of problems with proprioceptive processing are:

  • Poor sense of body awareness
  • Uncoordinated movements, trips and falls frequently
  • Breaks toys/objects
  • Bumps and crashes into objects deliberately
  • Unable to grade force eg holds pencil too tightly or too lightly
  • Needs to look at what hands are doing eg when dressing
  • Stamps or slaps feet on ground when walking
  • Chews constantly on objects, such as clothes, pencils or toys

Proprioceptive Activities

We get the most proprioception when we actively use our muscles especially against resistance. It is best to build these activities into the child’s daily routine so they occur naturally throughout the day, rather than having a ‘prescriptive’ exercise session.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Physical Activities


  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Climbing
  • Canoeing
  • Trampolining
  • Horse riding
  • Hill walking

Outdoor Jobs


  • Push a wheelbarrow
  • Sweep
  • Dig the garden
  • Carry buckets of water
  • Wash the car
  • Put large toys away
  • Put the bins out



  • Go to the park
  • Climb on a climbing frame
  • Make an obstacle course
  • Play hopscotch
  • Bounce on a space hopper
  • Play with wet sand
  • Rough and tumble play
  • Go to a soft play park

 Indoor chores


  • Carry the laundry basket
  • Load and unload the washing machine
  • Unpack groceries
  • Carry heavy items
  • Hoover
  • Sweep
  • Dust
  • Stack chairs
  • Rearrange furniture

 Where can I get more information?


Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The aim of this one day course is to provide teachers and health professionals with an understanding of sensory processing disorder and the everyday difficulties the children experience at school and at home. Practical support strategies will be explored from both an educational and therapy perspective.

Please read the Disclaimer and be aware that the information in this newsletter is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.