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Does your child struggle to sit still at mealtimes or focus at school?
Weighted lap pads for kids are an increasingly popular sensory aid that help many children calm down and focus better, both at home and in the classroom.
Below we’ll look at how weighted lap pads work, the benefits they hold for many children and some popular weighted lap pad options used by parents, schools and therapists.
What Is A Weighted Lap Pad For Children
Similar to a weighted blanket, but smaller, a weighted lap pad is a sensory tool that applies gentle, therapeutic deep touch on the legs of a child, whilst in a seated position.
Often used to help children calm down and focus better, weighted lap pads usually resemble a small padded blanket or pillow, filled with a weighted element – most commonly small beads or plastic pellets.
As well as a ‘standard’ weighted lap pad, you can also get weighted lap pads with fidgets (for extra tactile exploration) or even a weighted lap buddy, a kind of weighted soft toy for younger children.
What Are The Benefits of A Weighted Lap Pad?
Many kids with autism, attention deficit and sensory processing disorders struggle with body awareness and find it hard to sense the position and movement of their body in relation to their surroundings (often termed proprioception). You may recognise this in your child as clumsiness, self stimulating behaviours such as rocking or fidgeting or an intense need for lots of running, jumping or rough play.
Research has found that the therapeutic deep touch of weighted items, such as weighted blankets, vests and lap pads helps helps stimulate the proprioceptive system. This can have a powerful calming, grounding and organising effect on the nervous system and body.
Specifically, weighted lap pads may help children to:
- self regulate and calm down
- focus better
- stay seated longer
- transition more smoothly between activities or tasks.
How Much Should A Weighted Lap Pad Weigh?
Whilst no ‘official’ guidelines on the size of a weighted lap pad for children exist, the most common formula, used by most occupational therapists, is around 5% of a child’s body weight. You don’t need to be 100% exact as most weighted lap pads for kids come in 3 or 5 lb weight sizes.
Weighted lap pads are not usually recommended for children under the age of 3, plus a child should always be able to move a lap pad off their legs unaided. If unsure, always consult an occupational therapist or doctor.
Keep in mind as well, weighted lap pads aren’t designed to be used all day long, but rather for short periods when a child may need to calm down or focus better.
Examples might include:
- during mealtimes
- during car or plane trips
- during trips to the dentist
- before bed
- at school to help a child transition better between a high energy activity to a calmer, desk or carpet based one.
Do Weighted Lap Pads Work For All Children?
Many kids take to a weighted lap pad immediately, whilst others may take a little longer. Some children, however, simply don’t like them. So it’s always best to let your child guide you.
In terms of some ‘general’ pointers, sensory seeking children who crave extra stimulation in the form of hugs or heavy blankets, often find the gentle pressure of a weighted lap pad very calming and grounding. Children, who are very sensitive to touch and seek to avoid it, however, may find a weighted lap pad over stimulating.
3 Of The Best Weighted Lap Pads For Kids
Now let’s look at some popular weighted pads, designed specifically with children in mind.
For a sensory weighted lap pad I’d recommend the Reach Therapy or Harkla Minky Dot fleece lap pads. For a wipe clean lap pad for kids to use primarily at mealtimes, or a weighted lap pad with fidgets, I’d check out the Fun & Function lap pads.
Minky Dot Sensory Weighted Lap Pads: Harkla
If you have a sensory seeking child, this sensory weighted lap pad, from Harkla, is a popular choice with parents, teachers and therapists. Harkla produce some amazing, high quality products, for children with special needs, and their lap pads contain extra stitched ‘pockets’ to help ensure it doesn’t slip off your child’s lap.
Made from soft, tactile Minky Dot fabric, the Harkla lap pad is an excellent calming fidget tool for use in the classroom, therapy room or at home. Filled with plastic poly pellets, the lap pad is double stitched for extra ‘kiddie’ durability and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Washing instructions recommend machine or hand wash with cold water and then low heat tumble or hang dry. Fabric softener is not recommended.
Handmade Weighted Lap Pads: Reach Therapy Solutions
For sheer variety, it’s hard to beat Reach Therapy Solution’s choice of weighted lap pads for kids. Available in 3 weight sizes, 3, 5 and 7 lbs, the lap pads are handmade in Arizona, with a soft & tactile minky fabric on one side and a colourful pattern on the other – everything from dinosaurs & pandas to doughnuts, cats or a plain design.
Custom sizes are also available to order and the pads are filed with food grade plastic poly pellets. Washing instructions recommend a gentle, cold wash, ideally in a garment bag.
Wipe Clean or Fidget Weighted Lap Pads: Fun & Function
Weighted lap pads can be a great way to help calm kids who struggle to sit still at mealtimes or get anxious during car or plane trips. But we all know children can be messy! So if you plan to use a weighted lap pad for meal times or trips out, you might want to invest in a wipe clean weighted lap pad.
This one from Fun and Function is a popular option with parents. Made from wipe clean vinyl, it comes in 3 practical sizes – small (3lb), medium (5 lb) and large (7.5lb). Keep in mind that, whilst wipeable, vinyl ‘may’ not be quite as durable, long-term, as other lap pad fabrics. The weighted element is small steel shots.
For extra sensory stimulation, Fun & Function also produce a weighted lap pad with fidgets.
Weighted Lap Pads For Kids – A Final Word
Many parents, therapists and schools are turning to the benefits of weighted lap pad for kids, both at home and in school. An affordable and portable sensory tool, a weighted lap pad sits across a child’s legs, where it helps stimulate the proprioceptive system through deep touch pressure.
Most commonly used by children (or adults) with sensory processing/attention deficit disorders, autism or anxiety, weighted lap pads have a calming, grounding effect on many children, aiding mood regulation and often improving focus.