Weighted blankets provide a deep pressure that is very comforting and soothing to children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The pads provide deep pressure which is highly recognized as a helpful therapy for SPD.
There is a ton of info out there on the benefits of weighted blankets, animals, and pads for children. What many people don’t know is that nearly everyone can benefit from them. By simply laying the pad across the lap, it gently applies consistent light pressure (deep pressure) that feels like a big hug and soothes overstimulated little ones in a way that nothing else can provide.
I’ve made several weighted items for my own son over the years. They were especially useful when he was younger. I’ve made snakes for over his shoulders, but he played with it too much, so it couldn’t be used in school. I’ve spent years finding ways to help my SPD son feel comfortable & weighed pads and blankets are a tremendous help. These can be very costly to purchase, so we’re making it ourselves. I hope you find these steps easy to follow and make one yourself. The one that worked the best for us, was a lap pad similar to the ones we’re making here.
I’ll go through all of the steps, and show you how you can very easily make a lap pad for a young one. The ones we’re making will be a suitable size and weight for a preschooler. I hope you will be inspired to make one yourself. I’ll also show you important additional steps, in case you’re making a much larger one, so you can distribute the weight properly.
I’ve made these just like you would make a larger one – for demonstration. I’ve over-complicated the steps, so you can make one any size you need. If you are making a preschooler sized pad, you don’t need to do all the additional steps of separating the filling.
Step 1 Find the Correct Weight
The following weights are the recommendations from occupational therapists, physical therapists, and psychologists to help you design your own weighted goodies. The weight you make yours with should have the recipients weight in mind and no two will be the same. The larger person, the larger the pad/blanket will need to be. You start by figuring out 10% of the body weight of the person it’s for. Then you add one or two pounds. For example, ours are for preschoolers, roughly 30-50 lbs. I started with the low end – 30 lbs & 10% would be 3 lbs. Then I added 2 lbs, making them 5 lbs each. This weight will fall nicely into both ranges of the kids 30-50 lbs as you can see below.
The one I’m making today is for a preschooler. It’s size fits about 5 lbs of weight. It would need to be larger if it needed more weight.
Step 2 Choose a Weighted Filling
There’s quite a few materials that you can put inside for weighted blankets, but for this tutorial we’re going to be using Victory poly pellets, so that the lap pad can be washed, since it’s going to be used in a classroom setting. These pellets are round and will be soft under the fabric once they’re made. I found these online much cheaper than in a store. These are the only washable filling material.
If this for use in my house, I would use one of the materials below and save some money or use a more natural product.
Other weight/filling materials you can use:
- Rice (most commonly used)
- Millet (feed/grain store has in bulk-it’s used as birdseed)
- Small dried beans
- Dried corn
Step 3 Choose a Fabric and Size of Finished Product
Cut out your fabric to the size and shape you want. I’m making a 14 x 21 lap pad perfect for little learners. I will give it an extra 1/2 inch all around for seam allowances. I will cut 15×22 out of two fabrics to make the pad. If this were a large project, say adult size, I would give 3 extra inches.
I chose fleece because it’s super soft. I sprung for the no-pill fleece so it can stand up to repeated washings without wearing out.
NOTE: While fleece is very soft, there are a fare number of people that can’t stand fleece, cotton balls, etc. It’s actually painful and/or electrically uncomfortable for them. This fabric will not work for those individuals.
Step 4 Sew Edges
Place your right sides together so the wrong side (back side) of your fabric is up. Pin the two longest edges and sew them together from top to bottom. give this a second stitch as reinforcement to hold the stuffing in. If you are NOT adding fidgets on the end, you can stitch a third side, leaving one open side. Just be sure to reinforce your stitches. This is NOT how ours were made. Cut off all your strings as you go.
Step 5 Turn Right-side Out & Sew Edge
Turn the fabric right sides out. Pin one edge about an inch from the edge to be sew closed. This is the edge we will add fidgets to later. Sew the edge about an inch from the edge and reinforce by stitching again.
Step 6 Sew Channels
Larger Blankets: Sew channels or lines running the length of the pad, making sure to go the direction you have an open end on. This helps distribute the weight so it doesn’t end up all on one side. This is how ours were all made, so the fabric wasn’t stressed all on one corner.
Be sure to stop your channels an inch from the edge, so you can still fold it under and sew it closed later.
Step 7 Prepare and Attach Fidget Ribbons
If you have a sensory seeker, you will want to add something for little fingers to fidget with. To make the fidgets for the edge, I cut ribbons of various size, color, and texture. Some will become loops and some just ribbons. Be sure to use Frey Check on both ends of all the ribbons so they don’t unravel.
After ribbons have dried, pin the edge (the one sewn an inch from the edge) folding both sides under and pinning ribbon in between them. This was a little time consuming, just make sure your ribbons are pushed as far in as they will go because they WILL be pulled on. Sew it closed, remove all pins then sew as close to the edge as possible to reinforce it.
NOTE: The reason we sewed this same edge closed ahead of time, was to seal off the stuffing inside. If a fidget gets pulled out, you won’t have to worry about the stuff inside coming out. We’re planning ahead and preventing a messy/choke-hazard catastrophe in this whole step.
Step 8 Weigh Out Filling
Now we’re ready to fill it with weight. Weigh out the desired amount of filling with a scale. This is easy if you’re buying 2lb bags of rice that are pre-weighed, but you have to measure out your filling material before you can put it in. Divide it into however many channels you need to fill. For the tiny lap pad, that’s just one, so you don’t need to do this.
Step 9 Fill Channels
You can see in the photo I have 4 channels, so I’m dividing it into quarters, once it’s all weighted out. Then I further divided my channels into 4 parts each, which is what you need to do for a large blanket. If this was an any larger project, I’d have to use a larger container to store the increments, like a pail, or gallon baggies, dish tubs, anything really.
Use a funnel (or make one from paper) and slowly fill the bag. For a tiny one, just fill it with all the weight and pin it closed. Try to leave yourself room to fold under the edges for a clean edge. For any other size, fill one channel at a time, approx 1/4 of the way and pin closed. Sew the channel closed and fill again, following this until you have filled the whole channel and sewn each section. Reinforce seams.
Step 10 Sew Edge Closed
Take your time and sew the pinned edge closed, and then sew it again, to ensure it’s strong. Fold the edges under and sew closed for a clean edge. Fleece doesn’t have to have sewn edges, but it makes for a cleaner look. If you wanted, you could try to work in another row of fidget ribbons.
Note: Fidget ribbons are easiest to attach before filling the pad. That’s why this project has them on one side. It’s very hard to sew properly with that much weight.
There’s our finished pad! Yours won’t have the channels if it’s this size, but I hope you’ve learned how you can make a therapy weighted blanket for someone you love.