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Have you heard someone say “weighted lap pad”, “weighted lap animal”, or “weighted blankets” and wondered what they were? Children, adults, and seniors all use them. People use them at home, school, and work. In this blog post, you will learn all about weighted lap pads (also known as weighted lap animals) and blankets.
The first half of the blog will focus on lap pads and the second half will be about weighted blankets.
What is a lap pad?
A lap pad describes something that is made of material, thick, mostly soft and has some weight to it. The word “lap” is used because it is designed to fit on your lap. Therefore, it is larger than most stuffies or stuffed animals. But smaller than a weighted blanket for example. A lap pad is also not necessarily used as a toy. Although children do often use them as toys too. Nevertheless, adults and seniors also use them. A lap pad fits on top of your lap. It is not something that you sit on.
What are weighted lap pads used for?
A weighted lap pad, animal, or buddy are all used as sensory tools. Typically, people who experience sensory overload and sensory sensitivity use sensory tools. These sensory tools help people feel more calm or organized. They help to eliminate feelings of restlessness, otherwise known as sensory overload. Furthermore, it has been found that a little bit of weight spread across your lap, can help you feel calm. For instance, think about the comfort of having a pet or a cat laying on your lap. A weighted lap buddy can feel just like that.
They can be used to:
Where is a weighted lap pad used?
A weighted lap buddy can be used just about anywhere. Furthermore, they are easily transportable. Although, their weight may make them heavy to carry from one place to another.
Children use weighted lap animals or pads:
- to sit at the dinner table during a meal
- to sit at a desk for homework
- while sitting in a car or on a bus when travelling
- when flying on a plane
- at the hairdresser or barber
- when sitting in the shopping cart
- to sit at school during circle time
- to sit at a desk in the classroom
- when in a movie theatre while watching a movie
Adults use weighted lap pads or animals:
- at their desk at work
Seniors use a weighted lap buddy:
- while sitting in a chair or wheelchair
How long should a weight be used?
There are no fixed time frames to use weight. It is important to note that the body and brain adjust to the feeling of weight over time. Do not expect a weighted lap buddy to be useful and effective for long periods. Therefore, it is best used intermittently. Consider using it for 20-minute intervals.
How to be safe using weight
It is important to be safe while using anything with weight. Weighted lap pads are not safe for people of all ages. Nor are they safe for people of different abilities. That is the same for weighted blankets or weighted vests. They cause harm if used unsafely.
Here are some safety tips:
- Infants and toddlers should not use weighted tools or toys. Infants and toddlers do not have the muscle strength, muscle coordination or awareness to move something that is even a little bit heavy. Therefore, weighted lap animals or pads pose a suffocation risk to an infant or toddler.
- They can post a suffocation risk to an older child, adult or person who lacks muscle strength, coordination, or awareness.
- Consider using a weighted lap buddy with pre-school and school-age children, adults, and seniors. However, only use them if the person has the strength, coordination, and awareness to use it safely and not put themselves at risk of injury.
If you are unsure if someone will be safe using a weighted lap pad, consult your occupational therapist or physician.
Checklist of questions to ask:
You can use this buying checklist to help you choose the one that is right for you or your situation.
- Is this for a child, adult, or senior?
- Will it be used with more than one person? For example, in a classroom setting or a nursing home?
- Is color important?
- Does the type of material cover matter?
- Does style matter?
- Do I want it to look like a toy?
- Do I want a weighted toy-like animal?
- Something to go around shoulders?
- Or do I want it to simply blend in?
- What size lap pad am I looking for? There are pads that are a little larger, not quite blanket size.
- What is the weight of the person?
- How much does the lap pad weigh?
- Does it weight less than 5% of the person’s body weight?
- Should it have a washable cover?
- Should it include a fidget component?
- Is the weight distribution important?
- Will the person using it be safe? E.g. will they have the ability to remove it?
- What am I trying to achieve by using one?
Choose a weighted lap pad that is right for you!
Shifting gears to learn about weighted blankets!
What is a weighted blanket?
The first thing to know is that a blanket with added weight is a type of sensory tool. It provides deep pressure (proprioception) through the skin. Deep pressure or proprioception, is one of eight senses that you have. Children and adults use blankets that are weighted. Additionally, people with and without sensory sensitivities, use them.
What are the benefits of blankets with weight?
You may be curious about why blankets that are heavy help people. In fact, there are different reasons that people enjoy using this sensory tool. According to research, Weighted Blanket Use: A Systematic Review (2020), one of the most common benefits of blankets with more or added weight is to help reduce anxiety1. It is important to note that research is still sparse. Many people with sensory processing disorders, for example, tend to experience increased levels of stress. The deep pressure stimulation of heavy blankets provides a sense of security and comfort. Ultimately, this may also help create a sense of calm and emotional relaxation. Additionally, it is important to note that these benefits can occur regardless of whether you have increased sensory sensitivities. Many people who do not have any sensory differences enjoy sleeping with heavier blankets.
Furthermore, these sensory tools may help reduce night-time movement, which can help you feel more rested. It is critical that heavier blankets are never used as a restraint, however. By improving sleep quality, you help to reduce daytime stress and irritation. All of these benefits apply to both children and adults. Be sure to read on about important safety for children and adults, alike.
It is important to know that blankets with more weight come with inherent and serious risks. A child in Canada died while using a weighted blanket in a classroom. Please read the coroner’s recommendations about safe use.
Key safety considerations:
- Occupational therapists are your ally when choosing a weighted blanket as a therapeutic tool, consult with them.
- Young children, infants and toddlers should not use heavy blankets.
- Be cautious about using blankets with added or more weight in older children, adults and seniors.
- Older children and adults need to have sufficient muscle strength, coordination and body awareness to move the blanket.
- Heavy blankets pose a risk of suffocation for anyone, at any age.
- Blankets with more weight pose a suffocation risk to a child, adult or senior who lacks muscle strength, coordination, or body awareness.
- Put safety first. Ask yourself, does the person have the strength, coordination, and awareness to use it safely and not put themselves or anyone else at risk of injury?
Who should not use a blanket that is heavier?
There are many reasons why people should not use a blanket with added weight. It is always recommended to talk to your occupational therapist or doctor about using a blanket with more weight. However, the following are some of the circumstances in which heavier blankets are not recommended for use. There are likely others you can think of. Be smart and be safe when selecting sensory tools.
- Breathing problems
- Heart precautions
- Decreased muscle tone and strength
- Fractured bones and wounds
- History of trauma
- Inability to remove the blanket by themselves
- Inability to keep the blanket below their head or neck
How do you use a weighted blanket?
Additionally, it is essential to be aware of how to use a heavier blanket safely. Firstly, heavier blankets should never be used as a restraint or to incumber movement. It is vital that children and adults can freely take the blanket off without special effort whenever they want to remove it. Young children are not likely to have this ability, and many older children, or even adults may also not have this ability. Ensure the person using the heavier blanket has the ability to voluntarily remove it.
It is also crucial to be aware of positioning yourself under a weighted blanket. Never to cover your head or neck when using a blanket of any weight. This increases the risk of suffocation. It is a significant safety concern; never put a blanket above your or your child’s shoulder level. So never cover the head or neck with a heavy blanket. Ensure that a child has the ability to follow this rule.
Lastly, it is crucial to know how long you should be using your blanket with added weight. A general rule to follow is that heavier blankets show a positive effect even after 20 minutes of use and even at 5% of body weight. Although the amount of time that a person may use a blanket with added weight may differ from person to person based on professional recommendations from an occupational therapist or doctor, it is always suggested to wear it for a limited time to prevent discomfort or injury. Take home message: you do not have to use a heavier blanket all night for sleep or for a positive effect.
Can you sleep with a heavy blanket every night?
You may be wondering whether it is safe to use a heavier blanket during the whole night. When is doubt always consult with your occupational therapist or doctor if you are unsure. Everyone is different. Remember that a blanket with added weight has a positive effect even after just 20 minutes.
How much weight should be used for both lap pads and blankets?
You might think, “the heavier, the better.” However, that is not true! Your body can feel even the smallest changes in weight. Most importantly, a good rule of thumb is to have a lap pad or blanket that is no more than 5% of your body weight. For example, a child who weighs 70 lbs. would not use a weighted lap animal of more than 3.5 lbs. Nevertheless, a weight that is even less than 5% of body weight helps. Usually, weighted lap pads come in pre-set weights. However, it is OK to be under 5% of the person’s body weight. But for safety, it is important to avoid going over. It is also critical that the person using the weighted lap pad have the cognitive (thinking) and physical abilities to be able to remove it from their lap. There is never a “universal” weight. It is always advised to consult with your occupational therapist or doctor to determine what is best for you or your child.
Parents, weighted lap pads and blankets are great to include when packing to send your child to camp, too!
All in all, this blog post highlighted the various topics surrounding the benefits of weighted blankets and weighted lap pads and how you and your child can safely use this product.
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Christel Seeberger has worked in health care for 30 years, including helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has a hearing disability and experiences sensory sensitivity and sensory overload herself. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016 to make the world more sensory-friendly, accessible and inclusive.
- Eron, K., Kohnert, L., Watters, A., Logan, C., Weisner-Rose, M., & Mehler, P. S. (2020). Weighted Blanket Use: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(2), 7402205010p1-7402205010p14. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.037358