DIY Weighted Lap Pad For Sensory Input
Updated: May 27, 2022
Today I would like to discuss a sensory tool that I use quite often with my students. This tool is a great way to provide students with deep pressure. Many of my students like deep pressure as it helps them calm their bodies allowing them to feel better during the school day. The tool I am talking about is called a weighted lap pad. Many of my students tell me this tool helps them calm down because it gives them pressure similar to receiving a hug. I allow my students to position the weighted lap pad however needed, therefore I may see a student drape it over their lap, place it over their shoulders, or press their head on it. Everyone is different meaning they have individualize needs, so I keep that in mind when I introduce a new tool. Let the child explore, and discover what is the best fit for them. Some students prefer different weighted garments over a lap pad and that is alright, however I would keep the lap pad in a location that is accessible to the child. They may not like it or need it one day, but they decide to check it out or interact with it a different day.
Sensory equipment can be very pricey especially if you are not sure how your child will respond to the equipment. Thinking about this gave me the idea of making a lap pad that I could try with my students before committing to something that may just lay on the shelf. Follow the steps below to make your own weighted lap pad:
I found all my supplies at the dollar store so I only had around $5.00 invested in my lap pad. The supplies I purchased was a large roll of duct tape, and 2 bags of rice, and a box of sandwich bags for my lap pad.
I filled 3 sandwich bags with rice. You can use a different filler such as beans, sand, or aquarium rocks. All these fillers can be purchased at the dollar store. The filler is whatever you prefer to use.
Make sure to cover both sides of the rice bag. I left a small edge on the top and bottom to make it easier to connect the bags together.
The final step is determining how big you want to make your lap pad. I only used 3 bags which was perfect to use with our preschoolers. You may want to make it wider by making two rows and connecting them together. It really depends on the child's weight to determine what size to make it. The great thing about this project is it can be tailored to be individualized. Remember you only want the total weight of the lap pad to be no more than 5% of the students weight.
The other great thing about this type of lap pad is having the ability to wipe the lap pad off after each use. I have made lap pads out of pillow cases and aquarium rocks that can be laundered, however this is a nice alternative.
I usually recommend having the child use a weighted lap pad during a time that they are expected to focus. For example a table task, circle time, or a special activity. Usually I have them use it for 25 minutes and then take it off for an hour. Using a weighted lap pad for longer will lose its effectiveness. Think of putting a sweatshirt on and how at first we can tell that we are wearing something new, but after awhile we come accustom to having the sweatshirt on. Same thing with the weighted lap pad the student gets use to having it on. Again, I would suggest using the weighted lap pad as a calm down tool, maybe have it available in a calm down toolbox. Have the child practice using the sensory tools from their toolbox a few times during the week when they are not upset. This allows the student to be familiar and build comfort with the tools during times they are upset or feeling anxious.
Never force a student to use a sensory tool! Instead, we continue to expose the student to the sensory tool. I like to present sensory tools to the whole class, by modeling different ways to use it, and then I take volunteers to try the sensory tool. You would not believe how successful peer modeling is with students who may be unsure of new tools. The other thing I would suggest is working with an Occupational Therapist to monitor and give suggestions.
Here is some links for more information regarding using weighted garments or sensory tools:
Sensory Friendly Solutions https://www.sensoryfriendly.net/weighted-lap-pad/
Hope you find this helpful and please let me know if you have any questions. Leave a comment and let me know if you end up making you own weighted lap pad.
Stay safe and make everyday count,
For more sensory tool ideas check out my book "Tons Of Tools To Help Me Be Me" at :