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Do you have a young child with sensory needs who struggles to calm down?
Then a weighted lap animal (also called a weighted lap buddy or weighted stuffed animal) could really help.
Weighted lap animals work in the same way as weighted blankets, by providing proprioceptive input and deep touch pressure. This helps sooth the nervous system, which can help children calm down and focus better in a variety of situations – from mealtimes to classroom led activities.
Read on for the benefits of weighted lap animals, how to choose the correct weight, plus 3 weighted lap pad recommendations.
In A Hurry?
Here are our current top picks for weighted lap animals:
Favourite Overall Choice: Huggaroo Puppy or Lamb
Ideal For Fidgety Fingers: Fun & Function Monkey or Zebra
Great For Travel: Friendly Cuddle ‘Charlie’ Dog
Weighted Lap Animals For Sensory Integration
Recent research from Harvard found the deep touch pressure of weighted items, such as weighted lap pads and vests, has a calming, grounding effect on many children with sensory processing and attention deficit disorders. This may help them self sooth, regulate their emotions more effectively and focus better. You can read more about deep touch pressure and how weighted items work here.
Many kids take to a ‘standard’ weighted lap pad very quickly. However, investing in a soft and cute weighted lap animal (or buddy) can make the transition to using a lap pad much easier for some children, especially young ones. It’s also, of course, a lot more fun!
Relatively lightweight and highly portable, the advantage of a weighted lap animal is that can be used in a variety of everyday situations to help a child calm down or focus better. This could be at home before bed, during sit down activities at school or on trips out.
How Much Should A Lap Animal Weigh?
A good ‘rule of thumb’, recommended by therapists, is to use a weighted lap animal (or pad) that’s around 5 % of your body weight. So for a child weighing 60 lbs, this would mean a weighted lap animal that’s around 3 lb. Most weighted lap animals available to buy are between 3 and 5 lbs. A 3 lb weighted lap animal often works fine for many kids.
Therapists generally recommend weighted lap pads and lap animals for children over 3, who have no significant health concerns. So if you do have any concerns, talk these over with your doctor first.
Let’s take a look at 3 popular weighted stuffed animals and weighted lap buddies.
3 Of The Best Weighted Lap Animals For Kids
Favourite Overall Choice: Huggaroo
The weighted element provides relaxing deep pressure stimulation when placed across the lap and at 3.6 lbs, they’re portable and easy to pack.
Perfect for school age children, these cute lap animals are made from a soft, plush fabric that’s sensory to the touch, making them a great grounding lap buddy or travel aid, as a well as a soothing sleep companion.
Tested by a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved lab, these lap animals are ideal for use in the classroom, at home for relaxation or mealtimes, or during trips out in the car.
Weight And Size: 3.6 lbs, 29 x 8 inches.
Made From: 100% polyester fabric, filled with polypropylene (plastic) pellets.
Is It Washable? Yes, it’s 100 % machine washable. Care instructions recommend you machine-wash the lap animal cover and insert separately on a cool, gentle setting. Tumble dry on low heat. Do not use bleach. Not suitable for ironing.
Ideal For Fidgety Kids: Fun & Function
The Fun & Function weighted lap animals come in 2 cuddly choices – a monkey for children weighing 30+ lbs and a zebra for children 50+ lbs.
Providing grounding weight to help improve calm and focus, these fun lap buddies offer both a sensory tool and cute companion for children, at home or in school. They can also be used on trips out.
If your child is prone to fidgeting, the faux fur of the monkey or felt fabric of the zebra offers soft sensory input for little fingers, whilst the fabric tail and ears provide further outlets for fiddling.
The lap animals also feature a small pocket, where you child can tuck their fingers or store a small item.
Tested by a third-party lab, the weighted lap buddies meet or exceed government safety standards for lead and flammability. The seam strength is also tested to help ensure long-term durability.
Weight & Size: Monkey: 3 lbs, 13 x 8 inches. Zebra: 5 lbs, 18 x 9 inches.
Made From: Monkey: Polyester, filled with steel pellets in a PVC lining. Zebra: Polyurethane with polyester facial features. Weights are steel pellets in a 100% cotton lining.
Is It Washable? Care instructions recommend surface wash and air drying.
Great For Travel: Friendly Cuddle
Charlie, the super soft weighted lap animal from Friendly Cuddle, is shaped in the form of a lovable dog.
Weighing in at 5 lbs, it would also suit adult use (if you don’t mind a furry faux dog on your lap), plus you can insert extra weight if you wish, as the weighted insert is contained inside a zippable cover.
The Friendly Cuddle weighted lap animal also comes with 2 handy travel bags, a drawstring backpack and a PVC tote bag.
This makes it really easy for you, or your child, to carry and protect Charlie when using the lap animal away from home.
Tested to CPSC tested and approved for chemical safety, the Frindly Cuddle lap animal is listed as lead and phthalate free & non flammable. Filled with odourless glass beads, Charlie also features reinforced stitching for durability.
Weight & Size: 5 lbs, 21 x 21 inches.
Made From: Plush fabric filled with micro glass beads.
Is It Washable? Care instructions advise removing inner weighted bag and hand or cool machine washing outer cover.
How To Use A Weighted Lap Animal
Whilst there are no ‘official’ weighted lap animal guidelines, occupational therapists generally recommend that lap pads (and animals) weigh around 5% of a child’s body weight. The same formula applies for adults. As the name might suggests weighted lap animals are placed across the lap, whilst in a seated position.
Keep in mind, lap pads are not designed to be used all day long, but rather for short periods. For example, when a child is feeling anxious or struggling to calm down or focus. 20 minute intervals often work well.
Weighted lap pads aren’t recommended for children under the age of 3 or children still exploring objects with their mouths, due to the tiny weighted fillings sewn inside the lap pads. Lap pads are also not suited for children with limited mobility or muscle strength.
For more information on using a weighted lap pad, animal or buddy, check out these 5 tips.
When To Use A Weighted Lap Animal
Many children experience sensory overload on a daily basis and a weighted lap animal can often work wonders in helping a child, or adult, to feel more grounded and organised. Here are 10 common situations, where parents, therapists and teachers might use a weighted lap animal, or lap pad:
- before bed to aid relaxation
- at mealtimes, or whilst eating
- during a car trip/whilst travelling
- in the classroom to help a child focus/remain seated
- whilst reading a book or drawing at home
- during cinema trips
- during activities that may cause a child anxiety, such as trips to the dentist or doctors.
- to help transitioning between activities
- during haircuts
- in social situations, where sitting down is required.
Weighted Lap Animals For Anxiety
Of course, some children may not have a sensory processing or attention deficit disorder, as such, but may still experience feelings of stress or anxiety.
This study (PDF), from 2015, found that the use of a weighted vest (which works in a similar way to a weighted lap pad) did in fact, decrease anxiety, in study participants.
So the therapeutic deep touch pressure of a lap pad, vest or sensory weighted lap animal can also be an effective tool to help anxious children experience an increased sense of calm.
Do Weighted Lap Animals Work For All Children?
All children (and adults) are unique, so there’s no blanket ‘rule’ for which type of person a weighted sensory aid will (or won’t) work for.
However, as a loose ‘guideline’, sensory seeking children – i.e. those who actively seek out extra tactile stimulation – often benefit from the grounding proprioceptive input of a weighted lap animal or lap pad.
Children who are extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli, on the other hand, (for example, a child who avoids hugs or throws blankets off) may find the weight of a lap pad animal too intense. It’s always best to be guided by your child and if you’re unsure, seek advice from an occupational therapist or doctor.
A child should also be able to move a weighted item off their own lap/body unaided, at all times.
Weighted Lap Animals: Conclusion
A weighted stuffed lap animal for sensory integration, is a practical and affordable way to help children with sensory processing and attention deficit disorders, calm down and better ground themselves.
They’re simple to use, portable and suitable for use at home, in the classroom or during trips out.
Of course, a weighted lap pad doesn’t have to feature a stuffed animal or ‘buddy’ element.
So if you’d like more options, including a wipe clean lap pad and a Minky Dot sensory lap pad, check out this post.