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Weighted lap pads are a popular way to naturally help children and adults with anxiety, autism spectrum disorders and/or ADHD to calm down and relax during the day.
So if you’re thinking of getting one and are looking for some weighted lap pad guidelines to follow, the truth is there aren’t any ‘official’ ones. However, there are a number of commonly accepted principles, which occupational therapists use as a ‘rule of thumb’.
Let’s take a look…
Looking To Buy A Weighted Lap Pad?
Here are are our Top Picks:
1 – Best Sensory Lap Pad: Harkla Minky Dot Lap Pad
2 – Best Wipe Clean Lap Pad: Fun & Function Lap Pad
3 – Best Value Lap Pad: Joyching Weighted Lap Pad
What is a weighted lap pad?
Similar to a weighted blanket, but on a smaller scale, a weighted lap pad contains weighted pellets, or beads, to give it extra weight.
The lap pad rests on a person’s legs, where the extra weight applies a therapeutic deep touch pressure (DTP). This gentle pressure helps calm the nervous system & can feel extremely relaxing.
Many weighted lap pads are made from a fabric such as cotton or Minky Dot fleece, but you can also get lap pads made from wipe clean, water resistant fabrics. These can be good for meal times.
You can also buy weighted lap animals for smaller children.
Weighted Lap Pad Benefits
There are a number of key benefits to a weighted lap pad.
Primarily, the deep touch pressure applied to the legs, can prove naturally calming and grounding. This makes lap pads a great sensory regulation tool for children (or adults) with sensory processing disorders, autism and ADHD.
Weighted lap pads may also prove very helpful for adults with anxiety, PTSD or conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.
Another key benefit of a weighted lap pad is that, whilst a weighted blanket is generally used more as a sleep aid, lap pads are much more portable, due to their smaller, more compact, size.
This makes them a great sensory tool to be used during the day as a calming aid in the home, school or workplace. You can also use lap pads on trips out in the car or on visits to the dentist.
Here are 5 generally accepted weighted lap pad guidelines to keep in mind:
5 weighted lap pad guidelines
1 – Use the lap pad weight ‘rule of thumb’
Therapists & manufacturers generally recommend you use a weighted lap pad that’s around 5-7 % of a user’s body weight. In term of the actual dimensions, lap pads are typically 12 x 18 inches or 12 x 30 inches in size, although you may find a variety of sizes available.
For children specifically, Alisha, a registered Occupational Therapist at Your Kids Table, recommends:
As a general rule of thumb, weighted lap pads are for children that are growing normally without any significant health concerns at age 3 or older. Use 5% of your child’s body weight as a guideline to determine the appropriate weight the lap pad should have. For example, if your child is 60 lbs. then a 3 lb. lap pad would be a good fit. Discuss any concerns or exceptions to these “rules” with your child’s doctor.
Also always keep in mind that a weighted lap pad should never be too heavy for the user to move off their lap themselves.
Top Pick: The popular Joyching Weighted Lap Pad offers great value & a wide choice of sizes.
2 – Consider sensory requirements
Weighted lap pads often prove incredibly calming for many kids & adults with sensory processing conditions, as the extra weight helps provide the extra stimulation (or proprioceptive input) that sensory seekers crave.
For those highly sensitive to sensory stimuli, however (i.e. they seek to avoid it and shy away from touch and things like heavy blankets), the weight of a lap pad may feel too much and end up overstimulating the tactile system.
Your Kids Table offers some practical tips to help you decide if a weighted lap pad may be suitable for a child with a sensory condition.
Another thing to consider is the weighted lap pad fabric. Sensory seekers often love the tactile feel of Minky Dot fleece fabrics, whilst those sensitive to touch, or heat, may prefer a smoother, more breathable, cotton fabric.
3 – Use a weighted lap pad for short periods
Weighted lap pads are not designed to be used all day.
Instead, use them at times when a person feels anxious, is having difficulty calming down or needs to focus better.
Some common examples of when to use a weighted lap pad might be:
- before bed
- during mealtimes
- on a car trip or plane journey
- in a classroom or desk based environment
- during a trip to the cinema
- during a trip to the doctor or dentist.
Whilst a weighted lap pad may help immensely in situations like those above, it’s also important to respect a child who doesn’t wish to use a lap pad. However well meant, pushing a child to use a lap pad, when they simply don’t want to, is likely to make matters worse. It also doesn’t respect the child’s own individual boundaries.
4 – Don’t use in conjunction with another weighted aid
Weighted lap pads are designed to be used at a weight that’s appropriate for the person, or child, using it.
So avoid using a weighted lap pad in conjunction with other weighted aids or the weight could become too heavy and intense.
5 – Keep washability needs in mind
Whilst not technically a guideline, another factor to consider is washability.
If you plan to use a weighted lap pad at meal times, for example, you may want to invest in a lap pad thats wipeable. On the other hand, if your child struggles to focus in a classroom environment and seeks extra sensory stimulation, a sensory Minky Dot lap pad may be a better choice.
Whilst most weighted lap pads should be washable, always check product details to be sure, especially if you plan to use a washing machine or tumble dryer.
Here’s some advice on how to wash a weighted blanket that may come in handy when washing a lap pad.
Top Pick: Consider a wipeable lap pad if you don’t want the hassle of laundering a weighted lap pad.
Weighted Lap Pads For Adults: Where To Find Them
If you’re adult who suffers from anxiety, or a condition such as restless legs, weighted lap pads can often prove a great therapeutic tool for the office or general use at home.
However, weighted lap pads are often made and marketed with children in mind.
So if you’re an adult looking to invest in a weighted lap pad, they can be harder to come by. Especially if you don’t want a lap pad covered in unicorns or rainbows!
If you just want some gentle added weight on your legs, you may find a child’s 3lb lap pad is sufficient for your needs. But if you’d prefer something a little heavier, this adult lap pad is available in a 5 or 7 lb weight size. Or this small weighted lap blanket weighs in at 8lbs.
Etsy can also be a good place to find weighted lap pads. Some sellers will even make a bespoke lap pad for you.
Weighted lap pads are an increasingly popular sensory aid to help children and adults calm down, transition better from one activity to another, or improve focus.
Smaller and more portable than weighted blankets, weighted lap pads rest over the the legs and can be used almost anywhere – be it the home, classroom, office or dentist’s chair.
Whilst no ‘official’ weighted lap pad guidelines exist as such, occupational therapists generally use the guidelines above as a rule of thumb.
If you’re unsure whether a weighted lap pad is right for you or your child, always consult your therapist or doctor for advice.