It is a fact that ALL children need to play, create, and learn regardless of ability. They need to blow off steam, express themselves and have fun!
Below is a selection of classes, activities, and gyms that are specifically designed for children with special needs. Keep in mind that most cultural institutions and children's spaces can accommodate a child with special needs in all of their daily offerings, and it's a good idea to contact them in advance to make arrangements. Another great resource to look for special needs classes and camps is Mommy Poppins Special Needs Listings.
We also have a sensory friendly DIY video and instructions for a sensory tool that you can make with or for your child - A weighted lap toy. Enjoy!
HOW TO MAKE A WEIGHTED LAP TOY FOR A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Weighted blankets are great for kids with autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, anxiety and many other needs because they satisfy the need for “proprioceptive input”. However, sensory tools like weighted blankets can be expensive. A cheaper and more portable option is to make a weighted stuffed animal or doll that a child can sit in their lap or carry around.
- Stuffed animal or doll with soft but strong fabric and stuffed with batting (cottony stuffing in most stuffed animals). It should be big enough to lay comfortably across the child’s lap.
Note you can upcycle an old or favorite toy, but keep in mind you will be cutting it open so make sure the child is going to be okay with that!
- Small scissors (nail scissors are good) or a seam ripper
- Sandwich or snack sized zip top bags
- Tape, preferably with some stretch to it, such as electrical or medical tape
- Filler to replace the stuffing. You will need approximately 2-4 pounds, depending on the size of your toy. There are several options:
- Something to close up the seam. What you use depends on your craftiness level and how much time you want to spend making this. It also depends on the child; if you are concerned with the child being able to remove the weights you will want to seal the opening permanently. If you are more concerned with being able to clean the toy you may want to make the seam resealable so you can easily remove the weights.
Tip You can purchase an inexpensive snap maker along with plastic snaps online. They are great for all kinds of kid-related projects and are very quick and easy to use.
Find a seam to open up approximately 4-5” on the animal that will be inconspicuous.
1. Open seam using a seam ripper or small scissors
2. Remove an adequate amount of stuffing based on how much you think you will want to replace with weights
3. Fill snack or sandwich Ziploc bags with your filler of choice. Do not fill so much that they will not easily seal shut. Squeeze air out before sealing.
4. Protect each weight by either inverting the weight into another Ziploc bag and/or wrapping the bag with a stretchy, but strong tape.
Filling the Toy
5. Create several “weights” to start with, and try putting them in the animal to get a feel for how heavy and full the animal feels. You can also have the child test it out.
6. If you prefer, you can put all of the weights together inside of a thin bag such as a lingerie wash bag before inserting into the animal.
Note: Make sure you don’t have so many weights that you cannot easily pull the open seams together. You can add back some of the stuffing as well if you'd like.
7. Close up the seam in your preferred way.