Therapy Thursday: Making Weighted Toys

Posted Thursday April 21, 2011 by Melissa

Cozy Coupe

Many of our kids have issues with proprioception, a word I had never heard of until about a year ago. I never understood why Case liked to push furniture around. He started that practice as soon as he could walk, pushing pool chairs, folding chairs, anything that would move. Soon after, he started climbing all the furniture, climbing cabinets, jumping off of them. Of course, as a parent, you tell them to stop, give them a timeout.

But soon after, another MPS mom mentioned proprioception problems and Case’s therapists mentioned weighted vests and blankets (those will be the subject of another post). I googled proprioception and after I started reading, my mouth fell open. It described Case to a T!

The proprioceptive sense refers to the sensory input and feedback that tells us about movement and body position. It’s “receptors” are located within our muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues. It is one of the “deep senses” and could be considered the “position sense.” [taken from The Sensory Processing Disorder website]

The Sensory Processing Disorder website has a good description of what proprioception dysfunction is and how to recognize it. Suffice it to say, once I began talking with some other parents, it became apparent that a lot of our kids suffer from this problem. However, I have never seen it in any MPS literature.

Once recognized, the question is then what to do about it. There are traditional weighted items and then there are items you can make yourself. Case’s proprioception dysfunction was intense enough that we went both routes.

The most successful do-it-yourself items we created or modified were the weighted car, grocery cart, and backpack.

Cozy Coupe

Cozy Coupe

Cozy Coupe by Little Tikes

Case already had a Cozy Coupe and like many MPS kiddos, he drove it around like crazy. We modified it after the fact but it is a little easier if doing it on a new one.

Supplies needed:

  • Cozy coupe (or a similar ride-on toy with no openings for the weights to fall out), available online, at Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and other retailers
  • Polypropylene pellets (available online here or search for “poly pellets” and at some Walmarts and craft stores)

Steps:

  1. On a new Cozy Coupe, wait to insert the white gas cap insert. On a used one, remove the gas cap insert by using a knife to push in the tabs underneath the part that is flush with the car and pop it back out. If you’re using a different ride-on vehicle and it does not have an opening, you may need to drill a wide hole high enough on the vehicle for the pellets to not fall out all the time and for which you can create a plug or use clear packing tape to cover (see warning below).
  2. Using a funnel, pour in several pounds (we used approximately 4 pounds) of poly pellets.
  3. Push the car back and forth to gauge, depending on your child, whether that weight will provide the right amount of resistance to make a difference. If they’re sailing across the floor in it now, it should make them work about twice as hard to move it. You can also have your child test it out since it will be difficult for the pellets to fall out with the gas cap being so high on the toy.
  4. Insert the gas cap insert until it snaps (or if another vehicle, a plug or tape over it). Warning: Please be sure to use a plug or tape that is sure to remain in place because these pellets are quite small and could be eaten by a child if they fall out.
  5. Test it out with your child and add more weights or remove weights as needed.

Grocery Cart

Grocery Cart

Little Helper's Grocery Cart by Step 2

Supplies needed:

  • Step 2 grocery cart or other push toy
  • Polypropylene pellets

Steps:

  1. Remove the plug on the underside of the basket portion of the cart.
  2. Using a funnel, pour in several pounds (we used approximately 3 pounds) of poly pellets.
  3. Push the cart back and forth to gauge, depending on your child, whether that weight will provide the right amount of resistance to make a difference. If they’re running with it now or it keeps moving when they let go, it should make them work about twice as hard to move it and should stop when they let go.
  4. Replace the plug.
  5. Test it out with your child and add more weights or remove weights as needed.

Monkey Backpack

Monkey Backpack

Eddie Bauer Harness Buddy - Monkey

We originally purchased this backpack as a harness with a strap to keep Case from running away from us. If you know MPS children, you know that is quite difficult. I would not depend on any strap with a plastic clip to keep him from danger, so we used this in a controlled environment to keep him close and to practice his walking instead of running everywhere.

After we purchased it, I had the idea to weight it to add to its benefits and it really did help. Case would slow down and walk more calmly with the weight in than without it.

Supplies needed:

Steps:

  1. Insert the weight into the pocket and velcro closed.
  2. Strap it on your child and go!

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I hope these ideas are helpful. Basically, you can weight almost any toy that your child uses, especially with being able to funnel the small poly pellets into plastic toys. If they push, pull or carry it, think about whether it would be helpful to add a little more resistance. Caveats are:

  1. Make sure that your child cannot get ahold of the poly pellets. They are so small and a child could easily choke on them, especially MPS children with small airways. Depending on the toy, using the soft wrist weights suggested with the backpack might also be an option.
  2. Make sure to find the appropriate weight – light enough that your child will still want to use the toy, heavy enough to provide the extra resistance their body is craving, but not too heavy to be dangerous.

If you have any other ideas or have weighted other toys, please comment! Good luck!

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One Response to “Therapy Thursday: Making Weighted Toys”

  1. […] keeping with a prior post about making weighted toys, I thought we’d take the next step and discuss weighted garments and blankets. Sometimes […]