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Readers Respond: What Do-It-Yourself Therapy Toys Have You Created?

Responses: 15

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Have you made some great developmental or therapeutic toys for your child that provide a cheap alternative to expensive equipment? I've offered my list, now give us yours! [NOTE: Because children have different needs and different safety concerns, all these ideas should be discussed with your child's therapist to determine the best choices, appropriate weights, and least risky alternatives.]

Ribbon Circle

My daughter loves to shake things. Her PT got a plastic ring from the craft store and tied several ribbons to it. My daughter loves it.
—Guest Heather

Weighted Toys

You can take some weighted bean bags or nuts and bolts, etc. to Build a Bear and put them in before they add stuffing...tada your own weighted animal.
—Guest Kelley

Tag Blanket

My son needs to rub a Tag to calm himself to go to sleep. He and I went to the fabric store and picked out some flannel and several different textured ribbons. We sat on the floor and rubbed each of them until he got the ones he liked) I sewed ribbon 'tags' around his blanket (the size of a tea towel) and that's what he uses now to help him sleep. I've made several. I also made an emergency tag blanket out of scraps. It's the size of a luggage tag, and has one tag on it. This blanket is a must have for him! And he loves that he chose the fabric, and the ribbon.
—Guest Sue

happy sacks

i make happy sacks for the kids next door. they both are 9 and active, so they love them. all i do is put marbles/sand/water/grass/ into a balloon and put 4 more balloons on top. but i always put something that makes noise in the middle so that if they drop it they can find it.
—Guest 1999marnie1999

Tactile toys

I've created a number of tactile sensory toys for my deaf-blind multiply handicapped children over the years. For my children, their hands are their eyes, but their limited mobility makes it difficult to explore with them. Tactile books usually have one thing to touch per page and it is often out of their reach. The first thing I made was a cloth book covered with different ribbon and trims on different textured fabric on each page. I went on to sew and knit a variety of tactile toys, one of which was a tray playmat. (You can see pictures of several of these items on my son't blog: amazingambrose.blogspot.com. There are 2 entries entitled Tactile things part 1 & 2. ) I sold them to educators of the visually impaired and to other parents. I had a website for a while but after my daughter died and my son was born I had no time to put into it. The Abilitations catalog just started producing them. They feature many parent designed products.
—Guest Ambrose's Mommy

Weighted Exploration Gadget

I used an old water container, the clear kind, filled it with rice for the weights and added a bunch of his favorite small toys. Lego's, figures, Logs, balls, etc. My son was able to get so much input from the heavy lifting. Once he was done with lifting he could roll the container around to move the rice and see all of his favorite toys pop to the surface inside. http://lucasjourneyspd.blogspot.com/
—missykade

Salt pictures

Try letting your sensory-seeking child "draw" with glue and then cover the glue with salt. Once it dries, it provides some extra sensory need since it is rough. My son has one done with cut-out pictures of ants to resemble an ant hill that was done in school. Colored glue or glitter glue adds to the overall masterpiece. Construction paper or heavy paper (like a brown paper bag) is suggested due to the weight. Salt designs on black paper provide a nice contrast as well--good for making spider webs or practicing letters. Plus, the items are non-toxic and probably in your house right now.
—Guest Sharon

weighted blanket and vest

I just made a weighted blanket by sewing 3 layers of a heavy weave cotton to a nice and soft piece of fleece. I also just made a vest that has the velcro opening in the back so it can't be escaped from so fast! I put 8 pockets on it and made little bean bags that will fit in them to add the weight when needed. They were definitely cheaper than the catalogs!
—Guest Cheryl Ruggles

Safety First

While DIY is admirable, make sure to take safety into consideration first. For children who don't have complete control, nuts and bolts on pencils can be dangerous. For children who like to crash into his stuffed animals - nuts & bolts? ouch again. And a weighted backpack puts all the weight on the back and shoulders and neck. Heavy backpacks can cause injury. We also need to be careful about how much weight to put in a weighted blanket or in weights on arms and legs. Filling stuffed animals or weighted blankets with food items may not be a good solution: they can break down and decay. Poly beads from a craft store work.
—Guest Hiya

safer weights

I want to suggest that for kids who need to use weighted items, but might have a tendency to throw things or hit people: Use dried corn, cracked corn, split peas or plastic bee-bees for stuffing rather than nuts and bolts. These things don't hurt as much to get hit with as does a bag of nuts and bolts!
—Guest sstay

Weighted Blanket

I've heard that poly pellets are a safer choice over BBs, and are also washable without removing from the blanket.
—Guest Jen

weighted blankets

You can also make weighted vests by making small pockets in front and back and using the bb bags as you do with the blanket.
—Guest Gerrie

Grains Instead of Sandbox Sand

For those who can't let their sprouts loose in sand (especially those with cats), bags of different grains can serve as wonderful sensory tub fillers as well as 'sand' boxes - beware of seeds or grains that resemble weevils or other critters because they find their way into clothes and diapers and look completely different one by one than all together in the container hours earlier. And of course, some sprout when wet. It's also helpful to use grains instead of water when children are learning to pour from a pitcher into a glass, while in the sensory tub. While in the regular tub (always supervised 100% of the time - even more important around water) children can also practice pouring from one container to another - but beware of the impulse to take a sip because it can be very thirsty work. ;-) Be careful of buckets full of water in the yard; they are attractive and toddlers can tip into them and drown. Otherwise, they are excellent for pouring practice.
—PNWmom

Padded 'Therapy' Roll /S.I. Swing

We had an envelope company that would let us cart off end rolls of paper (often with a few yards of thick colored paper on them that were great for outlining kids laying on it, that they loved). After removing the paper, I would wind an inch or two of foam or batting around the cardboard roll, secure with thick rubber bands (not quite as dangerous as balloons...), then cover with a long pillow case on each end, and a top layer pillow case that was washed much more often, for a therapy roll. It's also great for propping up baby shoulders so you can get a great line up of baby faces and arms for snapshots of rascals who don't prop themselves up on their elbows yet (or ever). We also had big hooks that would hold 200 lbs for hammock chairs for SI swinging - but that's a whole other story! As I recall, the sheepskin was not quite as comfortable for a grown up invited to swing along...
—PNWmom

Weighted blanket

Making a weighted blanket out of old jeans. I cut them up into squares and put them together like a quilt. I sew another softer material on backside of the blanket. I put pieces with pockets in different areas on the blanket, so I can add extra weights to it. For extra weights, I make little bean bags filled with BBs (used for guns)and reinforces good so child can't get to them. They can be taken out to wash the blanket.
—3Michelle

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