If you're a parent or caregiver of a toddler, you know toddlers are full of energy and curiosity. One type of toy that has gained popularity in recent years is weighted toys for toddlers. These toys are designed to provide sensory input and can have a calming effect on children. As a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in sensory processing disorder, I often get asked about weighted toys, weighted blankets, and other sensory objects.
Weighted toys for toddlers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, mostly in the form of plush stuffed animals. They are typically filled with materials like sand or pellets that give them a heavier weight than traditional toys. The added weight can provide a sense of comfort and security for children, especially those with sensory processing issues or autism.
It's important to choose toys that are age-appropriate and safe for your child. With the right guidance and supervision, weighted toys for toddlers can be a fun and beneficial addition to your child's toy collection.
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Understanding Weighted Toys for Toddlers
Weighted toys are used to help children and adults become calm and regulated, When they achieve a more regulated state they are better able to focus and engage in activities.
Weighted objects provide deep pressure sensory input when they are placed on the body. And they also provide proprioceptive input to the joints when the child lifts and carries the weighted objects. Learn more about sensory processing disorder and sensory input.
Benefits of Weighted Toys for Toddlers
Weighted toys have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for a good reason. They offer several benefits for toddlers, including improved focus and attention, better sleep, and more.
Improvement of Focus and Attention
Weighted toys can help your toddler stay calm and focused. The added weight provides deep pressure touch, which can help regulate the nervous system and promote a sense of calmness. This, in turn, can help your toddler concentrate better and pay attention for longer periods.
Weighted toys are especially helpful for children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder, who may struggle with sensory processing. The toys can help relax their nervous system and provide a sense of security, making it easier for them to focus on tasks.
Weighted toys can also help your toddler sleep better. The added weight can provide a sense of comfort and security, which can help your toddler fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Weighted toys can also help regulate your toddler's sleep-wake cycle. The deep pressure touch can stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep.
It's important to note that weighted toys should not be used as a substitute for safe sleep practices and do not allow your child to sleep with the weighted stuffed animal.
Does your child have a hard time staying calm?
Is it a meltdown or a tantrum?
Learn the differences so you can respond with confidence!
Safety Precautions for Weighted Toys
When choosing weighted toys for your toddler, it is important to keep safety in mind. Here are some precautions you should take to ensure your child's safety:
- Age-appropriate toys: Always choose weighted toys that are appropriate for your child's age. Toys that are too heavy or too light can be dangerous for your child.
- Size and weight: Make sure the toy is not too heavy or too big for your child to handle. A good rule of thumb is to choose a toy that is no more than 10% of your child's body weight.
- Avoid choking hazards: Avoid toys with small parts that can be easily swallowed. Always check the manufacturer's age recommendation and warning labels.
- Avoid sharp edges and points: Toys with sharp edges and points can be dangerous for your child. Choose toys that are made of soft, non-toxic materials.
- Supervision: Always supervise your child while they are playing with weighted toys. Children can get injured if they misuse the toy or use it inappropriately.
- Proper use: Teach your child how to properly use the toy. For example, if the toy is a weighted lap pad, show your child how to place it on their lap and not on their head or neck.
- Maintenance: Regularly check the toy for any damage or wear and tear. Discard any toys that are broken or damaged.
By following these safety precautions, you can help ensure that your child can enjoy the benefits of weighted toys without any risk of injury.
Types of Weighted Items for Toddlers
When it comes to weighted toys and items for toddlers, there are a few different options to choose from. Here are the three main types of weighted toys and items for toddlers:
Weighted Stuffed Animals
Weighted stuffed animals are a popular choice for toddlers. These stuffed animals have a weighted filling that provides a calming and soothing effect. They can be used as a comfort item, or a sensory tool.
Since most stuffed animals are labeled for ages 3 and up, make sure you find one that is designed for toddlers or keep them supervised while playing with the toy. And do not allow them to sleep with the item.
You can find weighted stuffed animals on Amazon such as:
Weighted blankets are another option for toddlers. These blankets have a weighted filling that provides a deep pressure stimulation that can help calm and soothe toddlers. They can be used for sleeping, napping, or just relaxing.
See my article Weighted Blankets for Children to learn more.
Weighted vests are a third option for toddlers. These vests have a weighted filling that provides a calming and grounding effect. They can be worn during playtime or other activities to help toddlers feel more focused and calm.
Weighted vests are NOT designed to be worn all the time and must be worn on a schedule. Please do NOT sure a weighted vest without consulting a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing needs.
Choosing the Right Weighted Toy
When it comes to choosing the right weighted toy for your toddler, there are a few things to consider. Here are some factors to keep in mind to ensure you select the best option for your child:
The weight of the toy is the most important factor to consider. You want to choose a toy that is not too heavy for your toddler to hold or carry around. A good rule of thumb is to choose a toy that weighs no more than 10% of your child's body weight. For example, if your child weighs 30 pounds, choose a toy that weighs no more than 3 pounds.
2. Size and Shape
The size and shape of the toy should also be considered. Make sure the toy is the appropriate size for your child to hold and play with comfortably. The shape of the toy should also be easy for your child to grip and hold onto.
The material of the toy is also important. Choose a toy that is made from high-quality, durable materials that can withstand the wear and tear of playtime. Look for toys that are made from non-toxic materials and are easy to clean.
Consider the purpose of the toy. Is it meant to provide comfort and relaxation, or is it meant to help with sensory processing? Different toys serve different purposes, so it's important to choose one that aligns with your child's needs.
5. Sensory Preferences
Finally, consider your child's sensory preferences and sensory needs. Some children may prefer a toy that is soft and cuddly, while others may prefer a toy with different textures or shapes. Take your child's preferences into account when choosing a weighted toy.
By keeping these factors in mind, you can choose the right weighted toy for your toddler that will provide comfort and support during playtime.
Homemade Weighted Toys
Yes, you can use what you have around your house to provide deep pressure input instead of buying weighted toys!
Do you have a toy shopping cart or even a laundry basket? Fill it up with soup cans and push it around the house!
Or you can even make your own weighted plush toys!
Other Ways to Provide Sensory Input to Calm Your Toddler
There are other ways to provide the sensory inputs of deep pressure and proprioception for your child during sensory play. These include sensory bins, playing on playground equipment, running, jumping and crashing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are weighted toys safe for toddlers?
Yes, weighted toys are generally safe for toddlers when used properly. It is important to choose a weighted toy that is appropriate for your child's age and weight. Always supervise your child while they are using a weighted toy to ensure that they are using it safely.
What are the benefits of using weighted toys?
Weighted toys can provide a number of benefits for toddlers. They can help to settle your child's nervous system and promote relaxation by providing sensory input of deep pressure and proprioceptive input.
Do weighted toys provide sensory stimulation?
Yes, weighted sensory toys can provide sensory stimulation for toddlers. The added weight can provide a deep pressure sensation, which can be relaxing and soothing for some children. This can be especially helpful for children who are craving to sensory input.
What are some recommended weighted toys for toddlers?
There are a variety of weighted toys available for toddlers, including stuffed animals, lap pads, and blankets. Some popular options include Disney weighted plushes. When choosing a weighted toy, be sure to select one that is appropriate for your child's age and weight.
How do weighted toys benefit children with autism?
Weighted toys can be a helpful tool for children with autism. The deep pressure sensation provided by the added weight can help to reduce sensory issues and sensory overstimulation and promote relaxation. Additionally, weighted toys can provide a sense of comfort and security for children with autism, which can be especially helpful during times of stress or transition.