Weighted Lap Pad – Our Top Picks for 2021
Weighted lap pads with high user satisfaction are scarce – that’s the main thing we learned when putting this guide together.
That makes us think that choosing right for a person that’s just looking into it for the first time would be a hellish experience.
Starting from the type of filling, through the weight, manufacturing practices to the finish materials.
A limited market
We believe it’s fair to say the market is limited because the 5 picks we made are out of 21 products.
Typically, the latter number is much higher, and we look at more products. But here, we didn’t have enough data to feed into our statistical model.
How we choose
The information you’ll see below are fruit off over 500 work-hours. Putting this guide together took about two months (initially). Since then, we’ve updated it three times (bi-monthly).
In each of these updates, the same products remained among our top choices, and we haven’t seen a single new arrival.
This means two things:
- The few new arrivals are either subpar or too “young” to be considered
- The products presented here have our seal of approval
Without much ado, let us get to our top picks for this update.
Weighted lap pad
*Our top choice for kids – ReachTherapy Solutions
This pad is one of the two products that kept its place in the top 3 since we first published the ratings. The user satisfaction percentage never dropped below 92%.
Both the objectives and subjective quality aspects are derived from the analysis of owner satisfaction. This pad has dominated both categories along with the runner-up (Harkla).
“Subjective” quality aspects include things like calming efficiency and tactile properties.
We’re putting the word subjective in quotes intentionally because the ratings are not based on the experience of one user, but rather on pooled data from multiple sources.
If you look at things that way, the line between subjective and objective gets blurry as our data sample grows in each subsequent update.
In other words, it’s hard to call a quality aspect “subjective” if it’s based on hundreds of experiences.
If we strictly abide by the definition of objective, quality aspects that qualify are things like craftsmanship, quality of the cover, the versatility, sizing and appearance to the more intricate once like how easy maintenance is.
When all said and done – the Sensory lap pad has been one of the top 3 pads for over a year now. Since the rating gap between it and the current runner-up (which you see below) is very close.
Ultimately, the choice will likely come down to appearance and, more importantly, the weight options and who you’re getting it for.
The ReachTherapy solutions sensory pad comes in over a dozen colorful designs aimed at kids while the Orange Panda has a simpler look, adjusted for adults.
As you saw above, this pad comes in three weights – 3, 5 and 7 lbs, while the Harkla (we’ll talk about it in a minute) is currently only available at 5 pounds.
Weighted lap pad for adults
*our top choice – Orange Panda
Currently, the Orange Panda holds the third spot both in user satisfaction (82%) and the top spot in versatility. That is if you bundle both the options for kids and adults.
Let’s address the latter – when we say we versatility we’re referring to the fact that it’s available in five sizes and weights.
This makes it an option if you’re looking for an adult-oriented one that’s also available in bigger sizes and more substantial weights or one that can accommodate both you and your kid for an afternoon nap.
This USA-made product is a solid choice among pads for adults and teenagers alike.
It’s worth stressing that if you are getting a pad for an adult the options are even more scarce and we dare say this Orange Panda would be our top pick by far.
Harkla Sensory Lap Pad
If you read the analysis above, you already know that the Harkla pad for kids has been one of our top choices for over a year now.
In that time (3 updates), we have seen only three pads at the very top – 12 of those saw either Harkla or the ReachTherapy sensory pad.
We also mentioned that most quality aspects are too close to call and that’s the choice between the two is likely to come down to appearance and possibly weight (if you feel like you might need a lighter or heavier pad since Harkla currently offers only the 5 LBS option on Amazon).
Impressive user satisfaction
Current user satisfaction with the Harkla pad is an impressive 95% which is, based on what we saw over the 8 months, as high as it gets.
It’s also worth noting that Harkla stands behind their product with a lifetime guarantee and 1% of each sale goes to the autism clinic of the Washington University.
You can see what the user shared in their reviews by following the links below.
If the value for money (price vs. versus owner satisfaction) were the only rating we had, this sensory pad would probably be at the very top. It’s one of the few products with owner satisfaction that’s consistently over 90%.
It’s only fair to disclose that it’s currently our third pick is influenced by the versatility and appearance category. Both of these are subjective and a reflection of our opinion.
It is top to bottom US-made and, based on the experiences we’ve seen, impeccably crafted. Compared to the Harkla and reach therapy solutions, it does lean a bit more towards classic therapeutic look.
The main difference
It’s important to note that the main difference is the filling. In those terms, it’s one of the two products on the list that stands out. Most pads are filled with plastic pellets, while the Sensory Goods opted for glass beads.
In practice, this means that it’s thinner (glass beads have higher bulk density) and the added weight is more seamless. In terms of maintenance, we’d say that pads with a detachable cover and pellet-filling are somewhat easier to maintain in the long run because you can catch the cover and wash it separately.
With that said, the Sensory Goods is also dryer and washer safe. If you are air drying it, it will take a bit longer because of the nature of the glass-bead-filling.
Double Minky by Everything Sensory – for kids and adults
As far as the market trends go, this one can be labeled as a new arrival. The most impressive thing about it is the % of satisfied owners.
We could not find an owner with any significant grievances.
Perhaps the reason lays in the fact that it’s the only company on this list that allows you to choose the fabric.
The two fabrics you choose (top and bottom) and then hand-sewn (3 sizes to choose from) and filled with US-made pellets.
What is it?
A weighted lap pad is a product designed to soothe an overactive nervous system in kids and adults affected by sensory disorders, anxiety, restless legs, ADHD, under-responsitivity, etc. Some people even find it to be soothing and have a positive effect on productivity even if you’re not affected by any of the listed conditions.
The products we talked about above all have two types of filling – poly pellets or glass beads.
If you’re going with DIY, some people opt for alternatives like rice. To be honest, we’re not fans of those options because even if the user doesn’t have an allergic reaction to the rice (which can often be so mild that you don’t even notice it). Secondly, in time, the rice will decay and release dust.
Occasionally, you can find one that’s filled with gel.
The common denominator is the inside shell that’s there to keep the filling safely in. It’s typically some type of high-density fabric. In terms of quality of the pad, the stitching is far more important than the choice of the material. It’s hard to imagine a material so poorly made that the filling passes through.
In those terms, the critical part is the stitching. It has to be reliable, secure and run to the very edges.
The accepted guidelines indicate that a pad should be approximately 5% of the user’s weight.
How to make one yourself
Making a DIY weighted pad can be pretty straightforward as long as you follow the weight guidelines and have experience in sewing.
It all comes down to planning right so that you end up with evenly distributed weight.
If you’re into DIY, we’re including a step-by-step guide on how to make one yourself.
- Choose a size and weight – you can look at the sizes and weights of the products above and choose one that fits your needs / the weight of your child
- Choose your fabric and filing – for the fabric, cotton is always a good choice. For the filling, the decision comes down to choosing between pellets or beads. The former are more commonly available and used for pads – you can see our guide on choosing and buying plastic pellets or glass beads here.
- Decide on the size of a single chamber – generally, squared chambers will be easier to sew and adjust to the overall sizing (anything in the range 2×2 to 5×5 inches is a good rule of thumb)
- You can sew the pad as a one-piece or make individual chambers and then sew them together or onto a sturdier backing fabric. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll go with the one-piece design.
- Fold your chosen fabric, cut it and sew it along the edges while the fabric is reversed (inside-out).
- Iron the fabric carefully so that there are no wrinkles at the edges. Pull the face of the fabric out. This step concludes the first phase – you now have an outline of how the bed will look like.
- Measure and mark your chambers. Pin the fabric along the markings so that it doesn’t move as you sew. If the dimensions you have in mind don’t add up to a square, mark the fabric width-wise.
- Stitch along the markings. After this step, you should have fabric “columns” for the filling.
- Calculate the weight of the film for each chamber. For example, if you’re making a pad that will be 12 x 20 “, each chamber measuring 4 x 4, you’ll have 3 chambers width-wise and 5 length-wise (adding up to 15 total). Let’s say that your chosen weight is 5 lbs (80 oz) – you’ll need approximately 5.33 oz of pellets for each chamber of the pad.
- For the pellets into the “columns” and the raise the pad to make sure that the filling stays in for the next step (horizontal sewing).
Sew horizontally along the markings.
- Repeat steps four and five until you’re done filling and sewing the 15 chambers.
- As you reach the last row, fold the fabric in and stitch it shut.
At this point, you are basically done.
If you want to make the pad more luxurious or adjusting to the preference of your child, you might think about making a cover for it.
This might make things more interesting for them and easier for you if you have a particular bundle of joy on your hands.
For example, it will be easier for them to accept using it if they have an additional reason. For a boy, you might make a superhero or comic-themed pad and for a girl you might go with the theme that you know she likes.
There are themed fabrics out there that make this easier.
Make sure that the DIY pad stays in place
This step is all about getting back to the benefits – if it moves inside the cover, it might be to the purpose.
To avoid that, make sure that the pad is fixed. Typically, factory made products use simple ties to keep everything in place. You just sew the ties to the sides of both the pad and the cover.
We would say that to ties on each side will do the trick. Then, you simply fix the pad to by tying it.
Alternatively, you can use buttons or Velcro but, again, ties are the simplest way to go and easiest to sew.
Adding fidgets for tactile exploration
In kids with ADHD, adding fidgets might make it more interesting and further improve on the benefits through tactile exploration.
In other words, it might give them something to play with as the pad does its job of soothing an overactive mind.
Benefits of a weighted lap pad
Reported empirical and anecdotal benefits include:
- Deep pressure can calm a racing mind, especially in social situations that a person or a child affected by sensory disorder can find stressful
- Calming tactile defensiveness and other forms of sensory sensitivity
- Improved sleep
- Help with irrational fears (like crowded spaces or social settings)
- Decrease of negative and increase positive behavioral patterns
Full benefits are yet to be fully explored and proven in large-scale studies.
The data that we provided here is an empirical (based on the experiences of users) and does not constitute medical advice.
Scientific studies pertaining to autism spectrum disorders
As we stressed a few times already, the field is yet to be fully explored in the number of studies is limited, especially when it comes to pads. Most studies focus on other products (you can see our picks for the best weighted blanket for adults here).
Here, we report on the findings of a few well-known studies related to the use of these items in children with sensory disorders.
- In 2001 a study conducted on children with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) in preschool age range reported an increase in task attention and a decrease in self- stimulatory behavior. As reported by the study, “The most consistent improvement observed was the decreased number of distractions”. You can see the full study here
- Myles et al (2004) reported positive effects of on the ability to remain seated in 2 out of 3 students, with the third subject showing slight negative response
Contribute to this guide and apply for our annual giveaway
It’s our policy to update the ratings on a bi-monthly basis so that the information you see is relevant at all times.
For us, this meant going through the most important quality aspects of a good pad and analyzing the statistical data from seven independent sources. The analysis might be intricate on our side, but for you, it’s pretty simple because we “boiled it down” to a single number – overall quality rating.
Work with us
If you do decide to explore the benefits, we encourage you to share your experience with us.
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The contribution can come in a range of forms, whether it’s an experience with a specific product or general.
You can share directly on this page (comment section below) or by contacting us via email here. We respond to all correspondence within a day.
Don’t be a stranger,
The Sleep Studies team