Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making Weighted Stuffed Animals

As I mentioned in my recent update, one of the adaptations to our daily activities that we've made since starting OT with Lisa has been adding "heavy work" into Daniel's routine. This includes carrying around heavy things to help regulate his nervous system. We purchased a medicine ball which he plays with a lot, and another suggestion from Lisa was to have a couple of weighted stuffed animals for him to play with.

Since I love to make things myself, I decided to adapt a couple of the stuffed animals that Daniel already had to serve this heavy purpose for him. This is a very fast and simple project! It took me about 20 minutes to turn his stuffed dog which weighed a mere 5 ounces into a hefty 2 pounds 4 ounces. He looks about the same (though a bit rounder, perhaps) but now, in addition to being soft and cuddly, this little guy can do a great deal to help Daniel calm down when he's feeling dysregulated.

Here's a quick tutorial for how to make your own weighted stuffed animal:

  • Stuffed animal
  • Heavy material to weight the animal, such as poly pellets, small (clean) rocks, or flax or beans (if you're not concerned about rot or animals, and if you're not planning on washing your stuffed animal)
  • A small amount of scrap material, large enough to contain the weighty material 
  • Needle and thread
  • Sewing machine or serger (optional)
  • A small amount of polyfil or other plush stuffing material (optional)

Here's How
  1. Use a seam ripper to open up one of the less prominent seams in your stuffed animal. I chose one of the seams on the puppy's bottom. You don't have to open up a large amount, as the bean bag you'll make will slide in through a small opening, provided you don't overfill it. I opened about 1½ inches on this seam. (I decided to also remove the tag attached to the animal during this step.)
  2. Make a small beanbag out of your scrap of fabric. It doesn't need to be pretty, or even have the seams on the inside, if you don't want. I chose to use part of the sleeve of an old stretchy knit shirt. I wanted the filler material to be able to move freely inside the fabric, so I cut it longer than I knew it needed to be. I used some small polished rocks from a craft store for the inside of the beanbag. I wanted to be able to wash the animal, and this was the least expensive option I found (considering price per ounce).
    Using a sleeve meant I only had to sew two seams: one for the bottom end, before filling, and one for the top, after. I serged the bottom one, then sewed the top one with my sewing machine. (I want to tell you I did this to show how you can do it both ways, but the reality is that my overlocker thread broke and I didn't bother to re-thread the machine for one seam.)
  3. Gently stuff the beanbag into the animal. Once you get a small amount of the bag in there, begin to push some of the the filling in through the hole into the part of the bag that's inside the animal. (This is how you can insert such a large beanbag without making a very large opening.)
    (Sorry, dude.)
  4. (Optionally) Add a bit of plush stuffing material to pad the area between the beanbag and the outer fabric of the animal. I added just a couple tiny handfuls to the back of the puppy so that the rocks weren't right on the surface.
  5. Sew up the opening by hand with animal-colored thread. (I used a whip stitch.) I sewed up the puppy very quickly (carelessly, even) and yet the furry nature of the fabric caused the seam to be nearly undetectable. Tip: After you knot off the thread, pass the needle under your seam and up through the fabric in a different area of the animal, then clip. This hides the end of the thread inside the animal, instead of having it stick out.
That's it! Now you have a lovely weighted stuffed animal for your kiddo to play with. Daniel loves his puppy already, and has been carrying it around the house often as part of his heavy play. I will be doing this to at least one other stuffed animal, to further fill out our collection of weighted toys for Daniel's sensory needs.
Daniel carries the puppy around the house.
Puppy tagged along on our recent trip, too.


  1. What a great idea! Thanks for the tutorial.

  2. Hi Amy, I love this idea! Im going to definitely do it!

    What is the reasoning / idea behind weighted objects being more soothing to your son? How does it help his nervous system? I'd be very interested to know :)


  3. @Christine: It's to do with providing a lot of proprioceptive input, to help him assimilate stimulation from his other senses (vestibular, in particular). Here's more information about heavy work to aide sensory processing:

  4. Great, thanks for the link Amy! Im going to check it out :)

  5. Oh awesome!!!! learn what the heck a whip stitch is. Hee hee!

  6. This is wonderful!! I'm not the most crafty person, but I can handle this! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing.

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