With Back-to-School, that means many of us are looking for new ways to help our kids deal with challenges brought on by anxiety, ADHD, autism, sensory issues and more. In our family, we have one child with a severe form of social anxiety called selective mutism and another child with ADHD. As we've been working with professionals over the last year to help each of them, I've been struck by how many strategies can help both of them.
First of all, though, a few disclaimers. Please don't take anything I say as medical advice. If your child is struggling with any of these issues, please make sure you're working with a professional(s) and check with them before starting new therapies. Fairfield World providing me with Poly-Pellets and compensated me for writing this post, but all ideas and opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links that help support my blog and keep bringing you new ideas.
My 7-year-old struggles a lot with social anxiety at school. Last year, there were quite a few days when she insisted on wearing her winter jacket through her whole school day. It would get hot and the sleeves were bulky and could get in the way, but it helped her feel safe. I wanted to find a way to help her get the same feeling without all the bulk. I've been considering trying weighted vests for my kiddos for a while, and this month when Fairfield asked us to use their weighted Poly-Pellets in a challenge project, I decided it was time to make them a reality...and they're surprisingly easy to make.
The thinking/research behind weighted vests (or blankets, or scarves, etc) for anxiety is that the human body interprets weight or pressure on our bodies as calming. The thinking behind weighted vests for kids with ADHD is that the weight/pressure helps fill some of their sensory needs leaving them more able to concentrate.
I knew the real key to giving these a try was buy-in from the kids. They had to be excited about it. For Rebecca...that meant it had to be orange (her favorite color) and brand new. For anyone who hasn't checked...orange is not a super popular color for clothes and I was about to give up when I found these Super Light-Weight Makino Vests on Amazon. Lucky for me, they came in several bright color combinations, so I let the kids choose. I was a bit worried they'd be too light, but I took a risk and ordered 4. (Yes, four...two for my struggling kiddos, one for my youngest because he wanted to match his big-brother, and one for my niece who also struggles with ADHD.)
They were perfect for what I wanted. They aren't kidding when they say they're super light weight (you can see through them a bit), but my boys happily wore them outside all afternoon on a hot day without getting overheated. (They called them their "uniforms." I think they were playing some superhero-ish game...or fighting pokemon...or whatever boy games they play out in the wilds.)
Anyway, if you want to make your own, they're pretty easy.
Skill Level: Beginner
Time Involved: About an hour
Materials and Supplies:
- 1 Vest to convert. We used Makino Kid's Super Lightweight Vest. You could also use one you already own, or check your thrift store. Look for a pattern where stitching lines won't be too obvious.
- 1 bag Poly-Pellets Stuffing Beads
- Shield Liner Fabric Craft Pack (or other washable non-fray fabric would work)
- 1/4 yard Cuddle 3 or knit fabric for making the weights. (I liked the cuddle because it automatically provided some padding. I used Cuddle 3 in Gold and Tiger Cuddle in Gold/Black.
- Coordinating thread.
- Sewing Machine and related supplies
- Extra sewing machine needle on hand
Exactly how you'll work with your vest will depend on it's features. I wanted the weights to be as out of the way as possible, so I didn't want to use the regular hand pockets, but I was able to use the "secret pockets" made by them on the inside of the jacket.
I wanted to take advantage of the diagonal seam going across the back.
Cut a piece of Shield Liner Fabric that's a couple inches larger than the area you're planning to use. I chose Shield Linder because it's light weight, has almost no stretch, and doesn't fray. Fold the top edge over 1/2 inch and stitch . I attached it with the shiny side out...but it can go on either way. Pin carefully at the side seams along the diagonal seam.
Turn over and stitch the Shield Liner to the inside of the jacket stitching from the OUTSIDE of the jacket and stitching "in-the-ditch" or on top of the top-stitching as much as possible.
It should end up looking like this.
Trim carefully leaving about 1/4 inch seam allowance and being careful not to cut your vest.
Use a light colored pen or pencil to mark lines for your weights. I made my slots approximately 3 inches wide and had room for 5 of them.
Stitch vertical lines along your markings, being sure to back-stitch at the top.
Fold your strips in half the long way, and stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.
Turn right side out.
Stitch the end closed. (Cuddle fabric doesn't fray, so you don't need to worry about the raw edges.)
Fill with poly-pellets, using the length of your pockets as a guide for how much to fill.
You may find it helpful to use a chopstick or something similar to keep the beads from getting in the way of your sewing machine needle.
For our vests we needed a total of 8 weight pouches. 5 for the back, 2 larger ones for the inside pockets, and one small one for the upper front pocket.
The way our vests were made, the regular hand pockets made some extra "hidden" pockets inside if we stitched a few inches closed at the bottom.
And with that, you're ready to put it on your child. The end result is slightly lumpy, but really not all that noticeable and I'm guessing most people won't even notice the vest is "different."
We've had a promising start with them so far. Both kids love them and Rebecca chose to wear hers on a recent outing over to the school to meet and get to know her teacher. School starts next week. Wish us luck!!