Do you or a loved one struggle with restless hands and a need for tactile sensory input? If so, fidget blankets may be for you.
What are fidget blankets?
Fidget blankets are therapeutic lap-size quilts with various items sewn onto them for a person to play with, including buttons, beads, clips, gears, and plush toys. Some are designed to help develop or retain fine motor skills, and others just provide comfort and stress relief. The familiar objects on sensory quilts help users self-soothe and serve as a source of visual, tactile, and sensory stimulation. They often come in soothing pastel or cheerful bright colors and patterns, and may be themed around a particular interest, hobby, animal, etc. Fidget blankets are also known as fidget quilts, activity blankets, busy blankets, and sensory lap pads. Most fidget blankets are handmade by people running small home businesses.
Who can use a fidget blanket?
Fidget blankets are for almost anyone! They were originally developed for elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who need sensory input to cope with restlessness and confusion. But they’re also great for children and adults on the autism spectrum, those with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, developmental disabilities, stroke, brain injury, and anyone else who benefits from stimming — sensory stimulation. Stimming helps neurodivergent people cope with stressful situations and self-regulate when we struggle with loud noises, bright lights, and other sensory processing challenges. As an autistic adult, I like lots of different stim toys, but fidget blankets and other soft fidget items have become important tools in my sensory toolbox.
Who should not use a fidget blanket?
Busy blankets may not be appropriate for children under 3, kids and adults with pica, and individuals with cognitive disabilities who tend to rip and tear fabric. Although most makers of sensory activity mats sew the items on securely, if your loved one is able to rip the ribbons or fabric, small objects such as beads could become a choking hazard. We’ve included activity mats with a wide variety of attached items so you can find one that is safe for the person who needs it. We also recommend that you supervise their use of the fidget quilt until/unless you can be sure of their safety.
Do fidget blankets work?
Yes, studies show that the use of a fidget blanket helps reduce behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and agitation. They can have similar benefits for anyone who struggles with these symptoms, including autistic people and those with ADHD or mental illness. If you think you or your relative could benefit from an activity mat, give it a try!
What kinds of items should you sew on a fidget blanket?
Fidget quilts often feature buttons, ribbons, sequins, beads, pockets, small plush toys, and multiple fabric textures to provide lots of different sensations. Some people add scented items that promote relaxation using aromatherapy, especially lavender. My favorite sensory quilt has super soft minky fleece as the background and on the side that lays against your body. The flower stems are made with satin ribbon, and the petals of the flowers are made with cotton in various textures and colors. The center of each flower is a button. There are two strings of beads on ribbons to spin, and a small section of reversible sequins that change colors depending on which side is showing. All of these items are very satisfying to touch and fulfill my natural need to stim as a neurodivergent person.
If you’re making your own fidget blanket, you can sew anything and everything you want on it. If you’re buying a sensory mat or board for yourself or a loved one, consider their abilities and goals first. For example, if you have a child with cerebral palsy who is working on fine motor skills in occupational therapy, you might get them a busy board with switches, lights, buttons, and buckles to practice. But if you have an elderly parent with Parkinson’s disease or arthritis, items that require hand dexterity and strength may be painful and frustrating to use.
What are the benefits of fidget blankets compared to other fidget toys?
Fidget blankets offer several advantages over other kinds of sensory toys you or your family member may have tried. For starters, they’re quiet. Unlike spinners or cubes, most if not all of the items attached to them are silent when you play with them. So if you need to stim at work or school, sensory mats are a great option. They’re soft and comforting to hold, and if you really want something cuddly, try a fidget pillow! Although busy blankets aren’t as compact as other fidget toys or fidget jewelry, it’s easy to roll them up and carry them in a backpack or purse.
Fidget Blankets and Soft Sensory Toys From Small Businesses
Here at the Ability Toolbox, we always support buying from small businesses if you can. Since fidget blankets can help people with very diverse needs, buying from an artisan is often your best option, as many sellers offer custom blankets that can provide exactly what you or your loved one needs. If you don’t need customization, we know it can be frustrating to wait a long time to receive things you order online, so we’ve listed several designers who have sensory items in stock and ready to ship.
This post contains affiliate links, so if you make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Gorgeous Fidget Quilts
If I could only buy one fidget blanket on this list, I’d choose one made by Jennifer from Bear and Peeps. These quilts are stunning treasures anyone would want to own and use, and the price is amazing — frankly, she should be charging more. In-stock items ship quickly from the USA.
Fidget Quilt with Shirt
These fidget quilts feature a shirt with buttons to fasten and unfasten, plus lots of other activities. Even though they are handmade, they’re all ready to ship from the USA, so you won’t have to wait long to get a helpful tool for stimming and stress relief.
Fidget Blankets with Cute Animals
What makes these fidget blankets unique is the adorable plush animals and toys attached. They are handmade and all listed items are ready to ship from the USA.
Themed Sensory Lap Quilt
These sensory quilts are themed around various topics and activities. They’re perfect for an autistic person with a special interest or an elderly person with dementia to help bring back memories of a favorite job or hobby.
Weighted Lap Pad with Reversible Sequins
This unique stim pad also gives you the benefits of a weighted blanket. And if you have never played with reversible sequins before, you’re missing out! These lap pads are a great option for older children and adults who need something portable that doesn’t stand out when you use it at work or school. The US-based designer, Faith, has a son with cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorder, and she realized that other kids and adults like him could benefit from weighted items. All items are made to order and can be weighted or non-weighted.
Crochet Fidget Blanket
These unique sensory blankets are crocheted, and most of the fidget items on them are too. If you or your loved one prefers soft and fuzzy yarn, you’ll love these blankets.
Memory Care Sensory Mat
These sensory mats are geared toward Alzheimer’s / dementia patients and can help keep them grounded and calm using familiar objects. They ship quickly from the USA.
Fidget Pillows, Plush Toys, and Soft Cubes
Fidget Pillows for Seniors
These sweet pillows are styled for elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The seller offers free, fast shipping from the USA.
Reversible Sequin Stim Pillow Case
My favorite soft stim — reversible sequins! This pillow case can be customized with a photo of your choice, but it only takes 1 to 2 business days to print and ships from the USA, so this is a unique gift that will arrive quickly. You can buy just the case or the case and pillow insert.
Animal Fidget Pillow
These charming animal-themed fidget pillows are great for older kids, adults, and seniors to help with sensory needs.
Sensory Buckle Stuffed Animal
This adorable plush narwhal features several different buckles to fasten and unfasten. Kids with autism and other developmental disabilities will love it! Fast shipping from the USA.
This soft sensory cube has a big handle that makes it easy to hold, and lots of relaxing items to fiddle with on each side. The seller can customize items and is based in the UK, but ships internationally too.
Activity aprons are great for people who wander or who sit in wheelchairs, as they stay on the person and won’t fall on the floor.
Activity Apron for Seniors
This full-length apron with simple fidgets would make a great gift for someone with intellectual disabilities or dementia. Ships fast and free from the United States.
Half Apron with Muff
These beautiful lap aprons offer a garden of activities and textural delights. They also have an attached twiddle muff with a lined pocket for hands. Each one is a work of art, yet they’re affordable and ship quickly from the USA.
Fidget muffs are sleeves that can be worn on your arm so they’re easy to use and won’t fall on the floor out of reach. They make great hand-warmers too!
These beautifully-crafted sensory muffs are so warm and comfortable with lots of knitted accessories attached. They would make a great gift for teens or adults with ADHD or autism as they are school and work-appropriate. They’re also helpful in winter for those who can’t put on gloves due to arthritis or limited fine motor skills. These handmade treasures ship quickly from the USA.
This cozy twiddle muff has lots of beads and fuzzy balls to spin and twirl. The designer offers fast shipping from the USA.
These charming knitted sensory muffs and cuffs come in different lengths and in child and adult sizes. The store ships quickly from the USA.
Fidget Books and Busy Boards
Sensory Activity Book
These fabric books contain several pages of items for fidgeting. The seller is in the Ukraine, working despite the war, and could use your support so they can survive and continue sewing these beautiful books and quilts.
These therapeutic busy boards are made in Ukraine and feature lots of activities to help with fine motor skills.
These fidget boards feature lots of buttons, locks, and tools, and will appeal to kids (use with supervision) and seniors who once worked in construction or technical jobs. The seller is based in the USA and can customize boards or build one just for you.
Fidget Blankets From Amazon
Didn’t find what you needed from any of the small businesses listed above? Amazon also has some activity mats, aprons, and boards.
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