The Best Weighted Blankets for Kids (and How to Know If You Should Try One)
Your sister-in-law swears it helped her toddler stop sneaking into her bed every morning. Your neighbor got one for each of her three kids, and they sleep like rocks. The parenting world is buzzing about weighted blankets and how they can help with an impressive list of issues, mostly sleep-related. But is this trend worth trying? (Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep does sound nice.) Read on to find out what weighted blankets do and how they work, then check out our top picks for the blankets best suited for your young one.
What Are Weighted Blankets Exactly?Think of a weighted blanket as a genius hybrid of a swaddle and down comforter. Small pellets (typically made of plastic or glass) are sewn into the filling, giving the blanket its heft. They usually pack five to 15 pounds of weight, giving the user the feeling of a comforting embrace. The idea is this: You don’t hug a weighted blanket, it hugs you.
Why Are Weighted Blankets Helpful for Some Children?
Weighted blankets are the at-home treatment du jour for a whole host of pediatric problems, ranging from insomnia and ADHD to autism, anxiety and sleep disorders. Parents also cite their effectiveness for everyday woes like temper tantrums (ooh, we do need one).
OK, I Want One. Which Is the Best Weighted Blanket to Buy?
Here are a few of our favorite weighted blankets, all road-tested by real moms.
1. THERAPEDIC BACK/LAP MAT BLANKET (4 TO 6 LBS.)
This is a great choice for toddlers and younger children because it’s not a full-size blanket but still big enough for your tot’s tiny frame. The smaller dimensions ensure safety and provide a deep-pressure experience that won’t make your kid feel claustrophobic. (One mom told us that when used as a lap blanket, it keeps her second-grader in his seat at homework time.)
2. THERAPEDIC 6 LB. KIDS’ WEIGHTED BLANKET WITH PLUSH TOY
Reviewers rave that this six-pound weighted blanket has transformed their kids’ sleep, and thanks to its generous size, it’s great for grown-ups too. The blanket comes with a snuggly plush toy that’s soft, sweet and also weighted—a great gift set for bigger kids.
3. HAZLI SUPER SOFT 5 LB. CALMING WEIGHTED BLANKET WITH REMOVABLE COVER
This PTPA (Parent Tested, Parent Approved) award winner features a super-soft textured cover. Again, we don’t believe in magic, but many moms swear they have seen high-drama hostage situations (“Give me candy or I swear I will smash your iPhone!”) turn into hug-fests after this blanket was draped around their kids’ shoulders.
4. Maxtid 3 lb. Weighted Blanket for Toddlers
If your child is still a toddler, or was very recently, this blankie is your best bet. Most weighted blankets on the market pack a punch with at least four pounds of filling, but this three-pounder brings home the award for Most Likely to Win Over Your Threenager.
5. Sivio Printed Weighted Blanket for Kids
Don’t be put off by the price tag; this bargain blanket is well made, durable and super comfy. Best of all, its heft comes in a small package, with dimensions that are perfect for safe sleeping. (The cute prints don’t hurt either!)
What’s the Exact Science Behind Weighted Blankets?We checked in with child psychologist Bethany Cook, Psy.D., author of For What It’s Worth—A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting: Ages 0-2. She explained that weighted blankets provide “a whole-body, deep-pressure experience, [which] has been shown to release two neurotransmitters that help make people feel relaxed: serotonin and dopamine.” That said, there is also a psychological element: “Blankets of any type can make us feel ‘secure.’ Adding weight to it does change that experience, sometimes for the better.” Basically, it’s like a blankie with the weight and security of a parent—a desirable combo for many anxious kids.
But Do They Actually Work?
When leading brand Gravity Blanket was tested on adults suffering from “suboptimal sleep,” 72 percent of the participants in the 2019 sleep study reported “deeper, more restful sleep,” and 76 percent of the participants said it helped them fall asleep faster. The company purports that the simulated embrace their product provides leads to higher levels of melatonin (a natural sleep aid) and lower levels of cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) in the body.
The folks at DreamCloud (makers of mattresses, pillows and more) claim that their weighted blankets can help with autism-related sleep problems, citing a study that specifically tested the benefit of weighted blankets on children with a confirmed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The researchers, however, found no objective basis for these claims, as the results showed no improvement in sleep among the 76 children involved. The scientists in this study did also measure subjective preferences: They concluded that parents and children alike preferred the weighted blankets, adding that the blankets were “well tolerated” across the board. OK, not a total win, but intriguing.
Cook confirmed that she has “known both clients and acquaintances who suffer from anxiety or sleep issues, or identify on the autism spectrum, to have benefited from these weighted blankets.” Great. But she’s also quick to add that her review of the research showed mixed results, so she recommends that parents consult with a therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist or physician rather than self-diagnose.
But for some kids, Cook thinks they could do the trick. “In the world of ‘cures,’ there will never be a ‘fix-it-for-everyone’ pill, or in this case, blanket,” says Cook, adding that she has seen “varied results” from families she has worked with personally. That said, “if the options [are] medication or a weighted blanket...going with the blanket is a no-brainer.” Bottom line: It might work, and if you think it could be an option for your kid, it can’t hurt to try.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe?
Generally, yes, but always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure the product is designed for children and corresponds to the height and weight of your child (adult blankets are too heavy for kids). Most manufacturers recommend that a weighted blanket be no heavier than 10 to 12 percent of your child’s body weight.
Consult a professional before using a weighted blanket if your child has experienced any form of trauma. “Children who have suffered trauma often benefit from extra caution when trying new things,” Cook tells us. In this case, a weighted blanket should be introduced with the support of a doctor.
You should also consult a physician before using a weighted blanket for a child who suffers from asthma or other respiratory issues. In general, don’t leave a child unsupervised with a weighted blanket if he is physically too weak to get out from under it.
Cook also recommends that you test your kid’s response to the new sensory experience by first snuggling under it together for story time or a post-tantrum calm-down before tucking in with it for nighttime sleep. If she’s claustrophobic or overwhelmed, listen to her cues and try again another day.