Weighted Blankets & Kids: When Are They Safe to Use?
41% of respondents in a survey by The Sleep Doctor said they had used a weighted blanket in the last year. 75% of those people said they’d recommend it to friends and family. Given their popularity with adults, it’s natural to wonder whether children can benefit from weighted blankets, too.
We’re here to talk through everything you need to know about weighted blankets for kids, so you can make a more educated decision on whether to buy one for your child. But first, let’s get the basics out of the way.
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are regular-sized blankets that are designed to be heavier than usual. They’re typically filled with small plastic or glass beads, and can weigh 2-15kg. This weight is intended to give them therapeutic qualities, providing a calming feeling thanks to the ‘deep pressure therapy’ effect.
Various studies seem to indicate that weighted blankets are effective at lowering anxiety, and they have a range of other reported benefits including tackling insomnia, relieving stress and providing sensory relief to autistic people.
Can children use weighted blankets?
The short answer is yes, children can use weighted blankets as long as they’re past a certain age. But the guidance is very clear that weighted blankets must not be used with babies or toddlers. Since they can weigh up to 15kg, they pose a serious risk to infants that can’t be ignored.
So, the full answer is that, as long as your child is no longer a toddler (which the NHS defines as being 4+ years old), you can use your own discretion to decide whether they can use a weighted blanket.
The NHS has some further guidance on weighted blankets that can help you make that decision. Most importantly, they state that the maximum blanket weight should not exceed 10% of your child’s body weight.
Here’s a handy table to illustrate what that looks like in practice:
Maximum Blanket Weight
Are weighted blankets safe for children?
So children can use weighted blankets as long as they’re no longer toddlers, but how safe are they? To be able to answer this question, we first need to look at what potential risks weighted blankets pose. They include:
- Risk of suffocation from a blanket that’s too heavy
- Risk of decreasing your child’s circulation or affecting their heart rate
- Risk of discomfort when using a weighted blanket for too long
In all of these cases, sticking to the 10% rule mentioned above is a good way of mitigating the risk. As long as the blanket you choose for your child isn’t more than 10% of their bodyweight, they should be protected against all of the main risks.
It’s worth reiterating here that the 10% rule is not applicable to babies and toddlers. The guidance is clear that children under the age of 4 should in no circumstances use weighted blankets.
There are also some categories of people that shouldn’t use weighted blankets, no matter what age they are, including people who have:
- A history of breathing problems, heart problems, epilepsy, asthma, skin problems, poor circulation, or compromised posture
- Physical or cognitive disorders that mean they can’t independently remove the weighted blanket from themselves
- Lifting precautions
- A history of trauma
How to safely allow a child to use a weighted blanket
Following the 10% rule will help you to minimize all of the main risks, but there are extra precautions you can take to make it even safer for a child to use a weighted blanket.
The NHS recommends the following:
- Your child must be supervised while under the blanket.
- Your child must be able to remove the blanket or get free from the blanket themselves
- The blanket must not be used for longer than 20 minutes
- The blanket must not be used overnight
- Your child’s head and neck must not be covered
- Your child must not be rolled in the blanket; it should be placed loosely over them
- The blanket should fit your child’s size; it must not drape over the sides of the bed
- The blanket must never be used to restrain your child
Abiding by these guidelines will mean you’re maximizing how safely your child can use a weighted blanket, meaning they can get the benefits without the risks.
You can go a step further by taking the following precautions:
- Monitor the blanket for wear and tear, and stop using it if it becomes damaged
- Consult your child’s doctor before buying a weighted blanket
How to introduce a weighted blanket to your child’s routine
Some children will be excited to use a weighted blanket from day one, in which case this won’t be an issue. Others, however, might be less interested at first. But introducing a weighted blanket in the right way can help them overcome their reservations.
Here are some general tips to follow when you’re introducing a weighted blanket to your child’s routine:
- If they reject the blanket at first, leave it till another time and try it out again
- Instead of placing the blanket over their full body, try putting it on their legs first
- Use the blanket for a short amount of time at first, and gradually work towards 20 minutes
Common sense prevails here. Just make sure that you’re not pushing your child into something they don’t want to do. A weighted blanket can offer benefits, but it’s not the right choice for every child.
If you are looking to buy one, browse through our range of weighted blankets. They’re suitable for both kids and adults, come in multiple colours, and are machine-washable!
At what age can children use weighted blankets?
The NHS recommends that children above toddler age (4+) can use weighted blankets, while those under the age of four should not. However, it also depends on how much your child weighs. Use the weight chart above to see if a weighted blanket would be suitable for them and, if so, how heavy it should be.
Can my autistic child use a weighted blanket?
Yes, provided that your child is above toddler age and has no medical conditions that would make using a weighted blanket a risk, they’re fine to use one. While research hasn’t conclusively shown that weighted blankets can help autistic people with sleeping problems, one study found that both autistic children and their parents preferred them to regular blankets.
Can children use weighted blankets overnight?
Weighted blankets are not designed to be used overnight, even by adults, so they definitely shouldn’t be used overnight by children. General guidance is that they should only be used in 20-minute increments.
What should I do if my child rejects a weighted blanket?
If your child doesn’t seem interested in a weighted blanket, or actively rejects one, you can always try again after a few days have passed. If they continue to reject the blanket after several tries, don’t try to force it on them.