Using A Pool Noodle for Adaptive Seating

I’m always on the hunt for inexpensive, yet highly effective and low tech means to help kids in my practice gain as much independence and level of function as possible.

When surfing Pinterest (one of my favorite things to do in my spare time), I saw that people had many uses for pool noodles, including fidgets, runners for a marble maze,etc. I also came across a post where somebody tried using PVC piping on the sides of her child’s high chair, to improve her posture to complete seated tasks. Seeing those ideas, I quickly ordered a set of pool noodles and got to work (literally) the next day, excited to try out my slowly-forming plan.

I have a few kids on my caseload who present with features of hypotonia. Thus, their ability to sit st their desk is limited (and you could basically forget the rug- no back support? Pretty impossible.) Its with these kids who I tested this seating plan out.

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Steps to Design Your Own Pool-Noodle Chair:

1. Measure the chair’s back-to-seat height. Cut two equal pieces.

2. Measure the width of the seat where it meets the back of the chair. Cut the noodle to fit.

3. With the remaining pieces, do the following:
A. Cut two small and equal pieces that will act as bolsters at the top of the strips going lengthwise down the back of the chair. These bolsters will push the strips forwards and improve positioning, if needed.
B. Fill in the gap between the strips going length-wise with remaining pool noodle pieces, for added support and security.

4. For appropriate placement and positioning, have the child sit on the chair. You will want to place the strips on the back of the chair at the point of their scapulae/shoulder blades. This in and of itself should decrease a slouched posture.

5. If the child’s feet do not reach the floor, take the strip of noodle that you measured lengthwise across the seat. Placement should push the hips forwards slightly (allowing for pelvic flexion), with increased spinal extension (this is called an anterior pelvic tilt posture, and is what we are aiming for.) If this support is not enough, and the child’s legs still do not reach the floor, utilize a stool, heavy box, etc under their feet to improve overall positioning and support.

6. We used painters tape to secure the pieces together, since in the setting where I practice, I was unable to utilize a more permanent adhesive (which I would definitely recommend!)

7.The use of the chair for the student provided was not only for desk-work, but also teacher instruction. To make the seating fun, we had a great time designing and decorating it with stickers that the child chose. Additionally, I recommended to the teachers that a few other children be allowed to sit in chairs in order to minimize feelings of self-consciousness.

Note: This was conducted on a classroom chair, but could be easily adapted to a variety of seating options in different settings.

7 thoughts on “Using A Pool Noodle for Adaptive Seating

  1. This looks lovely. It would be super to tweak this design using the principles of Dynamic Core for Kids. Adjust the pool noodles to ensure a neutral pelvis and a neutral rib cage and ensure that the two are in relationship to each other. As when we adapt postural seating inserts to these principles, it supports activation of the respiratory diaphragm/pelvic floor and therefore, contributes to improved central stability.

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  2. VERY INNOVATIVE IDEA! Thanks for the detailed steps. I am off to the sports store today. One question; it looks fun to make with the children.Did the children who made their own chairs, feel proud or feel “different” when they used them in the classroom?Do you have a picture of a finished chair? Thanks.

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    1. Great question! The kids were an integral part of the process, from helping with cutting, to the measurement piece, and the decorations. I had them work with peers whom they chose, and these kids often asked: “Why can’t WE have a chair like this?!” Again, having other kids in the room sitting on chairs, and utilizing a range of other sensory and/or adaptive equipment normalized the chairs, especially as we have had whole-class conversations around the use of sensory and adaptive tools, and their connection to UDL:) I hope this helps!

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