There is tremendous power in using wiggle seats, wobble cushions, or balance discs to help your child with attention, staying seated, their core strength, or balance. Learn why they work, how to use them, and the best wiggle seat options!
This post is sponsored by Fun and Function, all opinions are my own.
Have you heard of a wobble cushion? How about a wiggle seat or balance disc?
While they may sound like something awfully strange, surprisingly, they can be incredibly powerful if your child has a hard time sitting still, has poor balance, or weak core strength. They’re a common tool among us pediatric OT’s, but they’re so darn simple and affordable I think more parents ought to know about it too!
Before we dive into which kids could benefit from a wobble cushion and my top picks, I’d like to thank Fun and Function for sponsoring this post and sending us a sample wobble seat (that my kids seek out at every opportunity). Fun and Function is an awesome online store for all sorts of therapeutic tools for kids. I truly love this store because they understand kids and the special or unique needs they may have. You’ll find specific help at your fingertips when you want to find the perfect tool to help you child.
What is a Wobble Cushion or Wiggle Seat?
Wobble cushions, wiggle seats, fidget seat, and balance discs are the same thing. No matter what you call it, it’s referring to an inflated disk, often covered in a bumpy texture. This disc can be sat on to:
- Help with poor attention
- Improve core strength and postural control (which is super important for tons of developmental tasks from chewing food to handwriting)
- Increase length of time able to tolerate sitting
- Develop a better sense of balance
That’s pretty awesome, right? A wobble cushion can support any or all of the above.
Who Should Use a Wobble Cushion or Wiggle Seat?
Wiggle seats have long been used with kids that have known sensory issues or difficulties, which often includes kids with Autism, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). As all of those groups may have difficulty sitting still, attention challenges, low core strength, and difficulty balancing.
But, these are common problems for many kids, not just those with diagnoses. And, the wobble cushion is very low profile, small, and at the end of the day – fun!
Lots of kids could benefit from sitting on a wiggle seat, really any child trying to improve any of the difficulties we’ve already talked about.
Why wiggle seats work…
What makes wiggle seats so special? Well, they aren’t a stable surface like a normal chair, but they aren’t too unstable that a child could fall off or lose their balance, the way some kids might if they sat on a yoga ball, for instance.
Wobble cushions give just enough wobble and wiggle to keep kids moving without being distracting to other’s around them. That movement actually gives vestibular input, as well as proprioceptive input.
Both of which can be very calming and meet sensory seekers needs.
As a core building activity, the constant wiggling that the wobble cushion demands engages the muscles of the stomach and back nearly constantly, which is why they’re great for core strength. In a similar way, kids with poor balance can actually improve their sense of balance with practice. While walking across a balance beam may be too hard for them, they can address their balance in smaller more successful steps by regularly sitting on a wiggle seat.
How to use a Wiggle Seat
Using a wiggle seat is simple. All you need to do is sit it under your child, either on the floor or their chair.
One thing you want to watch out for is to NEVER force a child to sit on it. There are a whole lot of reasons a child may not want to, including that it’s uncomfortable for them or makes them feel unsteady (possibly because of poor balance and/or core strength). Although the majority of kids like and prefer them.
And most of the time, kids respond better to sitting on it for 20-40 minute increments, the change of pace can be refreshing. However, some kids love it so much and prefer to sit on it often throughout the day.
Many wiggle seats are also durable enough to stand on, which is a great sensory activity, but it also makes for a more challenging balancing and core strength exercise!
The Best Times to Use a Wiggle Seat
You can basically use a wobble cushion anytime your child is sitting, but there are some times during the day that it may be particularly helpul:
- During meals while seated at the table
- At their desk or table at school (check out other sensory strategies for the classroom)
- Story time at the library (super easy to carry with you if your child is always getting up and leaving the room before they’re on the 4th page of the book)
- Completing homework
- Working on arts and crafts projects
- In the car (for older kids no longer requiring a booster seat)
- Playing board games
- Building puzzles
- Anytime, simply for sensory stimulation or as part of your child’s sensory diet (Remember in this case it can be used to stand on too!)
*One more precaution, never place the wobble cushion inside of a car seat or high chair. It will put the child out of alignment for the products specifications and be unsafe.
Picking A Wiggle Seat for Your Child (The Options!)
Affiliate links used below. See our full disclosure.
Most wobble cushions, wiggle seats, and balance discs offer the same disc shape with air, or in some cases gel inside, to give the body a chance to move around while seated. Depending on your child’s preferences and exactly what your main goal is with this simple seat, you’ll want to consider the best option for your child:
1. The Spiky Wiggle Seat – This is probably the most widely used and what we’ve been using in our home for the last month. My older two sons, ages 8 and 6, often are negotiating (that’s putting it nicely) who gets to have it for which meal. My older son has no major sensory issues, but loves sitting on it. He doesn’t have the best core strength though, so it’s a good thing.
My 6 year old, Isaac, definitely has sensory needs. He loves rough and tumble big movements that give him loads of proprioceptive and vestibular input. Recently, I gave one to his classroom as a gift for his “half birthday”, since he was born in the middle of the summer, and his incredible teacher went out and got two more for her kindergarten classroom. The kids responded to it that well!
What’s funny is, when we got ours, Isaac’s eyes were lit up with so much anticipation as I unpacked the box, he looked like he might burst. All because he could tell just by looking at it that his body was going to L-O-V-E it!
2. The Bumpy Wiggle Cushion – Quite similar to the wiggle seat above, this cushion has much smaller, barely detectable bumps on it. This cushion holds up to 150-lbs and can even be stood on!
3. Wobble Cushion with Gel – Offering a totally smooth surface and a different feeling when sat upon, your child may prefer the “squish-ier” texture of this seat filled with gel instead of air. A version for teens is available too.
4. Wedge Wiggle Cushion – Different than the classic seat, this seat is shaped like a wedge. It’s designed this way for optimal core strengthening, if that is your primary goal, you may want to consider this option.
5. Two Sided Wiggle Seat – Not sure which type of cushion your child will like best, this one has the best of both worlds. One side has textured, rounded spikes and the other has smooth bumps.
All of the above cushions and seat can be found on Fun and Function! Go check them out here.
Now you know what a wiggle seat or wobble cushion is and how to use it! How could it benefit your child the most… during dinner, while playing a game of Go Fish with the family, or maybe when they’re doing homework? Let us know in the comments.
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Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.