Friday, May 30, 2014

DIY Therapy Trampoline

I would first like to state that this is completely a DIY project and that you alone are responsible for the outcome of your own device and whatever means you used to create it with.  I am by no means a professional nor am I an expert at creating devices or toys.  I am just a mom with a special needs son who is looking for cheaper ways to help him with his hypotonia and hopefully provide him some happiness in this world.  From the below video you will see that there is one little guy who is beyond happy with his new toy.   

NOAH'S DIY Therapy Toy

Noah is currently 2.5 years old, 28 pounds, and 38 inches long so these were the dimensions that worked best for his size.

Shopping List

I had a few of these items laying around the house so my total was a little less than $100.  This shopping list is an estimate going off the prices I was able to find at my local stores.  I did not shop around nor did I price compare so you could get some of these things for cheaper.  Most fabric stores offer coupons through local newspapers, online, or even phone apps.  I was able to get 50% off the price of the spandex material by using a coupon.  You might also want to ask your family or friends if they have a PVC cutter.  We borrowed our neighbors Cutter which saves us some cash as well.  

If your child is longer or heavier than Noah then you will need to adjust the length and height of your PVC frame to fit your child.  Which means you may need to buy a couple more pieces of PVC40 Pipe and maybe even another yard of performance fabric...aka Spandex.  

***Pictures of items will be shown below in my description

How I Put this Together

This was all trial and error for me.  More errors than not.  I made way too many cuts than I needed, I bought way too many items then I needed, and I do not know the first thing about sewing which made this especially hard for me personally but I was still able to do it with some help.  So I am going to skip all my errors and jump right into what worked and the easiest way to assemble this device.

The PVC Square Frame:

PVC cutters

Take your long PVC40 pipes (get the "40" grade since this is a furniture grade and much stronger than the normal PVC pipe) and using your cutting device and a tape measure (measure twice) cut 16 total (2 foot long pieces).  These pieces will make up the 4 top and 4 bottom horizontal sides to your square box frame.  You will be using two 2-foot pieces for each side on both top and bottom.  

Tee Fitting
Connect 2 of your 2-foot long pieces together with one of your Tee Fittings and repeat this step 8 total times until you have used all 16 of your 2-foot pipes along with all 8 of your Tee Fittings.

Elbow Fitting
You are now going to cut 8 total vertical (2-2'3" PVC40 Pipes-depending on how high you want your frame to be above ground-keeping in mind that the Tee/Elbow Fittings will add a couple inches)

Connect an Elbow Fitting to one end of each of your horizontal side pieces that you already have connected to the Tee Fittings.  You will end up with two squares with Elbow fittings on the corners and Tee Fittings in the center of each side. Each Square frame should measure approx. 4'4" roughly.

square frame
Now insert the vertical  PVC40 Pipe pieces you just cut into the center Tee Fittings and attach the bottom square frame to the top square frame.  (the picture shows my frame I had before I cut my vertical pieces so it is much higher in this picture than the finished product. You can do this too if you want to wait until the last step to cut down the height of your frame just be sure to cut the original vertical pieces longer to start with).

Performance Fabric Cover:

 I opted for a blue Spandex fabric that was labeled "Performance Fabric" at my local fabric store.  This fabric can come in many names but just ask a store clerk to show you where to find it.  You can find some online as well for cheaper but I wanted to feel the quality, stretch, and durability of the fabric before I bought it.  I chose blue because it was the cheapest they had.  It was originally priced at $16.99/yard which is pretty expensive but I had a 50% off coupon that I used.  This material stretches a ton and I honestly do not know how much you actually need to buy.  I originally bought only 2 yards but had to go back and buy 2 more yards because I found that I wanted to double up the material to make it more durable and stronger to hold my heavy son (again he weighs 28 pounds).  

I do not have pictures to show you the whole sewing part but I will try my hardest to explain what we did.  Yes I said WE because I can't sew I found out and had to get some major help from my sister in law.  I tried, I failed, I tried again, I failed again....then I called my sister in law to rescue me :) 

First we layered 2 yards of the fabric on top of another two yards.  If you bought it in one full 4 yard piece just fold it over in half.  

Sew ONE edge of the two pieces together so that the material does not slip and slide on you for the next step.

Next we layed the fabric on the floor and folded it over 3 inches and pinned the entire edge so that it made a 3 inch fold along the entire width of the doubled-up fabric.  We then sewed this fold keeping the ends open so that we could slide the PVC pipe through it.

Once we got the one edge sewn we unhooked only one horizontal top side of the PVC frame from the corner Elbow Fittings as well as from the Tee Fitting (you only have one tube of fabric at this point and it cannot run through the Tee Fitting until you finish this piece by cutting out a center part, but you dont want to do this yet until you see how tight you have to pull the fabric first).

Once you have the two PVC pipes through the fabric fold and attached back onto the Elbow Fittings at the corners you are going to have to have a second person grab the rest of the fabric that is laying on the ground and pull it over the opposite side of the PVC frame.  It looks tight at first but once the weight of your child is on the fabric you will notice how stretchy it is and will have to pull the fabric 10X more than you even thought possible.  We used bean bags that were roughly my sons weight to put on the fabric as we pulled it to the desired tightness.

Once we figured out how tight to pull the fabric we put pins in it so we knew how much of the extra fabric to cut off.  ( it was a this is why I said you might not need a full 4 yards of fabric-I'm so not an expert at this stuff).  

After we figured out that stuff above we then took the fabric completely off the frame and we put it on the floor again to smooth out the fabric so no wrinkles were in it anywhere.  We then drew a line where we pinned it and then measured an extended 6" off that line to allow extra fabric for the fold on that end.  Once we figured out that measurment we cut off the remaining fabric (again...leaving the extra 6" for the fold).  

Once that extra fabric was cut off we repeated the steps of sewing the two pieces of fabric together first, then folding it over 3" to make the fold along that whole edge, pinned it, and then sewed it.  At this point we have a double layer of spandex material that has two folded/sewn edges opposite of each other.  

Now you will do this above step again on only one of the other edges that has not bee touched yet.  You will sew the two layers together along the edge first.  Then you will make the 3" fold and pin it and then sew that together.  At this point you will notice that the corners should NOT be sewn up or else you will not be able to slide the PVC pipe through the fold.  So keep the corners unsewn for now but do a double sew "back sew" at the beginning and end of the sew line for extra support since you will be pulling this fabric a ton getting it back on the frame. (look at me...learning sewing terms:) )  

We then went back to the PVC frame and put this fabric back onto it.  This is where it gets tricky because you cant have the middle Tee Fitting attached at this point so the frame gets wobbly and feels like it is going to fall apart.  You might want to find a third person to help with this part (my niece came in handy here).  The material unstretched will look way too small for the frame.  But once it is stretched you will see that is fits just fine.  It might be hard to get on the first time though. 

With the three folded/sewn sides of the material attached onto the frame you can now see if you need to make any adjustments to the tightness of the material.  Just in case you were like me and didn't pull it tight enough the first time and have to redo one of the already sewn sides.  Once you feel just right and only have one side left to be sewn you can now cut a slit on ONLY the one side that is opposite of the unsewn side of the fabric.  You will cut this slit right along where the fabric lays over the Tee Fitting.  This way you can now attach that entire length of fabric onto that side and the slit in the fabric will now allow you to attach the Tee Fittings together.  DO NOT cut the other two side slits yet because you do not know yet how much you will have to pull the unfinished side at this point.  

So now you have one side of fabric completely attached to the frame with the Tee Fitting secured tightly, two joining sides kind of attached but with the Tee Fitting unattached so it is still wobbly on these two sides, and the final unfinished side of the fabric left hanging not attached to the frame at all.  

Go ahead and pull the final side as tight as you need it and pin it where you feel the fabric needs to be stretched to this should get you to the desired tightness of the fabric for the weight of your child.  

Now go ahead and take the whole fabric portion off the entire PVC frame, lay on the floor, add an additional 6" to the line you pinned and cut off the remaining fabric.  Once again sew the edges of the two pieces together first, then fold the 3" fold and pin it, and now sew the final fold. 

At this point we had our entire piece of double layered fabric sewn with all four sides having a 3" fold.  When laying on the ground unstretched the fabric measured ~53" from opposite edges (not corners) and formed a perfect square.  

Only one side had the cut slit in it and this was at the very center of that one side.  We made sure to not cut the slit all the way down to the thread so as to not cut through the hem.  We then made identical slits in the remaining three sides,  Right in the center and again not cutting through the sewn thread/hem.  

We did one last and final fitting to make sure the fabric fit our needs (it was as tight as we wanted/needed it to be). fit and it was tight and all the slits were in the center to allow the Tee Fitting to be attached correctly

Then we once again took off the entire fabric square and went over every single sewn hem a few more times to make absolutely sure the thread could not just snap and unravel.  Just as an extra safety precaution.  We then went over each corner a few more times to make sure those hems were secure.  Then we went over the slits a few more times to make sure those were extra secure.  Safety first!

Then we once again reattached the fabric back onto the frame and put my son on it to see if he liked it and to see if we got it tight enough.  I also wanted to check at this point to see if I needed to cut any more height off the vertical pipes (this is when I cut down the vertical pipes to shorten the height of our frame since my son wasn't as heavy as I thought and the fabric didn't droop down as much as I thought it would with him on it). 
The tightness looked good with him on it and we felt all the hems were sewn as tight as they could

As an added extra safety/cleanliness feature we decided it would be a good idea to add an additional layer of fabric that we could take on and off easily and throw in the wash.  Noah has little/big diaper leaks, spit ups/puke sessions...and the like,  so I wanted to make sure we had an extra layer or two for this reason.  I found some material I had at my house already.  Not sure what it is made of but it has a plastic side and a fabric side to it with a little stretch and can be machine washed.  

top cover
Ball Bungee
wrap around corner

We cut a piece of this other fabric to fit over the top and folded the corners down and sewed them to make loops at the edge of the four corners.  I then found some ball bungees (also called toggle bungees) at my house and looped these through the four corners and wrapped them around the corner posts of the frame. (I plan on making a second top cover and will be attaching those four corners around the center Tee Fittings just as another layer of puke protection).  Noah is a messy kid.  :)

PVC Glue
For our own personal purposes we decide we wanted to glue the pieces of the PCV pipe together for extra support and safety. However, we need to be able to move this tramp/toy to and from our home and his aunts house since she watches him every day while we work.  Also, this is a big toy that takes up a ton of room so we wanted to be able to take it down.  If we glued all of the pipes together then we were stuck with a massive frame in the center of our therapy room.  So we opted to glue the top and bottom squares and not the vertical posts.  This way we can collapse the frame and it will still fit in our van.  It is 4' 4" square so still pretty big so you can decide if you want to use glue or not.  I highly suggest gluing some of the frame since you will notice that all the bouncing can loosen the pipes a little.   

Another note to consider is that by us gluing the top and bottom square frames we are then unable to take off the darker blue spandex layer of this toy.  That is why I am creating multiple layers of top covers that I can easily take on and off for washing while I will then have to hand spot clean the spandex portion if it needs it.  

Once again I have to reiterate that this is a DIY project and that you alone will be taking on all responsibility for your own version and whatever comes of it.  You may be a sewing expert and have much better ides of attaching to the frame.  You may be an engineer and can build the frame with different materials or stronger connections.  This was just the cheapest and easiest way I found to create my son his own version.