Tales From a Backyard Front: Experiences & Insights from Colorado’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities System
DIY Ceiling Gym!
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Guest Blog by Jo Booms
Looking for a fun, inexpensive way for someone with IDD or a child with a physical disability to work on motor skills? This versatile DIY ceiling gym takes up no floor space and features a hanging ball net into which soft sensory balls or soft toys can be placed. The beauty of this ceiling gym is that you can customize the ball net’s location and height so that anyone can work on reaching for, hitting, or kicking the ball/toy with whatever part of their body they’re able to use, whether they’re lying on a raised surface or sitting/standing on the floor nearby.
A string tram line is positioned perpendicular to the ceiling. A tether hangs from a shuttle on the tram line. At the bottom of the tether is a height-adjustment pulley made from a push cord stopper and a carabiner. A ball net hangs from the carabiner. A soft therapy ball or soft toy can be placed into the ball net. You can switch balls/toys by taking the ball net off the carabiner and substituting the desired ball/toy. Pulling the tether side to side allows you to move the shuttle to any point on the tram line. Since the ball net can be positioned as high or low as you want, and since it’s on a tram, it can be used by someone on the floor or by someone on a raised area such as a bed or therapy table; all you have to do is position the tram line so it runs above both.
You will need:
- Tape measure
- Lighter or matches
- Anchors: 2 strong hooks that can each be anchored into a wall stud, ceiling stud, woodwork, or wood shelving that’s firmly attached to the wall.
- Tram line: Braided mason twine from your hardware store. You can leave the tram line up or take it down after use. If you’re going to leave it up, choose a twine color you can live with!
- Shuttle: 1 empty thread spool.
- Tether: Braided mason twine or rubber Spaghetti String™ (Spaghetti String™ also acts as a shock absorber and is entertaining because it makes the ball bouncy when hit).
- Pulley: 1 push cord stopper from your craft store.
- 1 carabiner
- Ball net: 1 ball net (the kind meant to hold a single ball) from Walmart or Target.
- Ball/toy: Any soft therapy ball or soft toy that the person would like to hit, kick, or reach for and which fits into the ball net.
- Choose a location for the tram line. It needs to run directly above where you want people to be able to use the hanging ball/toy. Make sure to position it so the ball/toy won’t hit anything breakable when it swings.
- Secure one hook at each end of where you want the tram line. Anchor hooks MUST be secured into a wall stud, ceiling stud, woodwork, or wooden shelving that’s firmly attached to the wall; anchor hooks will pull out of plaster or drywall.
- Measure the distance from one anchor hook to the other. Cut a length of braided mason twine 8 inches longer than the distance between the hooks. Using a lighter or a match, slightly melt each end over flame to prevent unravelling. NOTE: If sensitive to inhaled chemicals, do all end-melting outside.
- Tie off a small loop at one end of the tram line and slip it over one hook.
- Measure from the ceiling to the floor in inches.
- Measure the length of the ball net in inches.
- Subtract the length of the ball net from the distance from ceiling to floor, then add three inches. This is how long the tether needs to be. Measure out and cut the tether. Melt ends to prevent unravelling if using braided mason twine.
- Tie one end of the tether securely around the shuttle.
- Thread the shuttle onto the other end of the tram line
- Pull the tram line taut and tie it to the second hook.
- Thread the lower end of the tether down through the push cord stopper.
- Thread the lower end of the tether down through the carabiner and back up through the push cord stopper to form the pulley. Knot the tether end so it won’t slip back through the push cord stopper.
- Fasten at the desired height by pushing in on the push cord stopper, then raising it or lowering it.
- Place the desired soft ball or soft toy into the ball net.
- Attach the ball net to the carabiner.
Before using, remove all breakables from the area. Always supervise during ceiling gym use.