To make a tabletop mobile you will need the following supplies:
- Three pieces of birch wood – size can vary, but item shown below is 22x11x1.
- Four “L” brackets – length 5 inches
- 1/8” elastic – minimal width, use larger widths for children that have increased strength
- plastic tubing – large enough to cover elastic
- loop turner – available at JoAnn Fabric – for pulling elastic through tubing
- drill – to put holes in items to be placed on boards and to drill top of mobile
- Items to be attached to board
- dowel rods – minimum 1/4” diameter – cut slots in dowels for elastic to rest in
- sander or sandpaper
Cut wood to appropriate length and sand. Drill holes in top board. Approximately 24 holes 3/8” in diameter. With a router, cut two slits in back board – so the mobile can be secured to a table top or wheelchair tray with a strap. Drill pilot holes for “L” bracket – position on the right and left sides of the mobile, top and bottom. Assemble mobile using wood glue and wood nails.
Allow mobile to dry thoroughly. Apply a few coats of polyurethane to the mobile.
Attach elastic to the end of the item(s) to be attached. Make sure that the length of elastic allows for the item to be brought up to a child’s mouth from its original location. Cut a piece of tubing and using the loop turner, thread the elastic through the tubing.
Once the elastic is covered its entire length, tie the other end of the elastic to a piece of dowel rod that is approximately 1 ½ inches in length. To attach the items to the mobile, slide the dowel rod through the hole and allow the dowel to lie flat on top of the wood. To remove, turn the dowel perpendicular to the mobile and slide the dowel through the hole.
Caution must be used to determine appropriate items to be attached to the mobile. Do not use any items that pose a choking hazard, that are easily broken, or that have sharp edges. The builder is responsible for the safety of the child using the equipment.
The items placed on a tabletop mobile are determined by the developmental level of the child or children to play with the board. Evaluate items for sensory characteristics – visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and taste. Evaluate an item for the skill needed to manipulate it – pushing, batting, grasping, pulling, taking apart, putting together, etc. Ensure that items can be compared to others of size, weight, shape, etc.
A mobile that requires skills that are too developmental high or too low for a child will not promote active learning, and may result in limited or stereotypical activity or no activity at all.
Tabletop mobile with toothbrushes
Tabletop mobile with pine branches
PVC Pipe Tabletop Mobile
Christine Spratling, Technical Assistance Specialist for the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project, shared another design of a Tabletop Mobile. This one is made of PVC pipe and step-by-step directions are included.
- one 1’ x 2’ pegboard
- four 2’ pieces of PVC pipe (¾ “)
- two 1’ pieces of PVC pipe
- eight 6” pieces of PVC pipe
- four ¾ “ PVC T-joints
- eight ¾ “ 90 ° PVC elbow joints
- 1/8” elastic
- links (or anything else to hold the elastic in place
- on top of the board)
- plastic aquarium tubing (to keep the elastic strings from getting tangled and the child from wrapping the elastic around his fingers)
- a loop turner (to thread the elastic through the tubing)
- zip (cable) ties
- Use 4 elbow joints to make the top frame by connecting two 2’ pieces of PVC pipe (for the length) with an 8” piece on each side.
- Use a T-joint to connect the 8” pieces on the sides of the frame.
- Repeat the same procedure for the bottom frame.
- Place a 1’ piece of pipe into each remaining Tjoint opening to connect the top and bottom frames.
- You can either use PVC glue or screws to hold the joints in place.
- Use zip ties to attach a 1x2’ piece of pegboard to the top frame.
- Hang objects from the peg board on top using elastic and plastic tubing.
- If you wish, you can place a scratch or grabboard on the bottom of the mobile or place battery-operated lights around the top.*
- Make sure to secure the mobile to a stable surface, such as a tray for a chair or stander, or a table.
Patty Obrzut, OT, shared a few comments about this model:
- The side bracket can sometimes get in the way of a child trying to move his or her hands into the mobile.
- * If needed, I would put a solid light source like a light box behind the objects instead of hanging small lights.
- The objects should be exchangeable to make sure objects are at appropriate developmental level for child.
- Due to the lightweight nature of PVC pipe, you may wish to fill it with sand, or secure it to the table to prevent movement. This way the objects will not move while the child is playing with the items, and this allows for repetition of the activity.