Scooter Board

Introduction: Scooter Board

For many children with disabilities, movement (such as crawling or walking) can be difficult.  A scooter board is essentially an upholstered board with casters that is used to help such children move.  The child who can't walk or crawl  might be able to push against the ground and thus propel themselves forward.  This allows the child to explore their environment at their own pace and see the things they want to see, rather than being stuck in one spot. These boards are often used in therapy; it is possible to use these boards to help develop muscle tone.

A scooter board can be customized for a particular child.  These come in all shapes and sizes (depending on the size of the user).  Some have leg stabilizers or arm stabilizers built in.    The one demonstrated here has an anti-tip bar.  This one is small, but so is the user.

3/4" Plywood
faux leather fabric / Naugahyde
1" nominal thickness foam padding
Velcro (both hook and loop, not adhesive)
Casters (I collect casters from discarded office furniture, desks, etc. for just such an event)
#10 screws, 1/2"    (4 per wheel, in this case)

Drill Press

Step 1: Take Measurements

"A" is the user of the board.  Not quite two years old, but is missing a little in the hands and feet department (born that way).  He has just recently learned to crawl, but it is slow going.

He measured 8" wide and 16" from neck to crotch.  The board will be made to this size. 

This instructable actually covers two boards, the original prototype and an upgrade.

The second one is a little bigger; more on that later.

Step 2: Cut the Board, Add Casters

I cut the a piece of 3/4" plywood to the dimensions of 8" x 16".

Next,  cut a 45° chamfer on each of the corners for a rounder look.

I rounded all the edges; this will be easier both on the kid and the upholstery.

I positioned four casters on the board (in this case, I aligned them on the corner bisectors on a whim).
The main point here is to try and position the casters so that the radius of revolutions don't touch - you should be able to spin the casters without them banging into each other.  The other point is to spread out the load as uniformly as possible.

I drilled pilot holes for the casters, then screwed the casters into place.
In this case, I used a 7/64" drill bit for the pilot holes, and used #10 - 1/2" metal screws to attach the casters.

I collect good casters for such projects.  Whenever I see a junk <desk, chair, etc.> with casters, I try to rescue the casters before the rest of it goes to the dump.  You can also buy casters online, at the hardware store, etc.   I am experimenting with using ball transfers as casters for scooter boards.  

Step 3: Upholster the Board

Upholstery nerds, please look away while I butcher your noble craft.

Lay out the scooter board on top of a piece of foam padding.  Lay the board and the foam on top of faux leather or other upholstery fabric.  The foam should be bigger than the board on all sides, and the fabric should be bigger than the foam.  This gives space for the fabric and foam to wrap around the edges.

The wheels are on in this step because the wheels all need to spin freely.  With the wheels attached, this can be easily tested.

Wrap the fabric and the foam around a straight edge.Staple into place.  Repeat on the opposite side, stretching the fabric tight; staple into place.  Repeat for the other sides, then start on the corners.

Trim the foam and the fabric as needed.  The corners are especially tricky.  I am using the corner technique from

Step 4: Attach Velcro

Cut straps of Velcro long enough that they can secure the child onto the board.  Make sure that the hook (rough) side of the Velcro points away from the child (no accidental scratches).  Make sure the loop (soft) side of the Velcro is turned the right way so as to mate with the hook Velcro.   (I got this wrong the first time I built it, then had to pry all the staples loose and redo it).

Also on this step I added a stabilizer bar.  Normally this is not needed, most children have more arm and leg and can right themselves if they tip.  "A" needs a little more help - he could tip over and not be able to get back upright.   The bar can be removed once he learns to balance by himself.  Think of it as a set of training wheels. 

I think the stabilizer bar used to be a sign stake or a tomato stake (i.e. scrap wood I had on hand) that was rounded and sanded smooth so he wouldn't scrape himself.

Step 5: User Testing

"A" was thrilled!   This was the first time he had actually been able to move and explore in his life!  He could chase a thrown ball!   He could "drift" (just like people do in cars).  He could spin in a  circle (like a Sit-n-Spin toy).

Two problems.

1) He is top-heavy.  Since he is missing some leg, his head is the heaviest part of him.  If he is positioned so that he can reach the ground, he tends to nose-dive.  He figured out how to balance, and was able to move with his back wheels and feet in the air (like a wheelbarrow).   We will fix this by adding a nose wheel to prevent tipping.

2) It would be easier if he had more use of his arms.  We will fix this by making a tapered nose on the next model.

Step 6: Version 2 Cutting

The new board is 8" x 21.75".   It has a tapered nose to help him move his arms, and the extra length will give more stability.

I mapped out the shape I needed, and marked off 1" from the edges for upholstery.  The rotation of each wheel (except for the nose) is marked.  The board is cut, the holes are drilled, and the casters are attached.  I had initially considered a smaller wheel for the nose, but later decided to make them all the same size.   I used the same size bits and screws for this build.

Step 7: Version 2 Upholster

Upholstery nerds, once again please turn around so that you don't see this.

This time, I tucked the fabric under and stapled through both layers.  It results in a much cleaner look.  Pull the fabric tightly before stapling the material.

I made sure to have extra padding in the nose and on the tail, as these are the areas most likely to be involved in collisions.

Step 8: Version 2 Velcro

Just like before, I attached Velcro so that "A" can quickly be strapped onto the scooter board.

I moved the stabilizer bar from the first model to the second.

I also ran out of black Velcro so I switched over to using white for one strap.

Step 9:

The second version is complete!  "A" had no trouble spinning around and cruising all over the place.  While trying it out, he paddled right out the door and explored in the hallway some, then came back to his classroom.   The nose wheel prevented him from tipping, even when he leaned forward.  The tapered nose let him have more use of his arms.

"A" approves!

Step 10: Update: Ball Transfers

Ball transfers work great as casters!  The ball transfers I bought from Amazon are very smooth - they run in any direction and don't bind.    The disadvantage is that they are considerably more noisy than office chair casters, especially on tile and hardwood floors.

They can mount from the bottom of the deck (like the casters).  Since there are no swinging parts, we don't have to worry about a radius of revolution like with the casters.  

The best part is that they can be mounted from the top of the deck.  This means cutting a hole through the wood, then screwing the ball transfer into the top of the wood deck using the provided mounting holes. This dramatically lowers the height of the scooter board.  For someone with poor leg and arm length like "A", this means the legs and arms are closer to the ground and thus more useable.  For this design, hugging the ground also removes the need for an anti-tip measures.  It becomes impossible to tip as the scooter board rides 1/2" from the ground.  I had to make sure the upholstery was nice and tight to prevent it dragging on the ground.

The two scooters shown in the pictures using the transfers - one is a "booty scooter" (sit on it), and the other is prone (lay on it).

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    8 years ago

    The kid featured in this is so cute


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, he is very cute. Once he had a taste of moving independently on the scooter board, he set about figuring out how to move without it. He started moving by himself the next week. He now hops (hopping/booty-scooting) all over the place. He has awesome fine-motor skills (lack of fingers not withstanding). He can scoop playing cards and coins off a tile floor. He can take the knobs off the dresser, unscrew the knobs of the pots and pans, open the refrigerator and hop off with the mayonnaisse.... he is an amazing little boy.