The Growth and Giggles Blog
Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.
Games to Play with Bean Bags
Bean bags are fun learning materials for babies, preschoolers, and even older children. The easiest bean bag to make is to fill a child’s sock with popcorn, beans, or rice, and then tie a knot in the end of the sock.
For babies, give them a bowl full of bean bags and let them pull them out and put them in. Say “out” and “in” as they move the bags. This is good for eye-hand coordination, hand strength, and learning the concepts of out and in.
As children become able to stand, bean bags work great for throwing games. For ways to teach throwing skills, see this post. A first step is just to have your toddler stand over a bowl and drop the bean bag in. Next, you can teach the throwing motion. Have your toddler or preschooler hold the bean bag and swing their arm back and forth. Tell them to let go when their hand comes forward. You can have them experiment with letting go at different points so that they can see what happens. It takes some time to get the hang of letting go when you swing your hand forward.
Once your child has learned the motion of throwing, use big targets for them to throw at. Put a hula hoop on the floor and have them try to throw the bean bag into the hula hoop. You can also use a laundry basket as a target. As they get better, you can choose smaller and smaller targets.
You can work on counting skills as you throw bean bags. Have them throw bean bags into a target, then count together how many they got in. As you pick up each bean bag, say a number.
Have your child throw standing on both feet and then throw standing on one foot. This will help them with sports later on, when they need to be able to throw even when they are off-balance.
Another great skill to work on is having your child throw the bean bag up and then catch it. This will take some time. Have them see how many times they can catch it in a row, and then see if they can beat their record.
When your child is able to catch with some success, you can throw it back and forth to each other, and see how many times you can throw it before one of you misses. Make sure you are the one that misses sometimes! That way you can model that it’s no big deal to make a mistake.
You can use a bean bag to teach a toddler or preschooler prepositions, directions, body parts, and other things. Kids learn best when they engage their bodies. Give them a bean bag, and tell them, “Put the bean bag in front of you. Put the bean bag behind you. Now beside you. Hold it high. Hold it low. Put it on your head. Put it on your shoulder.” As they get good at this, give the directions faster and faster to make it a fun game.
You can use bean bags for balance beam games. If you don’t have a balance beam, you can put tape down on the floor, or you can make one by splitting a swim noodle lengthwise, folding it out, and taping the ends down. Place bean bags periodically along the length of the beam. When they get to a bean bag, have them do a task. They could squat down on the beam and pick up the bag, or they could do an arabesque, hop, or stand on one foot.
You can give lots of physical challenges like having them hold a bean bag between their knees and walk or dance. Have them put the bean bag on different body parts as they walk or dance. They can balance it on one knee and hop, or try to balance it on their head while they walk. Give directions, be silly, and have fun.