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Bean Bag
By Christina Chapan

Beanbags are a great companion to any training program for early elementary or special needs children. The advantages of using beanbags includes the following. First, they are relatively inexpensive to make or buy. You can easily make a set using sturdy material and rice, beans, or shells inside. Second, they take little space and you can store them anywhere. Third, they are appealing to all ages levels and abilities. Grownups, including senior citizens, find beanbags non-threating to use in a physical fitness setting. Fourth, use of the beanbag prepares students to do any sport that they will use later in life such as soccer, football, bowling or basketball. If a bean bag is thrown down, it will not hurt the person and if someone is accidently hit with a bean bag, it should not hurt, unless the thrower has whipped at him on purpose. And last, there are varities of skills and taks that can be used for the beanbag.

Beanbags teach self-control, coordination, direction, and manipulation of the body.  With beanbags, you should focus on eye, hand, and leg coordination. It also teaches direction and laterality when teaching throwing and catching skills. You can teach the concepts of front, back, side, left, and right using the beanbag. Children also learn about throwing to others and catching. Levels of catching and throwing are also discovered. Learning to work with others is an important skill.

Beanbags should start out with free play. Also, discuss with the children ideas for using the beanbags. Students often have creative ideas.

Start off with having the children throw the beanbag up in the air and then catching it. Have them advance to working with partners. Stress the importance of throwing softly to your neighbor and catching with your eye on the bag and to your chest level. Trainers can help students achieve this skill by throwing and catching the beanbag at various levels and with different amounts of force.

Some other activities include the following:

1. Toss with both hands and then try the left and then the right hand seperately. Try alternating catches and throws using different hands.

2. Throw the bag low, high and to the middle. Tell the child first the level of throwing you are doing and then do it with out them knowing to see what you will do next.

3. Try different grips of the beanbag. Try palms up and then palms down. Try catching with just the open hand. Try to kneel, stand and lie down when using the beanbag.

4. Advanced skills can be throwing overhead to the rear, turn around and catch. Try a half turn and then a full turn.

5. Toss, clap the hands and catch the beanbag. Clap for different amounts of time. Clap the hands at different body parts.

6. Try to do pretend activities such as combing your hair, brushing your teeth or another sport while catching the bag.

7. Toss, Kneel and Catch. Try Catching between the legs and change positions so rgar you are facing the anterior direction.

8. Try catching the beanbag in different spots throwing it back and forth to you. Catch and throw side to side.

9. Balance on different body parts and try using more than one beanbag to achieve this goal.

10. Try to do different stunts or exercises while using the beanbag. This teaches hand or body dexterity and control. It also helps clients with concentration.

11. Teach body parts putting or controlling the beanbag, different parts of the body.

12. Teach colors, sizes, numbers, and direction using different beanbags.

13. Speed, rhythm, and direction can be taught as you use different songs or music while moving the beanbag from one partner to another.

14. Try throwing the beanbag into different surefaces such as a shelf, a hula hoop, basketball or container. See how hard it is to throw near or far and different sizes of containers.

Beanbags are a great resource to any personal training program for children. Practice with the trainer can be reinforced at home with an older sibling or parent. What a wonderful way to build a healthy lifestyle for life.

Balley, Guy Ultimate Homeschool Physical Education Game Book Educators press. 2003

Balley, Guy Ultimate Sports Lead up Game Book Educators press. 1999

Balley, Guy Ultimate Playground and Recess Game. Camas, WA: Educators Press, c2001.

Stewart, Georgiana Liccione. Beanbag Activities and Coordination Skills, Kimbo Music 1977.

Stewart, Georgiana Liccione. Bean Bag Rock and Roll, Kimbo Music 2000.


Previous Tips

•  A Case for Laughing Giggling and Having Fun 
   Activity Tips (11/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  Connecting Music and Literacy
   Activity Tips (8/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  The Learning Station: Teaching with Songs in Your Heart
   Activity Tips (7/04) - Laurie Monopoli

•  Bean Bag
   Activity Tips (3/04) - Christina Chapman

•  Activities to Integrate Music and Language Arts
   Activity Tips (8/03) - Cindy H. Clark, MMed, MT-BC


Activity Tips for Special Needs and Young Children