12 Ideas to Reimagine Teaching with Beanbags

Fresh ideas for using bean bags this fall in the music room or choral rehearsal.

As summer vacation draws to a close, it is always fun to get some fresh ideas for the beginning of the school year.  So go ahead and add some ways to use the bean bags from Bear Paw Creek to your repertoire! These activities will also bring giggles and smiles to teaching the potentially humdrum foundations of music making. 

This blog will share activities using beanbags not only the classroom, but also in choral rehearsal. In addition, at the end of the post is a game I developed exclusively for you, the fans of Bear Paw Creek’s Blog!  This game is open-ended, so with some poster board and markers, and of course, beanbags, you can make a delightful game that can address any skill your students need to work on.

I have been thinking about beanbags a lot lately. It is a shame for a prop that raises the spirits of students and teachers alike to be overlooked. Especially considering its durability and versatility. Why don’t we use them more?  And, if we don’t have them, why not? They are certainly one of the most affordable props out there.  In fact, www.bearpawcreek.com has bean bags for just $20 per dozen, and you can even choose the bright or muted color palette or texture that works best for your students’ needs.

If the obstacle is a lack of awareness of how to use this awesome prop, then let’s overcome it, with these 12 ideas that will help you to reimagine teaching with beanbags. These ideas include activities that I have developed, as well as some existing activities that I have adapted to beanbags, not to mention the exclusive game at the end of this blog.

Let’s get you excited for the new school year, and for using that underdog of props, beanbags!

Bean Bag Activities for the Classroom

1.Ostinato Bean Bags: Teach your ostinato, but in a kinesthetic way. Students toss the bean bag from hand-to-hand in rhythm with their singing.

2. Quick Sort: Looking for a fast way to divide students up for an activity?  If you have a variety of bean bag colors then you can hand out bean bags in a color-coded manner to designate groups/activities.  For example, if you wanted to have a sound ensemble activity, you could designate red=sung sounds, yellow=spoken sounds, orange=whisper sounds etc, and a next step would be holding up a red beanbag to start the sung group’s performances.

3. Bean Bag Engagement: Not that kind of engagement! I like to use props like the bean bags to call on students. It is an incredibly easy way to infuse more mundane tasks with fun.  I also like to have the students use this method to call on each other, which makes your existing activity even more entertaining.

4. Bean Bag SMART Notebooks: There are some great SMART notebooks available that allow students to randomly select a question or challenge by popping a bubble. Rather than walking up and popping it, you can safely have student underhand toss a bean bag at the board. My students love this method!  SMART Notebook exchange has “Candy Rhythms Koosh Ball Game” and Teachers Pay Teachers has several as well.

5. Bean Bag Shakers: If you are a new teacher that doesn’t have many props or an itinerant teacher trying to reduce how much equipment you move, consider using bean bags as a percussion instrument. You can shake or tap it, and the volume is low, so it may be just right if you have students with sound sensitivity.

6. Steady Beat Bags: When students are still learning to find the steady beat, a strategy is to have the student gently tap their chest. Putting a bean bag in that hand makes it more fun, and adds more sensation. 

Bean Bag Activities for the Classroom or Choral Rehearsal

7. Treble or Bass Clef Toss: Use masking tape to create a five line staff on the floor and have students toss a bean bag onto the staff. Then they name the note based on which line or space it lands on. Another option would be drawing the staff on poster board or other moveable surfaces to make a portable version if you are an itinerant teacher.

8. Bean Bag Rhythm: A variation on the ostinato bean bag activity above, requiring students that are struggling with a particular rhythm to toss the beanbag to the steady beat.  This could be up and down in one hand or hand-to-hand as they say rhythm syllables, chant the lyrics in rhythm, or sing the troublesome section.

9. Bean Bag Note Values: I was introduced to this activity with tennis balls, and it works great with bean bags too. Assign each note value a bean bag movement that will take an appropriate amount of time. For example: two eighth notes= fast hand-to-hand toss, quarter note= single hand toss, half note= go around body 1st beat in front of body 2nd beat in back, whole note= same as half but stopping in four points- 1 front, 2 side, 3 back, and 4 other side.  Students should verbalize the counts as another pathway to learning. Display the note value students are performing so that they can make the connections between the symbol, the movement and value.  Once the students are proficient, I turn on pop music and have the students perform various note values to the beat, continuing to display the note symbols and point to them throughout.

 

Bean Bag Activities for Choral Rehearsal

10. Part Throw: If singers are forgetting that they don’t sing in a particular section, play a game!  As that section begins, have the forgetful singers toss their beanbag to a chorus member who is supposed to sing that part.  It will be so memorable that they will probably not make that mistake again.

11. Projection Toss:  This thrilling activity was intended for adults using a football, but I have adapted it here for children using beanbags. If your chorus is not projecting their voices to the back of the rehearsal space, try having them send their sound out with the bean bag by tossing it forward (after you get out of the way!). Alternatively, singers could get into pairs and have them sing a phrase tossing to their partner and then their partner sings a phrase tossing it back.

 

Here it is… your exclusive open-ended game:

The Bullseye of Music!

As I was thinking about ways to use bean bags that would be fun and engaging for our students, I also factored in that we teachers don’t necessarily have much time to craft. So if I was going to create something, I wanted it to be a game that could be used for different units.  The result is a game that can be used throught the year, with any age and the only thing you’ll need to change is the Fact Sheet.  

The 12th activity, The Bullseye of Music! :

How it works:

  1. Have two children, or the whole class play.
  2. Child A throws the bean bag at the bullseye.
  3. Child B (the opponent or class representative) announces the color which their bean bag hit.
  4. Child A puts the tip of a pencil into a paper clip in the center of the spinner for that color and flicks it. The paper clip indicates a number.
  5. Child B gives Child A the task or question based on the color and number, and they have a blast performing it!                                                                                                                                                                 

I didn’t design this for keeping score so there isn’t a plan for that, but you could certainly develop one.  The game is so engaging because the target requires skill and the spinner is pure chance.  I put the arts Integration/extra fun activities in the center, on red, to make them harder to get. 

How to Make Bullseye of Music Game Pieces:

Materials: Foam poster board, For tracing- a frying pan & small bowl, Poster markers/paint, Pencil, Paper clip, Paper, Sheet protector/clipboard

Steps:

  1. Target– Sketch the biggest possible circle you can on the poster board
  2.  Trace frying pan and small bowl creating the concentric circles of a target
  3.  Color each ring in a different color (I went the traditional route of red yellow and blue)
  4.  Spinner– On the paper, use the small bowl to trace three circles and coordinate the colors to match the circles on the target
  5.  Divide the circles into five sections (or more) and number them
  6.  Fact Sheet– create blue questions or activities of an easy level and number them 1-5 to match the spinner, and repeat for yellow   being medium level and red being difficult/super fun. Zoom in on the image above for an example Fact Sheet.
  7.  Print out Fact Sheet and slip into a sheet protector and plan to give to Child B or the Opponent described above.
  8.  Once the materials are done, grab your Bear Paw Creek bean bags, pencil and a paper clip and start having a fantastic time learning new concepts or reviewing!

Remember, all you have to do from here is create a new Fact Sheet to totally change the game!

Thanks: My appreciation to my music teacher colleagues in Anne Arundel County, MD for being such wonderful teachers and collaborators.

I hope you enjoy your bean bags in the classroom or rehearsal all the more for having some new ideas.

BPC has a great selection of bean bags right here on bearpawcreek.com.

Leah Murthy is a music educator, performer and military spouse. She is currently a Doctoral candidate in Music Education at Boston University, holds a Master’s in Music Education from The Boston Conservatory, has 15 years experience teaching music and recent contributions to professional journals such as The American Organist and The Chorister. When she is not teaching music in Maryland, or playing with her two little girls, she is in Washington D.C. conducting for The National Children’s Chorus.

Bear Paw Creek Back to School Giveaway 2019

It’s back to school time and time for our 5th annual Back to School Giveaway and SALE!  All month long there will be discounts and a giveaway that is worth over $400!

August 1 -7 20% off –  Code: 20for2019

August 8-15 15% off – Code: 15for2019

August 16-31 10% off – Code: 10for2019

I am excited to partner with a few of our friends to bring a prize back full of music, movement props, instruments,  and books!  Read on to learn more.

Bear Paw Creek's Annual Back to School Sale

Look What Our Friends Have Contributed

Check out this year’s sponsors, with a prize pack valued over $400!

GRAND TOTAL: $473.50

Add a click to tweet CTA – quote. 

New Music and Lesson Plans

I am SO far behind sharing all the wonderful music, lesson plans, and ideas our friends have been sharing to use with Bear Paw Creek movement props.

I’m working on sharing some great resources for over this month and upcoming year.

Here is one from one of our newest Stretchy Band distributors: Let’s Play Music

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Bean Bag Hop Song with Bean Bags

I just love it when someone shares a lesson plan, activity, pictures, videos, or songs using Bear Paw Creek products! 

This time Rachel over at Listen Learn Music has written a new song to use with bean bags. 

Of course – I have to share it with you!  It is always fun to add a new song to your list.

I have also added some bean bags on to the shop!  We not offer neutral and jeweled tone bean bags along with the original primary colors and textured bean bags.

 

Favorite Bean Bags

It’s a wonderful compliment when someone shares that something we make is their favorite!  There are so many choices in this world, it’s a high compliment.  Rachel wrote a beautiful post about our bean bags and a new song she wrote.  Here is part of what she said:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, MANY of my songs revolve around the use of props. They can be such a wonderful tool for addressing motor skills, coordination, group participation, turn-taking, and much more.

Bean bags are wonderful tools for addressing so many different skills: balance, dexterity, crossing the midline, hand-eye coordination, and the list goes on. This particular song targets several of those objectives, along with impulse control, following directions, and identifying body parts.

I love watching my students and clients attempt all of the directives in this song, from making the bean bag hop from hand to hand during the chorus, to placing it on each body part in the verses.

“Bean Bag Hop”, like most of my other songs, can easily be adapted to meet the needs and strengths of each individual or group. It can be done sitting, standing, hopping, or however else your creativity moves you!

Be sure to check out her new song, it’s a steal at only $3!

Bean Bag Hop Listen and Learn Music

 

Bean Bags, Bean Bags, Bean Bags

For those of you who have been Bear Paw Creek friends for awhile, you know bean bags were one of the first things my Mom taught me to sew when I was a child.

We have four different options to offer now on the shop. 

 

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Music with Mar Giveaway and Movement Activities with Bear Paw Creek Props

I am excited to share our first giveaway of 2019!  Can you believe how fast this year is flying by already? 

I’ve been connect with Mar for several years now and love the music she has produced to use with the stretchy band, scarves, and bean bags.  Here is the description of what she is all about:

Music with Mar. is a company dedicated to bringing quality, brain based music and workshops to children, families, teachers and groups.

Mission Statement– Music with Mar., created by Maryann “Mar.” Harman, is an internationally respected company dedicated to using music and movement to teach children skills they will need for a successful, happy life and train adults on incorporating music into their lives.

Class Philosophy– To provide music activities for an adult / child to participate in together that will aid in the child’s total development while bonding the child and adult and enhancing the adult’s understanding of the importance of their involvement in these classes.

Vision – To provide classes for families and educate qualified individuals to teach the classes/philosophy of Music with Mar. so its power can touch more lives and educate those who work with children to do the same.

To provide workshops for groups wishing to expand their knowledge on the value of music in enhancing our lives and enriching our brains.

Continue reading to learn about music and movement songs and enter the giveaway.

Music with Mar and Bear Paw Creek Giveaway 2019

Stretchy Bands, Scarves, and Bean Bags

Mar has created seven songs to be used with stretchy bands, scarves, and bean bags.  These songs are available for individual download or physical cd from her store.  I have also created a YouTube playlist and Spotify playlist that you can use.

  • Moving with a Scarf
  • Pretty Scarves
  • Stretchy Band Jam
  • Who Can Pull the Stretchy Band
  • I’ve Got a Bean Bag
  • Bean Bag Groove
  • Playing with a Bean Bag

Music with Mar Spotify Play List

The connect-a-stretchy band is fast becoming one of our best selling stretchy bands.  It’s great as you an use it straight, buckle it together into a circle.  It’s also wonderful for those that have varying group sizes as you can use the sections you need for each session.

Bean Bags are a staple of home and classroom. We offer our original primary colored set, new neutral colors, and also a new Discover Dance set.

Our scarves come in set of 13, 12, or 6 and are a wonderful addition to you creative movement time. 

 

Enter to Win the Giveaway

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

4 Easy Ways to Teach Your Child to Calm Down Quickly & Prevent Future Tantrums

4 Simple Ways to Teach Your Child How to Calm Down & Managing Their Emotions

Are you tired of turning on the news and being bombarded with stories about violence? Psychologists hope that if children learn how to manage their emotions at a young age, they will be able to respond more positively to stressful situations as adults. How are we supposed to teach our children how to cope with their feelings?

According to Robert Plutchick, professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, more than 90 different emotions have been identified. 

Wow! Imagine being a little person experiencing all of these feelings. How do we, as parents teach our children how to process these feelings when our children aren’t able to communicate what or why they are feeling that way?

Prevent Tantrums

Let’s first find out how you, as an adult, calm down when you are upset:

Close your eyes and think about something that made you mad or frustrated. How do you feel when you think about it?  Does your heart start racing? Do your hands clench a little? Is your internal temperature rising?

Now, open your eyes! What do you do to calm down? Most people use sensory strategies to regroup – such as sipping coffee, chewing gum, going on a walk/run or smelling essential oils. How did you learn that this technique helps you calm down?

When your child gets upset or overwhelmed, they feel the same way inside. There body is “fuming” with emotion but they don’t know how to respond. Unfortunately, humans aren’t born knowing how to cope with strong emotions. We learn these skills through life experiences, but we don’t want our children to tantrum while they are learning. 

Follow these simple 4 Steps to teach your child how to respond to their feelings.

When children feel their body start to “fume” they react.  Reactions don’t involve thinking about why they feel the way they feel. This is why you see young children throwing objects (that they are frustrated with), hitting the toddler sitting next to them (because they are in their space) or running the other direction when mom says it’s time to leave the park.

What do you do in this situation? The initial response I hear from parent’s are: “I try to talk to them, but they won’t listen to me.” This approach doesn’t work often because your child is feeling overwhelmed and are not ready to talk. Instead, give them time to process their feelings and provide them with ways they can calm down independently. Once calm, they will be ready to have a conversation with you.

How is my child supposed to calm down on their own without me talking to them?

After spending over 15 years working with children, I couldn’t find anything written for children that teaches these skills in a practical, hands-on way. This is why I created the “Soothing Sammy Set.” Soothing Sammy teaches children how to process their feelings, identify their emotions and problem solve in a way that is EASY for children to understand and SIMPLE for parents to implement!

Soothing Sammy House

This Four- Step Set includes:

1. Children’s Book –  The colorful photos and simple story is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary aged children. When a young boy becomes upset, he visits Sammy (the golden retriever)’s house. Sammy shows him, and his friends, how to use their sensory system to calm down. He gives each child a typical household item (such as a cup of juice (taste), a cold washcloth (touch), a family picture (see) and many other items) that helps them feel better quickly. Once calm, Sammy helps the children problem solve by asking them questions.

2. Soothing Sammy Plush Dog (Golden Retriever) – Using an empty box or container, follow the directions in the back of the book to construct a “Sammy house” for this plush dog (resembling the house in the children’s book). Place Sammy, a machine washable plush dog, into his new home and fill it with household items discussed in the children’s book. When your child feels upset, redirect them to the Sammy house to calm down (just like the children in the book did). 

3) Parent Guide – This 80-page book explains how to prevent children from becoming frustrated in everyday situations (such as transition times, sharing space and toys, listening and following directions, going on a long car ride, etc.) This book contains activities, instructions and parent reflection sections.

4) Emotions & Feelings Activities E-Book – These 10 play-based activities teach children how to identify feelings in themselves and others, supporting emotional competency. Using items typically found around a home, children engage in hands-on learning activities that teach emotion vocabulary and simple ways to respond to others when they are feeling overwhelmed. 

The children’s book, along with Sammy the plush dog, activity e-book and parent guide, creates a complementary set of tools that supports your child’s emotional development. Sammy’s techniques give children the confidence to manage their emotions.

What our families have said:

“Parenting is hard work! Children do not come with instructions, so knowing how to handle their emotional needs is so hard. Thanks to Soothing Sammy I am better equipped to help my children through their melt-downs and tantrums. Since grabbing this set I have seen not only a difference in my children but a difference in how I handle them in the hard moments. I definitely recommend this set to every parent.” – Stephanie

“My daughter and I had fun reading and building Sammy’s house. She loves Sammy! So far it has helped her feel better when upset. She has chosen something to crunch on when mad and then hugging Sammy when sad. We keep it i the living room where she will hopefully continue to use it.” – Jennifer

Soothing Sammy

 Learn More

About the Author:

Jeana Kinne Author Photo

Jeana Kinne, MA is an Early Childhood Developmental Specialist. She has worked as a parent educator, Preschool Director and Early Intervention Specialist with children with special needs. She loves working with families, providing them with solutions to common parenting concerns, resulting in stress-free parenting! Follow her blog to learn more parenting tips and strategies that support parents navigating through some of the most difficult and puzzling aspects of parenting at www.jdeducational.com

Build a House for Santa While Teaching Fine Motor, Language and Handwriting Skills

Build Santa’s Paper House to Send Him a Letter on Christmas Eve!

The holidays are here and so is the magic of the Christmas season! The vision of the North Pole, Santa’s Workshop and Rudolph’s living quarters is different for every child. Maybe some children think it’s a cold place where everyone drinks hot chocolate and eats cookies! Maybe it is a place where Santa has reindeer pasture and is outside training and flying with Rudolph and his friends all day. Maybe it is a castle filled with toy-making rooms in every corner. 

Encouraging a child to expand their imagination, especially around the holidays if fun both for the child and for the adult. What fun story is your child going to come up with today? Here is a very special activity that includes art and imagination, teaches fine motor, language and writing skills while also creating a special place to have written communication with Santa himself. 

Right now, this activity focuses on “Santa Clause,”, but this activity can be used throughout the year, regardless of the holiday. During Easter, the children can write to the Easter Bunny and around their birthday’s they can write to family members. You get the idea! Now, let’s get started with this simple, play-based activity.

MAIN IMAGE

Santa’s Paper House Activity Directions (video below)

Materials Needed:

  • Scraps of Wrapping Paper
  • One (1) Roll of tape
  • One (1) Cardboard Box
  • One (1) Pen
  • One (1) Piece of Paper
  • One (1) Pair of Child-Sized Scissors

Learning Objectives:

  • Fine Motor (Writing)
  • Fine Motor (Using Tape)
  • Fine Motor (Using Scissors)
  • Language Expression
  • Creativity
  • Understanding Shapes and Sizes

Directions: (Watch Video Below for More Details)

Step 1: Place a cardboard box (any size), the tape, child-safe scissors and wrapping paper scraps in front of your child.

Step 2: Tell your child that the box is Santa’s house. They can use all of the items in from of them to decorate his house. 

Step 3:Once your child has completed the decorating, tell them that you are going to write a story together. 

Step 4: Ask your child the following questions about Santa’s house. Write down their answers:

  • Tell me about your house.
  • Where will Santa sleep?
  • Where will he eat?
  • What colors are on his house?
  • Who lives in the house with him?
  • Why did you place different paper in their places on the house?
  • Do any pieces represent windows or doors?
  • Where do the reindeer live?
  • Where do they make the toys?
  • Is there anything else you want to tell me about his house that you made?

Step 5: Once your child is done, ask them to trace the words what you wrote, using a pen. 

Step 6: Have your child place the piece of paper in Santa’s House and put the house near the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve for Santa to see.

Step 7: Ask your child to draw a photo for Santa thanking him for coming and wishing him well on his world trip. Ask your child what they would like to tell Santa, writing down what they say. 

Step 8: Have the child place the photo/letter to Santa in the house on Christmas Eve so Santa will get it when he visits.

Optional: On Christmas morning, the parent can write a letter to the child, from Santa, addressing all of the parts of the house and how Santa likes them all. 

For an extra special good time, sing some holiday Christmas songs while wearing these Jingle Bells!

Interested in More Preschool Activities? Join our Free 12 Days of Christmas Holiday Email Series Here!

About the Author:

Jeana Kinne Author PhotoJeana Kinne, MA is an Early Childhood Developmental Specialist. She has worked as a parent educator, Preschool Director and Early Intervention Specialist with children with special needs. Her blog consists of Homeschool Preschool Activities that support educational and social-emotional development. She loves working with families, providing them with solutions to common parenting concerns, resulting in stress-free parenting! Follow Jeana’s blog to view more activities and to learn parenting tips and strategies that support parents navigating through some of the most difficult and puzzling aspects of parenting at www.jdeducational.com.

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