I had a great time last Thursday presenting my brand-new workshop, “Last Minute Lessons” at the 52nd Annual Early Childhood Education Conference. Participants were challenged to come up with creative lesson plans in response to emergency situations – all with limited materials. Check out some of the wildly creative things they did with waterlogged books, paper goods, and the contents of their pockets and purses. One thing’s for certain: if I am ever stranded on a deserted island, I hope it’s with a group of these resourceful early childhood educators!
Bean bags may be some of the least appreciated storytime props – after all, they are easy to make, cheap to buy, and they can be used for so many different activities across a variety of age groups and storytime themes. But that’s not all! Bean bag activities also help children to:
- develop directionality and orientation in space, which supports writing skills
- improve self-control
- develop hand-eye coordination, an important early literacy skill
- improve gross motor skills
- understand the rhythm of language with their whole bodies
Here are some fun ideas for using bean bags in your programs, and links for more ideas!
On each line, move both hands from sides to up in the air above the head. Each time your hands go above your head, pass the beanbag to the opposite hand.
In the sky
Flap your wings
And up you fly
Back and forth
To and fro
Up, up, and
Away you go!
2) Froggy Hop
(to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)
For baby and toddler storytimes: Give a bean bag to each caregiver and have them hop it on the baby’s toes, knees, etc. as described in the rhyme.
For older children: Follow the directions below to make this a balancing activity.
Froggy’s hopping on my toes, on my toes, on my toes (balance bean bag on toes)
Froggy’s hopping on my toes –
RIBBIT! (move bean bag to knee)
Froggy’s hopping on my knee…
Froggy’s hopping on my tummy…
Froggy’s hopping on my shoulder…
Froggy’s hopping on my head, on my head, on my head (balance bean bag on head)
Froggy’s hopping on my head –
RIBBIT! (make bean bag jump to floor)
He hopped away!
3) At the Circus
Place a masking tape line on the floor to act as a tight rope. Invite the children to balance their beanbags on their heads as they walk across. If they drop them, encourage them to pick them up and keep trying!
With my bean bag on my head,
I stand so very tall.
I walk along my own tightrope
And will not let it fall.
4) Cook Out
This is a fun bean bag activity for food or summer themed storytimes. As a bonus, when you are moving the hamburger from hand to hand in the first part of the rhyme, you are also signing HAMBURGER in American Sign Language. Click here to see a video of the sign.
(Hold bean bag in right hand. Hold left hand facing up. Turn right hand over to deposit bean bag into left palm. Then turn both hands and repeat it the other way, as if you are shaping a hamburger patty. Repeat this rhythmically through the first verse.)
I’m making a hamburger for the grill.
Will I eat it? Yes I will!
(Place bean bag on flat left palm. Use your right hand as a spatula to lift the beanbag and flip it over. Then switch hands. Repeat this motion throughout verse 2.)
I’m flipping my hamburger on the grill.
Will I eat it? Yes I will!
(Hold bean bag in left palm. Pretend to squirt on ketchup, mustard, etc. with other hand.)
Now I’m fixing my hamburger from the grill.
Will I eat it? Yes I will!
(Place bean bag in left hand. Raise hand toward mouth, then down to right hand. Switch the bean bag to the right hand and repeat.)
Now I’m eating my hamburger. This is fun!
Did I eat it? Yes, all done!
(If desired, sign ALL DONE at the end. Click here for a video of the sign.)
I went to the train station
To take a little vacation (Pass bean bag back and forth between hands for the first 2 lines)
I went to the beach (Move bean bag diagonally away from you, starting at your right side, and ending up far out in front of your on you left side)
And then came home (Bring bean bag back to right side)
And had some relaxation. (Place bean bag into left hand)
Repeat, replacing “the beach” with vacation destinations chosen by the children. Each time you begin, you should be starting with the bean bag in the opposite hand from the previous time. Make sure the diagonal cross-body movements also alternate hands between verses. This simple motion of crossing the midline improves communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Got a great bean bag activity that you use in your programs? Tell us about it in the comments below or by sending an email to email@example.com and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of our latest storytime resource book!
More Bean Bag Activities:
Beyond peek-a-boo and freeze dances, what can you do with a scarf? Plenty!
1) Windy Days:
Perfect for weather or springtime storytimes, the activity encourages children to imitate the qualities of the wind with their scarves. With or without music, ask the children to move their scarves as they would in a light wind, a medium wind, and a heavy wind. They can even be the wind and blow their scarves into the air! Ask older children to make two lines facing one another and wave their scarves at shoulder height, then have each child take a turn walking through the lines and experiencing the indoor “windy day”!
Using the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from the Mary Poppins soundtrack or the original song below, encourage children to fly their kites through the air.
“Kites Are Flying” (to the tune of “Frere Jacques”)
Kites are flying, kites are flying
In the sky, in the sky
See them in the springtime,
In the windy springtime
Kites fly by, kites fly by.
Blue kites flying, blue kites flying…
Red kites jumping, red kites jumping…
Yellow kites circling, yellow kites circling…
Green kites diving, green kites diving…
Orange kites turning, orange kites turning…
Purple kites wiggling, purple kites wiggling…
(Adjust color verses to the scarf colors you have; End by repeating first verse)
3) Waves in the Ocean:
Pass out scarves and encourage the children to wave them at waist height to mimic the waves as you tell the story below.
We’re going on an ocean trip
We’re boarding a great big ship.
Se the tiny waves below
In the harbor rippling slow.
Now we’re leaving from the shore
And the waves are moving more.
Slow and steady, our ship goes past
But now the waves are getting fast.
Here comes a wind, the waves get bigger.
Will we make it, do you figure?
The ship is rocking to and fro
As higher and higher the waves go.
A storm is coming, see the clouds?
This is getting scary now!
The waves are huge! Big and rough!
I’m getting seasick! I’ve had enough!
But look! The sun is shining through.
The waves are growing calmer too.
They are still big, but getting slow.
Back and forth and to and fro.
Now we’re almost safe in port.
And the waves are getting short.
Little ripples in the water.
And we’ve arrived at the shore, just like we oughta.
The waves are waving, small and shy
So we wave too, and say goodbye!
Make a beautiful butterfly using American Sign Language along with your scarf! First, hold both hands up facing away from you. Then hook your scarf over one thumb. Next, cross your wrists. Now carefully turn your palms so that they face you. (Don’t drop the scarf!) Hook your thumbs together and wiggle your fingers and you’re signing “butterfly”! Play instrumental music or a freeze dance as the children make their butterflies fly around the room!
5) Flag-waving Fun:
Have a Fourth of July Parade! Pass out scarves in red, white, and blue and play patriotic music as your storytimers march through the library! Make it a St. Patrick’s Day Parade by using green, white, and gold scarves.
Read Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodds and invite the children to “scrub” the colorful spots off the dog with their scarves when he takes his bath. Then invite everyone to scrub-a-dub with Bert and Ernie as you sing “Everybody Wash” from Splish Splash: Bath Time Fun.
7) Soup-Stirring Tissue:
Share Monkey Soup by Louis Sachar, and invite the children to “stir” the soup with their “tissues” (scarves). This book lends itself well to a flannelboard or prop story presentation.
Using sign language during library storytimes is a great way to communicate with babies and toddlers and to broaden the appeal of storytimes of your storytimes! Check out these great resources from storyteller and nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter Kathy MacMillan to help you get started!
Signing with Babies: http://storiesbyhand.wordpress.com/category/resources-for-signing-with-babies/
Benefit of Teaching Young Kids Sign Language: http://www.livestrong.com/article/217439-benefit-of-teaching-young-kids-sign-language/
American Sign Language: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/asl.asp
Kathy’s Videos on YouTube:
- Bounce: Taking Turns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYkJcjlxZuE
- Nursery Rhyme Activity: Jack Be Nimble: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS_XURvuMQA
- Song: I Took a Walk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_psFj-5YHQ
- Flannelboard Song: Three Jellyfish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t9zAvJ2kp0
- Song: Hello/Goodbye Babies/Friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrpBWIkO32U
- Flannelboard or Prop Rhyme: Five Snowmen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTX8ucX1sos
- Flannelboard Song: Five Little Trucks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEvTqgxeCrY
- Flannelboard or Prop Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5tM5vd7hts
- Action Rhyme: Caterpillar, Caterpillar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN71_Q0aMQw
- Prop Story: Bear’s Bath: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBRGWcWkmLw
- Book: Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWNQMAZ3Ggk
- Book: Bear Wants More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXC3ll27YX0
- Group Management Signs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0qYO8RjglQ
Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming. New York: Harcourt, 2007: Beetles come in all shapes and sizes, and Fleming celebrates every one of them in this colorful ode to these hardy creepy-crawlies. With large, bright illustrations and a rhythmic chant of a text, this energetic book will be a hit in toddler and preschool storytimes.
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale by Carmen Agra Deedy. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers, 2007. In this Pura Belpre Honor Book, Martina the cockroach is 21 days old when she is ready to give her leg in marriage. On the advice of her grandmother, she splashes coffee on each of her suitors to see if they react angrily. In a delightful twist, she finds her perfect match, though not the way she expected to.
Songs and Rhymes
(to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)
Creepy, crawly, on the ground
See the little worm we found.
Stickbugs, stinkbugs, dragonflies
Roly-polies rolling by.
Ladybug with wings so bright,
Butterflies flying out of sight.
Crawling along on the ground (hunch on the floor)
A caterpillar could be found.
He munched and munched a leaf he tore (mime eating)
And ate until he could eat no more. (pat stomach)
He spun himself in a tight cocoon, (turn in a circle)
While we waited, would it be soon?
It shook and shimmied before my eyes, (shake and shimmy)
And out popped a beautiful butterfly. (spread arms out like wings)
Cut large flower shapes out of different colors of construction paper. (Cut twice as many flowers as children in your storytime group.) Mix up the colors and lay them around the room. Explain to the children that they will be bumblebees and that they need to listen to the rhyme and find out what color flowers to fly to.
Buzz, buzz, bumblebee power,
Now fly to a red flower! (Repeat with different colors.)
To make the game more challenging, try this variation:
Buzz, buzz, bumblebee
A flower the color of milk is what I see.
Buzz, buzz, bumblebee power,
Now fly to that flower!
(Repeat with other objects of different colors.)
Variation: You could also write letters or numbers on your flowers to reinforce a different set of skills.
Buzz, buzz, bumblebee power,
Now fly to a letter A flower!
(or: Now fly to a number 6 flower!)
Materials: coffee filter, orange, brown, black, red and yellow washable markers, spring-loaded clothes pin, spray bottle.
- Decorate the coffee filter using the markers.
- Spritz the filter with water to allow the marker color to spread through the filter.
- Allow the coffee filter to dry.
- Gather the filter in the center of the filter and clip with a clothes pin.
- Decorate the clothes pin with eyes.