Sensory beanbags are a great educational tool for all children and when made from various textures, can add a tactile component to learning as well as addressing the needs of children with sensory processing challenges. I wanted some beanbags to toss while practicing skip counting this year and it occurred to me that I might try knitting the bean bags instead of making them out of fabric. I decided to experiment with the stitches to see if I could also add a tactile component to them and have been very happy with the results. Sola was so excited by these beanbags, which I had not expected. She even took them outside to toss them around with some neighborhood kids. Then, she invented her own game of trying to guess which color beanbag she was holding while closing her eyes!
Please note that since the beans may be able to wiggle free from the bag, children under the age of 3 should not be left unsupervised with these beanbags.
The bags are very simple to make. To make a set of your own beanbags, you will need:
- Yarn (worsted weight – I used Spud and Chole sweater yarn, which is a superwash yarn made from 55% wool and 45% organic cotton and comes in a wonderful wide range of colors)
- Pair of straight knitting needles (size 7)
- Darning needle
- Beans, dried (large)
- Cast on 20 stitches
- Choose one of the stitches below to use (to more easily keep track of even and odd rows, all odd-numebered rows will start when the working yarn and tail yarn are on the same end of the knitting needle, all even-numbered rows will start with the tail yarn at the opposite end of the needle from the working yarn)
- Garter stitch (red sample) – knit all stitches in every row
- Stockinette (orange sample) – knit all odd-numbered rows and purl all even-numbered rows
- Ribbing, double (yellow sample) – k2p2 for all rows
- Horizontal stripes (green sample) – knit 2 rows, purl 2 rows
- Seed stitch (blue sample) – k1p1 all odd-numbered rows, p1k1 all even-numbered rows
- Ribbing, single (purple sample) – k1p1 all rows
- Knit until the swatch is twice as long as it is wide (length will vary, depending on the stitch you choose)
- Bind off and weave in ends
- Fold swatch in half, with fronts facing each other
- Using the darning needle and yarn remnants (they can match the beanbag or not, depending on the look you want to achieve), use a mattress stitch to start on one of the corners of the swatch that touches the fold and stitch the sides together until there is only about a 2″ unstitched gap left
- Turn the beanbag inside out so that the fronts face outside
- Fill the beanbags will large dried beans (some people recommend putting the beans in pantyhose or a plastic bag first so that beans can’t be squeezed out and will stay dry, I didn’t use anything)
- Stitch the gap closed and tie off the yarn
That’s all there is to it! We’ve already been practicing skip counting by tossing the bags back and forth and saying the next number when we catch it (saying it as we throw it seems to confuse Sola).
How do you and your children practice math facts?