The Best Bean Bags for Sensory, Proprioception, Motor Planning and Visual Motor
This article provides helpful tips on what bean bags to choose for your child’s learning development. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
When parents first come to our center, they are often surprised to find their child can’t do simple activities, especially those using their gross motor skills. I sometimes hear how athletic their child is only to discover that their child has trouble dribbling a ball, skipping, hopping or throwing.
Surprisingly enough, bean bag activities are some of the most difficult for children, even though they seem easy to most adults. That is why I LOVE incorporating as many bean bag activities into our daily routine as possible. There is so much you can do with bean bags and there are all different kinds. Did you know that?
Your child may feel most comfortable using a sensory bean bag for hyposensitivities, while another child might enjoy a heavy weighted bean bag for better proprioception. No matter what bean bag your child prefers, it’s important to remember that not all bean bags are equal and they can be used for many different purposes.
Bean Bag Benefits
As you begin using bean bags to help your child with motor development, you may start to notice improvements in the following areas:
- Hand-eye Coordination (good for handwriting skills)
- Visual Motor Skills (Tracking for reading and writing)
- Attention and Focus (sitting still at the child’s desk, less fidgeting, listening to the teacher)
- Gross Motor Skills (posture, copying notes from the chalkboard)
- Fine Motor Development (improves directionality of letters and numbers, pencil grip)
- Executive Functioning Skills (organization, retention, problem-solving, critical thinking)
- Motor Planning (processing, coordination, handwriting, forming words)
What Bean Bags Should I Use?
Now that we know the benefits, which bean bags should we use? The bean bags we use are meant to target a specific area of the child’s learning development and each serves a different purpose. That is why ordinary bean bags aren’t always the best option, depending on your goals.
Keep in mind that each child is unique and different, as is their learning ability, so they may start out at different levels. It’s also important to encourage your child to use slow and controlled movements for better results. Too often we find children will try to cut corners when doing the activities, which makes them less effective.
Important reminder! When doing bean bag activities, ALWAYS have your child track the bag in each exercise with their eyes. Most of their learning development depends on this one simple task, yet many children tend to take their “eye of the ball.”
Standard Nylon Bean Bag
If all you have at home is a standard nylon bean bag, it’s a great place to start. These bean bags aren’t too heavy and are good for beginners and smaller children. You can typically use these for simple activities like small tosses in the air, transferring from hand to hand and for patterning exercises. Usually, these types of bean bags do have beans inside and don’t harm or hurt the child when they fall. The one drawback to these types of bean bags is that the texture can be slippery so they have a tendency to fall or drop in some of the more challenging activities. For those activities, you will want to try a more weighted bean bag with a material that doesn’t slip out of the child’s hands during the exercises.
Sensory Bean Bags
Sensory bean bags are a fun option for children and they have so many sensory benefits. These types of bean bags have little “fingers” or tentacles designed to improve your child’s sensory integration and tactile experience when doing bean bag exercises. Children with sensory and tactile hyposensitivities tend to crave the touch of different textures and need it for better attention and focus. Sensory bean bags can also help children with emotional grounding issues, fight or flight mode and high anxiety or anxiousness. These bean bags are also lighter weight for smaller children or children that struggle with different types of motor skills and core muscle.
Heavy Weighted Bean Bags
Weighted bean bags are by far our favorite and the one we use most often with our students. Students that are younger or that struggle with their motor skills may want to start with the standard bean bag first and then work up to a weighted bean bag. Many of our students with sensory issues, attention problems, behavior challenges and trouble with proprioception prefer and want these bean bags above all others. In fact, they specifically ask me to use them all the time. Their body needs that heavy weight to feel grounded and successful when doing the exercises. These bean bags are usually made of sand or gravel. They also tend to have a cotton finish on the outside so the child can perform harder exercises without the bean bag falling from their hands. Weighted bean bags provide more resistance, which forces the student to work their muscles, joints and ligaments harder to complete the activity. This is especially important for hand-eye coordination, proprioception, visual motor, tracking and patterning.
Smiley Bean Bags
Smiley bean bags can be used for gross motor activities if your child enjoys them, but we mostly use them for improving visual motor, visual discrimination, visual memory, retention, processing and executive functioning. Many of these activities can be done at the child’s desk or at your kitchen table. We love these smiley bean bags because each has a different face and a different color, which is important for visual exercises. Oftentimes, we ask the child to describe the faces, colors and position of the bean bags to help them remember facts in the classroom, listen to the teacher, follow directions, stay organized and process information more quickly. These bean bags are light weight and have a nylon material so they tend to be slippery if you decide to use them for gross motor activities.
Bean Bag Exercises
To get you started with some great bean bag exercises, here is an example of what patterning looks like. We use a heavy weighted bean bag and have the child keep their eye on it at all times. This activity is more advanced so smaller children or children with learning struggles may need to work on more simplified patterns and activities first.
To access all the exercises and activities in our bean bag series, sign-up for our video membership here. You can either join our monthly membership or you can download the bean bag video series only depending on your child’s needs. All videos contain exercises that promote learning development, sensory integration, motor planning and brain-building functions.
If your child continues to struggle with handwriting, reading, tracking, processing information, listening to the teacher, retaining facts and details, following instructions, and attention and focus, these bean bag videos can help improve these areas of learning.
New visual motor and visual memory video exercises using the smiley bean bags are coming this month! To get started on some of our other exercises before our new visual activities launch, sign-up here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs