Beanbag Body Parts
Before we start, I have to admit that I usually pull up completely blank when I know it's time to make up a game. My mind empties and I tend to back away slowly from the situation, or burst into awful, out of tune and weird as f song...
This is partially why I adore baby-led game creation so much, it requires very little creativity from myself, it gives the kids the autonomy and support in their own imagination play and all we have to do is grab a few props, add in a song or dance and let the games begin. From birth, my go to has been to narrate the day with a random song about what I'm doing, what I see, what I'm feeling and so on. Babies learn so much through music. We're essentially music and dance in a human form, so anything we can do that is either of these is going to support us on a variety of levels; it calms the central nervous system, it supports language development, speech development and motor skills development, it can also increase the bond between baby and caregiver(1) and can even improve mental health outcomes for new mums(2) Remember you can sing about ANYTHING; the spoon in your right hand, the yellow chair and so on. Be sure to be really descriptive and use a range of vocabulary as this is how your child is absorbing language and knowledge, I believe that it can also support us to keep our own brains active through baby brain too. One game that I love to grow the understanding of body parts and learning left and right is to use a beanbag: (Click the photos to grab your own, handmade by me and ready to post)
Simple game idea from birth upwards: Sing a song about body parts and place the beanbag on the body parts. You can also sing a song about body parts that your child is using or is touching if you don't have a beanbag handy, this supports fine motor skill development, balance, self and body awareness and is crucial when we look at consent from birth, connection to self, for explaining injuries and pain, giving and receiving instruction and so on.
Be sure to include left and right and complex body parts too. This is SO important, remember that our children will only be able to learn what we share with them. I remember when she was about 9 months old and I would support her to get changed, she would be stepping in and out of her undies and I would always use the phrase "step in with your left foot, step in with your right foot," people used to tell me not to be silly and that she didn't know her left and right yet... of course she didn't but that was exactly how she was learning them! As an idea, we played the beanbag and dressing games daily (along with lots of other similar games and songs) and my daughter knew the following body parts by 14 months and her left and right by 16 months; the point being, our children are never too young to 'learn,' even (especially) when we're not trying to teach them and absolutely through play, music, song and dance - they are learning! Head Hair Nose Ears Eyes Cheeks Lips Teeth Tongue Chin Neck Throat Shoulders Nipples Belly Button Tummy Back Bum Knees Toes Armpit Clitoris Labia By 20 months she had also added: Eyebrows Eyelashes Forhead Nostrils Shins Calves Thighs Ankles Wrists Elbow Urethral opening (AKA where the wee comes out, crucial for toilet hygiene and wiping correctly) Bum hole (AKA where the wee comes out, crucial for toilet hygiene and wiping correctly)
Beanbags can also be used as an open ended resource, meaning that there are no limitations to what children can create with their imaginations. They are great as fiddle toys for kids and adults with anxiety. They can be cooled or warmed up. They make a great tool to support learning to throw and catch as they don't roll away like balls do, they're soft and don't tend to hurt or break things. If you have three you can use them to learn to juggle as well.
ZERO WASTE HACK: If you want to make something quick and simple like this at home you can find plenty of things in your cupboards, you can use an odd sock and fill it with something from the pantry: rice, beans, lentils etc, then tie the sock at the top to secure. The ideas are endless. I'd love to hear about your silly songs, your body part games and your bean bag adventures so please get in touch here or on Instagram or Facebook. Shout out with any questions too! (1) https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED352184 (2) http://researchonline.rcm.ac.uk/85/