Numerical Bean Bags
LEARN NUMBERS AND ARITHMETIC
Numerical bean bags are a fun way to learn numbers and simple arithmetic. These pleasingly tactile and sturdy bean bags are a bit labor-intensive, but will last a long time.
Each bean bag is a 3-inch square when completed and requires two pieces of 4-inch square fabric. One bean bag for each numeral – zero through nine – plus one for each arithmetical sign – minus, plus and equals – totals 13 bean bags and, consequently, 26 pieces of 4-inch square fabric. If there are no fabric scraps at hand, purchasing quilt squares at the fabric shop is a good alternative.
CUTTING OUT THE SQUARES
Use the pencil and ruler to draw a 4-inch square on the lightweight cardboard. Cut it out to use as a pattern. Trace the pattern onto the cotton fabric with a marker, tracing 26 squares in all. Cut out the squares with fabric scissors. Lay out the squares in pairs for the front and back of the 13 bean bags. It’s fun to mix colors and patterns.
CUTTING OUT THE NUMERALS
Felt pieces – usually 12-inch squares – can be purchased at a craft store. Choose a variety of colors that will look good with the cotton squares. Each numeral should be no more than 2½ inches high, so use the ruler and marker to draw a 2½-inch grid on the felt pieces. Lightly sketch each numeral within a 2½-inch square, making sure it is no taller than the square. The arithmetical signs can be about half that size. Cut out the numerals and the signs with fabric scissors.
ATTACHING THE NUMERALS
Pin the numerals and arithmetical signs on the 13 fabric squares that will be the front sides of the bean bags. Stitch the numerals in place, using the sewing machine or hand-stitching. (Alternative: Use craft glue to affix the felt numerals to the fabric squares. Allow glue to dry for 24 hours before making up the bean bags.)
SEWING THE TWO SIDES TOGETHER
Pin the front and back squares together, with the wrong sides facing outward. Leaving a 1/2-inch-wide seam, stitch along the three sides of the squares. If sewing by hand, be sure the stitches are small to prevent beans from escaping. Snip a small triangle of fabric off each corner to allow the corner to open up properly. Turn the bean bags right-side out. If necessary, use a pencil or other narrow object to push out the corners. At this stage, the bean bags will resemble little pillow cases, ready to be filled with beans.
COMPLETING THE BEAN BAGS
Fill each bean bag with four or five teaspoons of small white beans. (Alternative: Use lentils, rice or barley.) Do not overfill. Pin the open side closed with the raw edges of fabric folded in. If using a sewing machine, top stich around all four sides of the bean bag, over-stitching the first side by about a ¾-inch. Tie off and trim the loose threads. If sewing by hand, use a blanket stitch or overcast stitch around the four sides to strengthen the edges.