Beanie Buddies – Great for K-1
In my Orff Level I training we came across a couple fun activities for Beanie Babies that got my brain spinning and thinking about what could be done with those little critters. Probably a lot of you already use beanie babies or stuffed animals for a variety of things. In this post I’ve got a couple ideas for how you can acquire these fun little beanie pals and what you can do with them once you’ve got em!
Getting the Beanies… FOR FREE!
After I finished my Orff Level I training I had a few weeks before school started and I was in that “back to school” mindset where you’re filled with a million ideas and thinking ahead to the endless possibilities of a new year. I really wanted some beanie buddies to use in the classroom because my interest had been sparked in class and I had so many ideas that I wanted to try out. But I didn’t want to pay much (or anything) for the beanie babies. I had already spent money on an Orff Level and was buying classroom supplies and lots of other things for projects at school. What to do!?
The great thing about Beanie Babies is that they WERE really cool for a long time but that craze is OVER! There are moms out there with empty rooms filled with these critters that their kids will never want again. I needed to tap that market somehow. I decided to follow one of my favorite sayings “you’ll never know until you ask.” I return to this little piece of advice any time I post a DonorsChoose project or talk to colleagues about what they do with a specific concept or resource. You’ll never know what can happen unless you put your question out there and ASK for help.
So, I did three things: I emailed the staff at my school, I emailed other music teachers in my district, and I posted on Craigslist asking for free/cheap beanie babies. I immediately got a response from one teacher in my building saying that he had some old beanies that his kids didn’t use anymore that he’d be happy to bag up and bring to my room. Cha-ching #1. I got another email from another teacher in my school saying that she was a garage sale hawk and would look for any beanie babies she could find. Honestly, she’s amazing at looking through garage sales and her looking for the little beanie dudes brought in some really wonderful finds. Cha-ching #2! The last and best hit came from a craigslist ad return. Someone emailed and said that they had a ton of babies that they would be willing to give me for free if I could come pick them up. Turns out she was a teacher in my school district and she had a closet FULL of old beanie babies that she somehow acquired and didn’t want anymore. Now my basket is overflowing with beanie buddies! Cha-cha-cha-ching! You never know until you ask. It’s worth it!
Now, if you try this and you’re not quite so successful right off the bat, never fear! Check thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales, and the internet. Ask at your church, ask your friends with older kids, put up a flier in your school work room. Think about all the people who might have an idea for you. Never pay too much for these little guys. They’re hiding free/cheap somewhere. You can find them!
Beanie Buddy activities for K & 1
So, what do I do with the beanie buddies now that I have them in my possession? Well, I use them almost every week for some sort of activity. I was very lucky in that the person who gave me the buddies gave me a LOT to work with. I didn’t get fifty dogs or 12 zebras but got a great variety of different animals. I frequently pull out beanie buddies as little mascots for the song we’re singing. Chicken on a Fencepost? Yep, I’ve got a beanie rooster that struts out so that we have a tangible mascot for the Chicken. Baby Bumblebee? You can bet that I have a bumblebee beanie that comes out to be sweet (and then gets “crushed” when he stings me). Hop Old Squirrel? I’ve certainly got a squirrel that makes an appearance. The only animal that I had a little bit of a hard time with was Sylvester the Snake. Luckily I had a couple extra inchworms in my box and so I cut the antenna off of one and viola – caterpillar to snake in one easy snip! So many of our songs talk about animals in some way and these beanie buddies really help to make that intangible word more concrete and understandable for my kids. Especially because I teach a high volume of English Language Learners (ELL) I love that I have these physical reminders of what the animal looks like.
One of my favorite kindergarten activities is to use the beanie buddies to help keep steady beat. After going through steady beat and practicing and learning and listening I tell the kids that they’re doing so well with the steady beat that I’m going to ask them to help some other people with steady beat. I pull out a beanie buddy and I show them how he can’t keep the steady beat (and they laugh as this beanie friend jumps around to no particular beat on my knee). Then I show them what happens when I help him with the steady beat (and miraculously the little beanie starts to bounce on my knee perfectly in rhythm). Then I tell them that I have a lot more beanie friends who need help too! I toss them out to kids and we bounce the beanies on our knees, our hands, our heads. We bounce to music, we jump them on the floor, we hop them around on the carpet. The possibilities are endless, but because the kids are helping someone else it’s easy to redirect a kiddo who’s getting off task “Oh, Charlie! Don’t play around! That little ostrich needs help with his steady beat!”
One of my favorite things to do with the beanies comes with the Teddy Bears. As it turns out, a lot of these little mini-beanie babies came from a promotion McDonalds had a few years back for an anniversary of the happy meal or something. They produced hundreds of beanie babies in all shapes and sizes but did a special run of baby bears. The bears come in about 8-12 colors and have a little patch on their chest that either contains a golden arch, or a McNugget, a picture of the hamburgler, etc. These were the special prizes to celebrate the anniversary. I got about 30 of these little guys and immediately knew what to do.
Any time that my 1st graders sing “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn around…” we pull out these little teddies. I teach the song with some cute little actions and then I tell them that I have some beanie friends who need some help. “Do you remember the beanie friends from kindergarten who couldn’t keep the steady beat?” Well turns out that those original beanie friends have some other bear friends who need some help too. We get out the bears and we transfer our dance actions to the bears (and this is incredibly cute to see 1st graders delicately making their beanie bears bow). Then we use the bears to do a steady beat to the song. Then our bears get very close to our ear to whisper to us that we need to remember to use our singing voice. Then I clear a spot off on the piano and kids in groups of 4 or 5 get to bring their bear up to dance and sing on the special “stage” that I’ve created on the piano (all the while I get to listen and assess singing voice and if the kid is singing the correct intervals). And it could go on and on. These little props add another dimension of fun to our space. The kids know that it’s not real but in their heads it’s still a fun part of the game and they’re willing to do whatever the beanie bear needs!
These are just a few of my favorite beanie buddy activities but I know that there are a million more. Use the beanies to stroll up and down the xylophone bars. Use the beanies as observers who can watch the kids to make sure (a la Elf on the Shelf) that everyone is participating. Use one as a starter for a song (i.e. “What is this little fish doing on my comfy chair? Wait, what is THIS little fish doing on my comfy chair? So many little fish sitting around… that makes me think of a fishy song that I know!”). Use them to comfort a kiddo who is crying. Let someone hold a beanie buddy of their choice as a reward for doing a great job. Seriously, endless possibilities.
How do you use beanie buddies? Share your comments below if you have ideas that I haven’t mentioned! I’d love to hear what you do and how you use these guys!