In December I made personalized bean bags for my children. When I went grocery shopping, I did not really think through the beans that I purchased. As it turned out, the Roman beans shown below were much too dense to use. Since the bag was opened, and we do not eat beans (pathetic, I know), they became a play item for the children.
I have learned that if I just let the kids use their fingers to play with the beans, the beans are likely to become projectiles. Recently when we played with beans, the children just used teaspoons to transfer them from their storage bowls to regular Corelle bowls. (I know they enjoyed the sounds of the beans on the glass!)
This is considered fine-motor play, and it really is lots of fun!
When I taught first grade, I bought kidney beans and turned them into colored counters for math. I spread the beans outside on newspaper and sprayed just one side of them with spray paint. The bean counters can be used to help complete addition and subtraction problems or to create sets. Also, you can take a small handful and create math problems by using the colors of the counters. (If two in your hand are white and three are blue, the problem is 2+3=5!)
I'm not sure what I was able to accomplish while they played, but I think I washed all of the dishes. They played with the beans for a long time, and requested more later. It will be another fun activity when it is too-hot-for-Mom-outdoors.