You’ve probably heard of a flea circus before, but what about a bean circus?? I’ve had this idea floating around in my head for a little while now, and thought with April Fool’s Day in a few days, it would be a fun time to make this silly project.
If you aren’t at all familiar with flea circuses, do a little bit of reading online and you’ll be surprised about what you learn! It’s hard to believe they were real, with actual fleas doing tricks, playing instruments, and more. Unfortunately, these old-fashioned flea circuses don’t sound like they were humane for the little fleas. Despite that, something about the idea of little bugs wearing clothes and doing circus tricks is kind of fascinating, so I thought it would be fun to make a handmade version instead, but featuring beans.
You could also use other small items instead of beans, like sequins, beads, mini pom poms, pasta … the list goes on!
what you need:
- Plain cardboard (cereal box style or corrugated)
- Dried beans
- Black permanent marker
- String, cord, and ribbon (various colors and sizes)
- Cupcake paper
- Paper scraps
- White glue
Cut your cardboard into rectangles of various sizes.
Brainstorm circus activities for the beans to be doing! You can look at vintage flea circus illustrations for ideas or just think up any circus activities.
Gather supplies for your ideas! This is a great way to use any bits and bobs you already have at home – they’ll also provide some great inspiration!
Arrange the beans doing their circus acts on the cards. For the circus tent, I used a mini cupcake paper that I cut in half, then cut a snip up the side to make the tent opening. Glue the cut edges to the cardboard, and then use the remaining half of the cupcake paper to make a triangular roof for the top of the tent. This can be a little tricky to line up nicely, so I added a gold cord along the seam and it hid any imperfections nicely. The other circus acts pictured are pretty self-explanatory: use a toy horse and glue a paper saddle on to add some color, make a bean walk on a tightrope, create trapezes for the beans to swing on, and make a simple hoop using gold cord.
Once you’re happy with the setups, use white glue to secure in place. I prefer white tacky glue here over hot glue to avoid all the hot glue strings on all the tiny details. For the bean’s arms and legs I used a thin black cord for a little bit of depth but a thin black marker works just as well and is less finnicky for little hands. Use the black marker to draw little faces on the beans, too!
Once all the beans and circus activities are glued to the cards, add a fun border if you like using more cord, ribbon, or string, or even stickers. Let all the glue dry and voila! Your talented beans are ready to take their show on the road.