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Mystery bag exercise

mystery bagOur son is now 27 months old. Please note: I use the terms “he” and “him” in this exercise because I have a son and I find the use of “he/she” and “him/her” awkward.

This is an excellent sensorial activity for toddlers that uses common items and helps to develop a child’s sense of touch. By working from left to right, it also helps to set up your child for reading. There are many variations of this exercise, but I’ll run you through what I did and offer some suggestions for alternatives.

Materials needed

  • A small cloth bag
  • 3-10 small objects of different shapes, textures and sizes that your child knows the names of (use fewer objects for younger children)

Montessori Monday


  1. Put the objects into the bag and set it in your work area. Invite your child to sit with you.
  2. Sit with your child to the left of you, so that he can see clearly what you are doing (or to the right of you if your child is left-handed).
  3. With the bag in front of you, begin by slowly pulling out one item at a time and placing it on the table in front of you. Place the objects from left to right and identify them as you remove them from the bag, inviting your child to touch the items as you place them on the table.
  4. Return the items one at a time into the bag, again working from left to right.
  5. When you have returned all of the items to the bag, explain that you will now try to guess what object you have in your hand before removing it from the bag by feeling it.
  6. Remove the objects one at a time again and again lay them on the table from left to right, but this time tell your child what you think the object is before you remove it from the bag. Make sure that you demonstrate to your child that you are feeling the objects in the bag before removing them.
  7. Return the items to the bag one at a time again and again working from left to right.
  8. Place the mystery bag in front of your child and invite him to try to guess what the objects are before removing them from the bag.

Our experience

mystery bagWe used six objects: a fork, seashell, stick, clothespin, key and large button. My son was very happy to identify the objects as we took them out of the bag and to pull the objects out himself and put them back in the bag, but he had no interest in feeling them and guessing what they were before removing them in the bag. He also placed the objects in a pile as he removed them rather than lining them up. And, predictably, he dumped the objects out of the bag at one point.

I think he may be a little young to understand the fun in guessing what the objects are before removing them from the bag. In the future, I think I would try using fewer objects and possibly try blindfolding him (my hunch is there is little chance that he would actually keep a blindfold on, but it’s worth a shot, right?).


One of the things that I love about this exercise is that there are so many different ways that you can do it.

You can change what you put the objects in. You could use a small picnic basket with a cover or simply cover a basket with a napkin. We used one of our reusable snack bags, which has a Velcro closure, but you could also use a zippered change purse or small drawstring bag.

You can change the objects themselves. If your child is learning about shapes, you could put different geometric shapes in the bag (a cube, a sphere, etc.). If your child is learning about letter sounds, you could put in objects that all start with the same sound. You could organize the objects around a certain theme, putting in only objects from the natural world, for instance, like a stick, rock and pine cone. You can find a good list of suggestions arranged by themes here. You could also include items of different sizes and/or colors and have your child arrange them in order by size or separate the different colors. Of note, I recommend that you use real objects, not miniatures or toys that merely represent other things.

mystery bagThere are also many different ways to present this exercise. For example, you could put a blindfold on your child and ask him to identify each object as he pulls it out of the bag. Or, you could ask him to search in the bag for a specific item.  Alternatively, you could place the items in a basket with the mystery bag next to it, ask your child to close his eyes, put one item in the bag and cover the others with a towel, and then ask your child to identify the object that’s in the bag without looking at it.

What other extension activities can think of that use a mystery bag?

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2 Responses to Mystery bag exercise

  1. Awesome post, Eryn! I always thought mystery bags were great, and I love your variations. Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LivingMontessoriNow

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