What’s Inside the Mystery Box?!

Let’s make a mystery box!

It’s no mystery that families and children been spending more time at home than ever before. When we are constantly surrounded by the same scenery, including the same toys and games, it can be difficult to brainstorm ways to mix it up (without constantly rushing to the store or clicking ‘buy now’ on Amazon).

As a pediatric therapist, I am always seeking new ways to turn every day household items into fun, motivating, and enriching toys. I’ve found that some of the best toys are not ‘toys’ at all. One of my favorite non-traditional toys is a do-it-yourself mystery container/box!

This language-rich activity is appropriate for children at every developmental stage AND it only requires a few common household items. There are endless outcomes, variations, and possibilities with this activity!

Materials

  • An empty box or container (plastic flower pot, clean mini trashcan, big bowl, toy bin)
  • A short sleeve t-shirt
  • A rubber band to secure the t-shirt (optional)
  • Small items from around your home

Directions

  1. Collect the materials
  2. Pull the t-shirt over the top of the box/container, so that one of the sleeves lines up with the top or opening of the container.
  3. (Optional) Secure the t-shirt onto the box/container with a rubber band
  4. Place objects from around your home into the mystery box/container through the sleeve hole at the top. Choose objects that are safe to the touch- avoid sharp/pointed items.
  5. Take turns reaching inside of the mystery box. Encourage your child to use his or her hands (or even feet!) to feel the objects in the box/container. Ask your child to pull the objects out. *BONUS: Create a silly song to sing while you pull objects out! This song is to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

What’s inside the mystery box?

Mystery box, mystery box

What’s inside the mystery box?

I wonder what we’ll find!

 

How to target speech, language, and social development during this activity:

  • Play ‘peek-a-boo’ with objects in the box! After modeling this phrase a few times, pause and wait for your child to fill-in-the-blank. Encourage your child fill-in-the-blank with the object label by modeling the phrase “It’s….a…”. Pause, look expectantly at your child, and wait for him/her to fill-in the blank.
  • Increase your child’s eye contact and joint attention by holding the box and objects by your face! Tickle your child with the objects or place box on your head to increase shared attention.
  • Encourage your child to follow 1-2 step directions (grab the bear, then put it in the box; pull a soft toy out of the box). If your child needs extra support, provide a model or use gestural cues to show your child how to follow the direction
  • Model grammatically correct phrases and sentences throughout the activity. Label and describe what you feel, see, and hear. Incorporate different word types into your models, including:
    • Exclamations (uh oh, wow, ooooh!)
    • Object names (box, bear, shoe, stick, spoon, playdoh)
    • Pronouns (my, your, his, hers)
    • Action words (shake, pull, feel, reach)
    • Location words (in, out, under, up, down)
    • Descriptive words (big, little, hard, soft, squishy, smooth, bumpy)
  • Practice turn-taking by taking turns reaching inside of the mystery box. Identify whose turn it is by pointing and/or using turn-taking language (It’s my turn! Now, it’s your turn!). Encourage your child to wait and watch while you take a turn.
  • If your child is working on specific speech sounds, place objects in your mystery box/container that contain the target speech sound in the object label. Each time your child pulls an object out, you can practice the target word 5x together! For example, if your child is working on the “b” sound at the beginning of words, you can include objects such as a ball, bird, balloon, bib, baby, bell, banana, etc.
  • Ask your child to guess what objects are inside based on what he/she feels! Once the objects are out of the box, compare and contrast how the objects feel and look. Make a list of similarities and differences between the objects.
  • Sort the objects into categories based on color, shape, size, or object function (things you eat, things you wear, animals, vehicles, etc.)

Not only is this activity great for building language, but it also targets many occupational therapy skills, such as the ability to discriminate and identify objects based on touch without the use of vision, increasing focus and attention on the hands and the sensory system, and increasing impulse control (as your child has to wait until he/she finds the right objects, via touch, before pulling it out of the box).

 

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech, language, and/or play skills please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Nicole Sherlock, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Photo Credit: Nicole Sherlock

What’s in Your House: DIY Activities for Language Development!

Due to all that’s available online and in stores, many parents feel inclined to buy the newest toys on the shelf to support their children’s development. Unfortunately, as a result, parents can overlook the valuable materials in their own homes! Tons of common household items can be converted into toys or activities that stimulate your child’s creativity, expand his or her play ideas, and facilitate language growth and development. Not to mention encouraging your child to play with common household items can reduce clutter, cut down costs, and help your child get creative with what they have! Here are some common household items that function as agents for language use during play. You might be surprised by all you can do with what you have!

Toilet Paper Rolls

Save your empty toilet paper rolls! Encourage vocal play by turning your empty toilet paper rolls into microphones! Taking turns saying sounds and words into your microphone helps to build your child’s imitation skills. You can also tape two rolls together to make a set of binoculars! Use your binoculars to target object naming and object identification, through fun games like I-Spy and hide-and-seek.

Pots, Pans, and Spoons

Channel your child’s inner musician by playing with pots and pans! You can sing familiar songs or model strings of single words or sounds, such as “tap tap tap” or “bang bang bang,” as you play with your culinary instruments. By imitating the things you say and do, your child is practicing a critical step in learning reciprocal communication.

Laundry Basket

Laundry baskets (or any other open container) can easily be transformed into cars, trains, boats, or planes with a little imagination. As your child drives the makeshift vehicle, model target phrases and environmental sounds, such as “drive,” “go car,” “choo choo,” “vroom,” “beep beep,” etc. After taking your laundry basket for a spin, try using it as a basketball hoop and ask your child to throw different objects inside. This is a great way to target object labels and following single-step directions within a fun routine!

Painter’s Tape

Tape a line on the floor to serve as a road or balance beam. To target verbal requests, rip bits of tape off at a time to verbal requests such as, “more road” or “tape on” or “need tape.” You can also take turns hopping, crawling, or tiptoeing on the tape to practice imitation of gross motor actions! Imitating gross motor actions is a great precursor to imitating gestures, sounds, and words!

Blanket

Aside from using blankets for pretend play (i.e., putting a baby doll to sleep), you can use blankets for a variety of social games. Peek-a-boo is a great game to target joint attention and verbal turn taking. After you lift the blanket up, say the phrase, “Peek-a….” and wait for your child to fill in, “Boo!” before lowering the blanket. This helps build anticipation and establishes a cause-effect relationship between your child’s words and your actions. Other social games include blanket swing, blanket train or magic carpet, and silly sneezes (i.e. Lifting the blanket and saying, “Ah, ah, choo!” as you lower it).

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to noise, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Michal Bar Haim on Unsplash.com