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!
- 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
- Collect the materials
- 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.
- (Optional) Secure the t-shirt onto the box/container with a rubber band
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.