Sense of Touch
This summer, my son and I went to a nature center. Besides some live fish and turtles to look at, there were a few hands on activities for kids. One of our favorites was a group of boxes designed to reach your hand inside, feel around, and try to figure out what was in there. Being a nature center, items inside included a dolphin backbone, a deer’s antlers, a turtle shell, and a bird’s egg.
This was a fun activity, although it took a while to convince my son to try it. I can completely understand why – it can be a little creepy to stick your hand into something that you can’t see.
For someone who is used to employing all of his or her senses, this is definitely a challenging exercise (Note: We were also able to incorporate a teachable moment about blindness with this activity). It is also even more difficult when the items inside the boxes are unfamiliar. None of us has ever touched a dolphin bone before, so without a frame of reference, how would we be able to identify it?
My son left a little frustrated that he “didn’t get any right,” but he still enjoyed this activity. Therefore, I decided to try to replicate it at home, but wasn’t quite sure how just yet.
How to Make Discovery Bags
After a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s, I ended up with several paper shopping bags. As I was folding them to put them away, I got my inspiration. I decided to fold it so that the bottom of the bag created a triangular shape, and I secured it using binder clips. I then lifted the flap on the bottom, tearing the bag just enough that a tiny hand could fit in it.
I looked around the house for some objects that could be recognizable to the touch, since sight, sound, smell, and taste would not be used in this activity. I grabbed a tangerine, a toy dinosaur, crayons, and straws. I set up the invitation to play, so it was ready when my son woke up the next morning.
I explained the guidelines for discovery – he was to reach his hand into the bag, feel around, and try to identify the object without peeking. However, the first thing that happened was he reached his hand in and pulled out the tangerine, then yelled “A tiny orange!” I reminded him what we were trying to do and told him that he could pull the object out once he made a guess. We tried again with the next bag. He reached in to the bag containing straws. He felt around and first guessed pencils. I had him explore a little more – he squeezed them and felt the bendy area and finally guessed straws! The dinosaur prompted guesses of a toy elephant (it was big), then a kangaroo (it had a long tail), but once he felt the face and arms, he guessed a T-Rex – and he was right! He peeked into the bag with the crayons and shouted “Crayons!” which made us both giggle.
Since it only took a few minutes to get through the four bags, we decided to play it again… this time blindfolded so there was no peeking! My son occupied himself for a few minutes while I reset the discovery bags. As the T-rex bag was ripped a little too much when the dinosaur was extracted, we only used three this time. Into the bags went a banana, a fork, and a lollipop, and on went the blindfold (he did it himself).
This definitely made him focus more, since the distractions in the room were eliminated and the option for peeking was removed. He really needed to concentrate. He did a great job with this second round. I tried to ensure that he didn’t get frustrated or overwhelmed. He would make a guess and I would ask him leading questions to help get him to the correct answer if he was unable to get it on his own.
My son really enjoyed this activity and wanted to challenge his father to try it. So, when Papa came home, he was placed at the table and told the rules. Although he was able to figure the objects out relatively quickly, he played along by making some ridiculous guesses, which made my son crack up (especially since he was now “in the know”).
This was very simple to make and can be used over and over again with a variety of household objects. We chose to stay with “dry” objects because I didn’t want to gross him out with a plate of spaghetti or anything (perhaps around Halloween I may change my mind).
Look for things with recognizable shapes and/or textures and things with which your child has some familiarity (marshmallows may be fun!). Then come back here and let us know what objects you tried!
For a twist on this game, have your child place objects in the bag and try to stump you!
For more ideas using paper bags, check out these ideas from some of the other Quirky Mommas: