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Surprise! How to Make a Feely Box for Toddlers

written by: KateAdams • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 3/2/2012

Who doesn't love a good surprise? Using the element of surprise is a fun way to teach concepts. These high interest toddler concept activities will be a sure hit with wiggly toddlers, who will all be wondering the same thing: Just what is coming out of that feely box next?

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    Building a Feely Box

    There's really not much to it. Cover a medium-sized box with paper: black, colored, or even sparkly. If you'd like, add a large question mark on the front of the box. Cut out an opening on the top large enough for a child to reach in and retrieve objects or pictures.

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    One Feely Box, Many Uses

    Use your surprise box in a classroom setting or in your own home. It's is a wonderful way to work on vocabulary development, but there are other applications as well. When selecting your surprises, keep in mind that actual objects or child-sized replicas are preferable, but you can use pictures, too. For example, near Thanksgiving pack the box with toy forks, knives, spoons, plates, bowls, napkin, and any other related item from a toy kitchen set such as a pie, turkey, and vegetables.

    Other ways to use a surprise box include:

    • In December, use nonbreakable nativity characters or other religious symbols.
    • Prepare for an upcoming trip, by placing objects related to the trip in the box.
    • One application for older children is to pack the box with objects or pictures starting with the same letter sound.
    • Use the magnets from a themed magnet set.
    • Teach colors by filling the box with objects that are all the same color.
    • Work on the concept of "big" and "little" by placing photos of big and little objects in your surprise box.
    • Teach object permanence by popping toys out of the box. Model the word "Boo!" for speech stimulation. Then let the child reach in to retrieve the object.
    • Use your surprise box to work on the concepts "in" and "out".

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    Let the Fun Begin!

    Start the activity by wondering aloud about what is in the box. The more you are able to build the anticipation, the more fun it will be. Then allow the children to take turns pulling an object out of the box. For each item, you can discuss attributes of the item including its function, physical description (color, shape, or other characteristics), and associations (cookies go with milk, for example). Also, ask the children if they have ever experienced that object. ("Does anyone here like to eat pie?") After you discuss each item, it's nice if you can have the children do something with the object to finish off their turns. For example, with the Thanksgiving theme, have them place the item on the table to set it for the big meal. For Christmas, the children can set the nativity characters in the nativity set.

    A feely box is a great way to work with toddlers. Once you realize how versatile your surprise box is, it will quickly become your "go-to" activity.