What’s in the Bag?

This week, we had some fun with an easy little activity to encourage emerging math skills.

Oh, wait…please come back!  I promise it’s fun, easy, and it will make you feel like a math champ.

(Quick side note:  You wouldn’t believe how many high-school students would come to my classroom with a deeply embedded dread of the subject.  It was truly disheartening.  However, I really believe we can take steps to avoid this fate in our children by helping them find the joy in math at an early age.  Foster the attitude that math can be exciting and doesn’t have to be scary.  You can do it!)

For this beginner activity, all you need is a pillow case and a few of your child’s favorite things, and you’re off on a quick sensory discovery of size, shape, texture, and weight.
To start, you’ll just need to round up a few friends.

Maybe start with a soft, floppy-eared friend…

then add something round and pokey…

and maybe a smooth and dimpled treasure…

along with a soft, rubbery cruiser…

and don’t forget a pointed polygon…

a squishy wild thing…

and perhaps a long-armed explorer.

Throw everything in your pillow case and let the fun begin.

No peeking, now.  Just use your sense of touch to find…

Tada!  We’ve found ourselves a “cah!”  (Ok, so it’s a truck, but close, Big Brother!)

You might have a friend, or a Little Brother, come join in the fun.


And back for more.

Again, with the lemon!

Just one more time, Daddy.

“Cow!”  (Or, Zebra, really…but I think we’ll accept that answer.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mover and shaker child (aka…Big Brother) loved this activity.  If you have a kinesthetic learner in your household, you might find they, too, love the hands on aspect of this game.

Not much will slow this boy down, but apparently a pillow case and some blind exploration is just the ticket!

Finally, here are a few ideas for extending this activity with your developing child: 

1.  Encourage First Words – Ask your child about the object they pull out of the bag.  Their excitement in seeing the object (combined with your enthusiasm, “Wow!  What is it???”) can be a great motivator to get those vocal chords going.  This aspect of the game has been especially effective with Big Brother – who is typically our much less talkative twin.

2.  Explore Size – Collect one type of item of varying sizes. (For example, fill the bag with many different balls or blocks.) Work on the concept of size as you ask your child to feel for “big” or “small” items.

3.  Discover Shapes – Use all the shapes from a shape sorter to let your child compare and experience shapes through the sense of feel rather than just sight.

4. Compare Textures – Fill the bag with both soft items (felt, ribbon, feathers, tissue paper) and scratchy items (sandpaper, velcro, nail file) and ask you child to describe how each item feels as they pull it out of the bag.

5.  Measure Weight – Find some very light objects (coins, hollow plastic balls, teething rings) as well as some heavy items (paperweight, can of food, shampoo bottle) to place in the bag…with supervision.  Your child can comparatively explore weight by finding light or heavy objects per your request.

This idea was inspired by the Child Development Tracker at PBS Parents.  Check out this site for more information on child development and lots of inspiring activities!

Post shared with:  Teach Beside Me


  1. What a fun and simple idea! I am definitely going to try it!

  2. Thanks for following me. I’m following you back :)

  3. I love the simplistic beauty! It reminded me of the other day when we turned the apple jar on the kitchen table into a counting activity!Who knew counting plastic apples could be so much fun??

  4. I love playing with simple objects in a new way! It’s a great lesson for us all (children AND parents) that we don’t need every last toy or gadget in the house.

    At 3 1/2, our girls still have several toys they’ve had since infanthood. We just keep inventing new ways to play with them. [And I don’t have to erase all the sweet little traces of their baby days!]

    • I’m all about simple when it comes to activities. Probably because simple is about all I have time for these days. :) Thanks for visiting!

  5. hi, holli! i found you through M&M blog hop :)

    love the idea to use a pillowcase! also…your boys are adorable! anyways, nice to ‘meet’ you…i’m your newest follower!

  6. Girl you had me at “kinestetic”! Seriously though I love this activity and I think my girls will too. The learning styles link is great. Thank you for sharing such good info. Your new follower, O.

  7. Oh I am so thrilled I discovered your blog! It is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you!

  8. What a great idea. I especially love the extension suggestions. I taught elementary school and I loved teaching math. I tried so hard to make it something the kids looked forward to each day since so many of them just dreaded it. Thanks for sharing. I’m pinning this.

  9. Hello! Stopping by from Activity Corner – love your post! I have a 16mo old and a 4 year old and some times have a hard time thinking up activities for them to do together – I think this is perfect!! I hope you’ll come visit me at jugglingactmama.blogspot.com. Have a great day!

  10. Stopping by from I can teach….I love kinesthetic activities for little ones, getting them engaged and learning, very cute activity. I will have to use this with my little one.

    simply sprout

  11. We just wanted to let you know that we will be featuring this on tomorrow’s post for Share it Saturday :) Thanks for linking up!

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