The Most Versatile Toy Ever: The Montessori Mystery Bag

Monday May 1, 2017

I’m not sure why I haven’t written about mystery bags yet. On one hand, it’s almost too simple to write about. On the other, it’s turned out to be the most versatile toy we have. Bean has been into them since she was 1.  Of course, the objects inside have become increasingly complex, mirroring her interests as she’s grown.

This makes sense — mystery bags play on a kid’s (kind of latent) interest in refining her senses, in this case touch. Children are in sensitive period for sensory play from 0 to 5 years. (This is also why they like playing with water, sand, and instruments. A feast for the senses!)

The basic idea of a mystery bag is to fill a bag with objects, and then have the child put her hand in the bag and guess what she’s touching before pulling it out to reveal the object.




At one years old, a mystery bag is a great way to teach vocabulary. I would throw a spoon in there, maybe a whisk. If we had been to the beach recently, or planning on going on a beach trip, I would fill it with a seashell, starfish, sun hat. Bean delighted in all the different textures.

As she got older and became interested in letters, I would fill a mystery bag of objects that begin with, say, T. A plastic turtle from her animal collection, a top, tongs from the kitchen, tape.

Another mystery bag idea is to fill it with a lot of textures, and then teach descriptive language by asking the child to describe the object they’re touching (big, small, cold, hard, soft, smooth, rough). The mystery bag really makes them hone in on the sense of touch, without visuals to help them along.

Recently, with her interest in math picking up steam, I filled it with geometric shapes. A cone, pyramid, cube, sphere, and triangular prism. Since all the textures are the same, she has to really feel around to figure out what shape she’s touching.

Working with a mystery bag can also be a fun interactive game. While she can play by herself, it makes more sense for me to sit with her to repeat the proper pronunciation of things.

I bought my mystery bag from Montessori Services, but this would also be a fairly easy thing to make yourself if you can sew.


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