Discovery bags

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By Sara Fox

A simple drawstring bag can become a valuable resource for any classroom. Young children love surprises and discovery bags are a wonderful way to encourage lots of thinking, talking and imaginative play. What will your class discover today?

discovery bag

Discovery bags are a fun and exciting way to explore stories and topics in an Early Years setting. It is thought that we need to hear a word 15 times before it becomes part of our vocabulary. Giving children objects to handle rather than pictures helps vocabulary to flow.

Discovery Bags for Stories

Young children love the suspense of wondering what is hidden inside a bag. Discovery bags encourage children to use their senses (shaking the bag for a sound and feeling inside the bag) to give clues as to what might be inside. The What’s in the Bag? poem encourages children to spend some time guessing before taking a prop out of the bag. Children can join in with the poem as each prop is discovered.

When one or two items have been taken out of the bag, children can be encouraged to make connections and to predict what else might be inside using additional sound and tactile clues.

When all of the props have been taken out of the bag, ask the children to to talk about the connection, i.e. the story. Some props may appear in more than one story (e.g. a magic wand) and this may also come into the discussion.

Children can use the props to link ideas when story-telling or to act out the story in a small group. The props in the discovery bag can also be randomly selected so that children can use their imagination to create original stories of their own. They can share and compare their ideas about how the props are linked and the parts they play in the stories.

Here are some discovery bag ideas for some traditional tales:

  • Pumpkin (a toy pumpkin or a gourd)
  • Clock (showing 12 o’clock)
  • Slipper
  • Duster
  • Magic wand
Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Bean
  • Cow
  • Hen
  • Harp
  • Gold coins
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Small goat
  • Medium sized goat
  • Large goat
  • Troll
  • Bridge
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Straw
  • Sticks
  • Bricks
  • Wolf
  • Cooking pot
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Porridge
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Chair
  • Bed
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