New Ideas for Discovery Bags

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By Fe Luton

The possibilities for discovery bags are endless. These simple bags burst with the potential for exploration, investigation, fascination, wonder and above all independent and self-led learning. Easy to make and suitable for all budgets, creating your own discovery bags has never been simpler.

discovery bag

Filling these bags with every-day items found in the classroom or at home, change, as if by magic, a random assortment of objects into a treasure trove rife for plundering. They are exciting and a little mysterious, especially if you can change them regularly. Discovery bags are a quick way to inject excitement into the resources that you have available by packaging them in a way that will keep your children coming back for more.

The themes that you choose can be inspired by topics you are exploring in your setting or school, or areas of interest from your cohort. You could even have a discovery bag committee that the children take turns to run, in order to develop new bags; or alternatively have a suggestions box or request slip for children to suggest themes for the bags.

The key to the successful use of discovery bags is that children maintain ownership of what happens with the objects. They should be open-ended and flexible and as such, a rich resource for developing the characteristics of effective learning.

In this article we include 12 possible bag suggestions to inspire you. They are organised into four ‘types’:

Each idea includes suggested items to put in your bag, the overarching aims of the bag (although this is flexible), and some key questions for adults to consider if they are playing with the children.


Concepts or Ideas Discovery Bags

Magnetism Bag

Suggested contents of bag Ideas or activities to explore with children Key questions
  • Coins
  • Keys
  • Magnets (include a mix of fridge magnets, small magnets and large handled magnets)
  • Paperclips
  • Hairclips
  • Nails and screws
  • Spoons
  • Magnetic letters and numbers
  • Some non-magnetic items
The key behind this bag is for children to play with the magnets and to investigate what they do. This is a great bag for exploring materials and their properties as well as making observations.
  • Can you identify something that all of these magnetic items have in common?
  • Can you find other objects or structures that are magnetic?
  • Can you identify items that are not magnetic?
  • Textures Bag

    Suggested contents of bag Ideas or activities to explore with children Key questions
    • Bubble wrap
    • Range of fabrics
    • Ribbons
    • Bag of pebbles or gems
    • Corrugated card
    • Spikey hair rollers
    • Pouch lids
    • Cotton wool
    • Play dough
    This is a sensory bag for children to explore. They may like to create some art work using the bag contents, or alternatively could look at all the items then play a feely bag game. This is a great bag for developing descriptive language.
  • How would you describe the way it feels?
  • Can we sort these items in any way?
  • What does it remind you of?

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    1. Janice Davison
      on 8 November 2018

      Discovery Bags

      Sounds like a brilliant idea but I was unable to download all of the 12 bags only the concept and ideas discovery bags.

      Hi Janice
      Thank you for your positive feedback. You will need an Early Years Resource Bank membership to view the entire article and you can get one here from only £1.25 per month https://resource-bank.scholastic.co.uk/subscriptions .
      Best wishes,
      Scholastic Resource Bank team.