In my past life as a Reality TV Development Executive, I was tasked with brainstorming new ideas for TV shows like docu-series and game shows. Inspiration could come from anywhere, magazines, other TV shows, an article in the newspaper, and even board games. It was fun, and it felt rewarding in the beginning when my creativity had no limits, but then at a certain point, my creativity started to get stifled and I became more of a proxy for someone who I felt didn’t quite appreciate my efforts or understand that I was doing the job of 3 people, literally. In the months prior to my then team becoming just 2 (myself, and the president of the company), we were a team of 5! I’m still reeling and trying to figure out on which planet in this universe does it make sense for 1 person to assume the roles of 3 people, including a Vice President and assitant, and not be compensated anymore than her starting salary. But I digress, like really I digress…
Let’s just say that experience was a major eye opener and reason I’m working to start my own business with my fiance now. One that is miles away from reality television and one that make us feel good about ourselves. I will be announcing this venture to you all very, very soon. In the meantime, of course, you guys know that I’ve become really passionate about something else since my time in the industry…being a mom!
One of the great things about working in television development is that it taught me that inspiration and ideas can become much more than just a fleeting thought or note jotted down on paper, and that brings me to this post. When RJ was about 9 months old, I discovered an old game I kept around that I had previously used for a game show pitch, a mystery bag game called Touchy Feely.
I didn’t think it would be so exciting for a baby, I just assumed it’d be something we broke out again when he was 4 or 5, but I underestimated just how curious and open to discovery babies are. But now I know. And I want to share this with you so you might be able to see those lights go off in your little one’s eyes too. I swear, everytime I bring out the Touchy Feely bag, RJ gets so excited and can’t wait to see what I’m going to pull out of it.
I purchased the game for about $25 at Marbles: The Brain Store, but with a roundup of items from around the house or a quick trip to the dollar store, you could create a custom version of this game that will please your child, from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond.
We’ll call our version The Magical Mystery Box.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 shoe box
- box cutter
- paper bags, butcher paper, or gift wrap to cover the box
- markers, puffy paint, or other decorating supplies to make the box fun or your child.*Alternately, you can make a toddler hand sized box by dusting off an old baby wipes tub and filling it with small child-friendly objects (Be careful of anything that might be a choking hazard). Then, your child can play with his/her siblings or friends, too!
- 10-15 small to medium sized baby friendly objects to fill it
Suggestions: toy cars, a rabbit foot, rubber duck, highly textured items like sandpaper, corduroy, or velvet, a clothespin, cloth flowers, medium sized rock, squishy ball, cork (yes mamas, your wine is being put to an educational use), a small dog toy, a bell, wooden block, small tennis ball or small NERF ball, an old ID or gift card, velcro pieces, tissue paper…You can source many of these items just by scouring through your drawers, holiday decoration bins, gift supplies, and even your child’s own toy box. Get creative with what you use. Since you have the power to switch the items out whenever they feel old, every time you play will feel like a completely new bag of surprises for your child.
STEP 1: Cut a hole into the top or side of your box with a box cutter. A circle works best.
STEP 3: Your gift wrapping skills will come in handy here. Using a cut paper bag, butcher paper, or wrapping paper, wrap the box. You will need to carefully cut out the paper around the existing hole.
It’s that simple.
How to Play
*For Infant Play: It’s easy, you reach your hand in and pull out 1 object. Show your infant the object and describe it by its texture, shape, and color. After describing it, hand it off to them and let them explore it with their hands and mouth.
*For Toddler Play: Play continues pretty similarly to infant play. But now, you can spend more time on descriptions. Point out how many sides something has or describe how the object might be used in daily life. Again, after describing it, hand it off to your little one and let them explore it.
Alternate play: Now that your toddler’s interest is piqued, allow them to reach into the tub and pull out an object. When they pull out an object, you should share in their excitement with oohs and ahhs. Again, describe the object for them and then let them return the object to the tub before pulling out another.
*For a young child: Now that your child can understand words and simple requests, try stringing together a couple of clues and have them attempt to reach into the tub and identify the object you have described based on it’s feel. When they think they have the correct object, ask them to pull it out and show you. If it isn’t the correct object, give them another chance, and provide additional clues as necessary.
Alternate Play: After your child becomes familiar with the objects inside, have them give you some clues to try to identify certain objects as well.
This is a game that can help build confidence and allow you to share in your child’s successes so encourage them to keep trying until they get it right. If your child begins to show signs of frustration, go ahead and give them a hand. Perhaps you reach in a few times yourself and pull out the wrong object to let them know its not always so easy.
The best part about this game is that the possibilities are endless. When you feel like your child is too familiar with what’s inside the tub, dump the items and exchange them for new ones. You can even give the contents a theme for holidays, seasons, the alphabet, or other categories.