When I was little and my mom was in the middle of her career as a teacher, there were a few things she had in her collection of classroom learning tools that I was especially drawn to. One of them was a yellow box with a hand drawn on the top and a sock coming out of a hole on either side. There were all kinds of things inside the box, but you couldn't see them. You couldn't even peek because of the socks. You had to put your hand in and feel instead. I loved to feel around in the box, guess what I had grabbed and then pull it out to see if I was right. It sounds simple, doesn't it? But that feely box was so... so... mysterious! I can still remember reaching in and finding a soft, scruffy hairbrush.
The other day a Facebook discussion on homeschool manipulatives and activities made me realize it would be fun to have craft days to make some of these things. The feely box was the first thing that came to mind. It's versatile and easy to make.
The feely box makes for a fun, relaxing activity that can easily be revamped by changing out the items in the box. I'm thinking of keeping several sets of items handy and reloading them every month or so. You could also fill the box with items to go along with whatever you are learning at the time. If you are learning about the ocean, perhaps some seashells, sponges, driftwood, and smooth stones. You could combine the feely box with a sink-or-float experiment, asking the child to guess if the item will sink or float before they pull it out of the box. Obviously, the feely box would be perfect for teaching sense of touch, and it also helps develop vocabulary.
It's mostly self-explanatory, but here are the instructions for making the feely box. I took the time to cover mine and sew special tubes for it, but you could skip some of these steps and make a simpler box. Sorry there are no process photos; with the kids distracting me, I was doing great to finish my box at all!
sturdy corrugated cardboard box, ~10x10"
two socks (I prefer to use sweater sleeves)
poster board in a pretty color
duct tape in a coordinating pretty color
small paper cup or other circular item to trace (your hand needs to fit through)
exacto knife or cutting tool
ice pick or other pointy tool
items to put in your box
1) Tape your box together and tape it shut.
2) Cut a square of poster board for each side. Don't forget which sides of the box are the non-taped ones. Put a dot or something on the center of two of the sides that are solid during this process (one on each side) so you will know for the next step. Cover the box with the poster board, and use the duct tape to secure the edges and make it look pretty.
3) Place your cup in the middle of the box on the two sides you marked and draw around it. Then cut the circles out with your cutting tool. You should be able to look straight through your box.
4) Use your ice pick to make small holes around each big round hole. I did 12 holes about 3/4" from the circle, arranged like the numbers on a clock.
5) Cut the top of your sock off so you have a tube a few inches long. Tuck the raw edge inside the hole in the box and secure it all the way around with brads. Do this on both sides.
6) All you need to do now is stuff your box with fun feely items! In ours I put toothbrushes, combs, seashells, erasers, baby spoons, tiny slinkies, scrubby sponges, little plastic maracas, wooden eggs, squishy stress balls, and some of those gummy/spiky toys that feel so neat. I included two of everything so we could play the following game.
One of my friends sends her sons to Montessori school and told me about a Montessori work that could be adapted to the feely box. I put two of each item into the box. Then I let Suzi put both hands in and feel around for a pair of items. Once she pulls out two things that are alike, she passes the box to Ivey. Ivey (almost three years old) is able to play this game too and it makes her so happy when she is successful. This game would work with one child or with a bunch of children having circle time.
To tell the truth, I still enjoy playing with the feely box myself. Brings back good memories. A big thanks to my mom for the inspiration, information, and help creating these!