No, it is not a box for real jewels or gems. It is a box full of fun, educational activities that J can do by herself. It is full of things that encourage her to use her imagination and play. It is full of toys and books and dolls and games and letters and numbers and whatever else I decide to throw in there for the week (or the month or for however long I leave them in this time).
As we began our homeschool adventure last summer/fall, I was looking for a way to encourage J to entertain herself that would be a challenging, educational “something” for her to do. Some people call these sorts of things “All By Myself” boxes. Or maybe “busy bags.” This is somewhat along the same line but I didn’t want these things to be completely dictated to her about how to use them. So, maybe they are more along the lines of what some folks call “invitations” for play or exploration.
Here, J is playing with dry pinto beans and a tractor. She created a whole story about what she was doing and why and what it was for. No direction for me for her play. Exploration, creativity, imagination.
What all is there –
We bought a large box, probably about 15 gallons, that has easy lock handles on the sides. This was so that she could open it up by herself AND, more importantly, put it away by herself. This holds the big stuff, the baggies of smaller things, the books, or whatever else is going to be in the Jewel Box for now.
- Board books with opposites, numbers, letters, shapes, and colors
- Bible picture pairs game
- large numbers 1 – 10
- matching game for numbers 1 – 20
- Dear Zoo book and giraffe
- Stamp Marker activity pad
- little dolls
- counting bears and cards to work
- pattern matching cards
- building set from a kid’s meal somewhere
- shapes that her older sister made for her to practice with
- fishing game for ABCs
- some easy reader books from Reading the Alphabet
- the letter B matching activity and phonics work
These are the things that are in there right now. These get changed out from week to week or month to month for anything and everything I can find that might encourage J to work on her own or work on a concept that she is about to learn or one that she might need practice with. I find things at the dollar stores, garage sales, the toy box, the bookshelf – everywhere! Just keep your eyes open and you’ll find lots of things in your home that could work for something like this.
We also bought 3 small boxes with the same easy lock handles that hold things like dry beans, rice, cotton balls, pompoms, foam stickers, polished rocks, marbles, and more. I only have 3 of these so that there isn’t too much separation that has to happen at clean up time.
- blue – thick foam stickers in a winter theme (this one hasn’t been changed for a LONG time!)
- purple – dry beans
- pink – cotton balls (had some small glittery hearts in there for February)
- (Middle row left to right) small bits of paper the girls colored and cut to be ice cream toppings
- acorns, leaves, and pumpkins – small acrylic things I found at Target’s dollar spot
- polished rocks
- (Bottom row left to right) marbles
- colored rice
**Please use caution when choosing the items to go in these if they are left where small children are or you have a child who might want to put these things in their mouths. Every child is different and these work for my kids but I do pick them up when we have others over so that the temptation is not there for someone else’s child.**
We also collected a mish-mash of containers – old parmesan cheese canister, the little bubble gum egg cartons from Easter, a large dish packer (looks like an egg crate for ostrich eggs!), mini M&M canisters. We put in whatever we could find. I also put in a set of plastic tweezers that had a little red light on the end that lit up when it was closed.
How we used it –
When I needed time to work with the older two giggly girls, J was asked to go play at her Jewel Box. This was time for her to guide her own choices. She could use the items in the box however she wanted as long as she did it quietly. Sometimes, she would ask for help to know how to play a game or do an activity for real and I would tell her and show her. Most of the time, she used her imagination and came up with ways to learn and play all on her own. She seldom had to play there for more than an hour by herself because her sisters really wanted to play there, too. So, they would work harder to get their part done and then ask if they could go play with J in her Jewel Box.
This summer, it is still being used every single day, though it is all her choice to use it for the summer. It is not at all uncommon for all three giggly girls to be sitting around the Jewel Box, creating some play scenario and having a good time. At Home.
This post is linked up with ABC Blogging on Ben and Me.