Magic Surprise

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The Encyclopedia of Infant and Toddler Activities Revised

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The Encyclopedia of Infant and Toddler Activities Revised


  • Empty tissue box or wipes container
  • Several colorful handkerchiefs, silk scarves, or soft pieces of cloth
  • Needle and thread (adult use only)
  • Scissors (adult use only)

What to Do

Ahead of Time:

  1. If you are using a wipes container, slightly enlarge the hole in the top with the scissors.
  2. Carefully tie the scarves together at one corner with small knots that will go through the hole or slit at the top of the container used, creating a long length of scarves. Make sure the knots are very tight. Alternatively, you can sew the fabric pieces together end to end to create a chain.
  3. Make a large knot at the end of the chain to prevent it from coming out of the container.
  4. Stuff the scarf chain into the container. Leave a bit of the end piece sticking out of the opening.
  5. Put the box on the floor for the children to discover. Be sure to supervise carefully.

With the Children:

  1. When a child discovers the box, she will begin to pull the scarf chain out. She may experiment with how hard to pull the scarf chain.
  2. Comment on what the child is doing, "Oh, look! You found a surprise. Wow! Here comes another one. Oh, it's purple. I wonder how many there are. Keep pulling!"
  3. Talk with the children about the colors of the scarves, the patterns or designs on the scarves, and the number of scarves in the box.
  4. Be prepared to stuff the scarves back into the container many times. As the children explore the scarves, they will show interest and curiosity about objects and materials.

More to Do: Extensions and Adaptations

For Older Toddlers:

  • Hold the container and encourage older toddlers to walk backward as they pull out the scarves. This is challenging for many young children.
  • Read the book Butterfly Colors and Counting by Jerry Pallotta to a small group of children who gather to do the activity. Pretend the scarves are butterflies. GIve each child a turn to pull out one "butterfly." Count how many butterflies there are in the container.
  • Place butterfly puzzles in the fine-motor area of the room.
  • Make butterfly catchers.
  • Go on a nature walk and look for butterflies.

Suggested Book: Butterfly Colors and Counting by Jerry Pallotta.

Song: "Do You Know a Butterfly?"

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