Image by: Michael Coghlan

Mystery Box

Age Range
5-7 yrs
Setup Time
10 minutes!
Setup Location

A preschool-age child's most pressing question is often "why?" Children's minds are constantly working and processing, and as they grow older and more mature and learn more about the world, they're able to better process and understand the things that they do, hear and see.

Cognitive development is the process by which a child learns to reason, solve problems and to think consciously. Cognitive development allows preschool-age children ages 3 to 4 years old to develop their own questions about the world around them and how it works. Preschool-age children learn by playing, listening, watching, asking questions and doing things for themselves. These activities help a child's brain develop and understand more complex thoughts and processes as they grow.

Re-purpose a small cardboard box to make a fun mystery box AND sharpen those reasoning skills! It is ideally done with a group of children


  1. Decorate a small cardboard box with the children. You can label it 'Mystery Box' or paste stickers with '?' marks

  2. Hide a small item (paper art, marbles, soft toy, play doh etc.) and pass it around so the children can feel its weight

  3. Ask the children to guess what is inside and record their guesses on a chart paper

  4. Afterwards, discuss why some guesses were more appropriate than others (discuss concepts of weight, size, dimensions)

  5. Next, you can distribute 1 clue to each child in the room and ask them to record their clue on a corresponding response sheet, and then find a friend with a different clue. (You can limit the clues to 4, to make it easy for children to remember and work in small teams)

  6. Once they have found and recorded all 4 clues, instruct them to read the clues altogether and write or draw about what they now thought was in the Mystery Box

  7. Before revealing what was inside, reconvene as a group to discuss the new guesses. Record the new guesses alongside the earlier guesses on the chart paper

  8. Lastly, discuss why some guesses were more appropriate than others

Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.