Discovery baskets, boxes, and bowls (Oh My!)

This should be a fairly short post. Today I just want to touch on discovery boxes. These are a great way for your little one to safely explore their environment and it’s an idea good for just about any age. You just have to make a few adjustments here and there to make it work with just about any child or group.

So what are discovery boxes?

A discovery box is usually a box or container with a group of similarly grouped items that are safe for your child to play with at their age. For example, the main discovery box (or in this case a mixing bowl) I’m going to talk about today is our kitchen discovery box. My parents have a lot of old kitchen stuff. Now, I’m not letting her play with the antiques, but we have some old biscuit cutters, metal straws, a tea ball, and other kitchen items that are safe for Freya to play with.

And the greatest thing is that you can make a discovery box have any theme you want to. If you are teaching your preschooler about the letter A, you can have a treasure chest or box that only has items with the letter A. You can do a color box, a pirate box (I so want to do this) or even a music box (which you’ll see later).

Best Use of Discovery Boxes

Now, I got the idea from a Montessori website and they do recommend a few things when it comes to discovery boxes, or well, toys in general. The first is that you rotate out your child’s toys instead of giving them access to all their toys at once.  This is supposed to stop them from being over stimulated. It is also supposed to help prevent a child becoming too easily bored with a toy. Since the toys are rotated out, it’s like having new toys every couple of weeks.

What can go in a Discovery Box?

Well, I’m going to show you a few examples now with some pictures of what has gone into some of our discovery boxes.


First of all, this is where all her toys go (and some of my stuffed animals that we now share). Right now she can only reach the first two shelves so I have stuffed animals on the upper shelf and toys on the bottom. I keep a few stock toys that are always calming out for her as well…such as the phone and the lantern. She pitches a fit if these two aren’t out.

In there you’ll see two of the three discovery packs I made for her.


The only one not included is the kitchen bowl basket. We’ve had it out for a few weeks now and it was time to switch it up again. We had a tea steeper in there along with a measuring spoon, old fashioned glass cup (highly unlikely to break), biscuit cutter, baby bottle (toy), bottle nipple, pot and pan (toy), ice stir, metal straw, and a cookie cutter.

This basket is the perfect example of one made from things we found entirely in the house. The old toys are mine, the nipple is hers, and the rest literally came from the kitchen.


The second is a basket of random things (a discovery basket doesn’t always have to be themed). Normally I would put this in my old toy shopping basket, but it needs to be cleaned and I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Most of the items are household items or toys that represent such things and then there is the random slice of pizza from my old Pizza Hut toy kit. This one contains an old lunch box cup, toy keys, toy pan, toy baby medicine dispenser from an old doll, and a toy stethoscope….which she loves.

One again a basket made entirely out of things I already had. It’s great if you have multiple children because when one has it cycled out of their toys, the other can see it in a discovery box in their room.  Or they can share boxes in a play room.  Whatever works for your family.


The final box is my music box. We almost always have a music box; its contents just vary (that’s what Freya gets for having a mother who studied music and psychology).  Right now it just has three things in it. Her favorite tambourine, which often stays in here, a shaker, and for right now, the new xylophone I bought her on Amazon (I want to say it was 12-15 dollars).  Other things I’ve included are: a thunder tube, egg shakers, Irish tin whistle, and harmonicas. I eventually want to get a cabasa, rain stick, and a few other things from my music therapy days.

Even though everything in here was bought specifically for the basket (or for my past career), most of it was on the cheap side. Both the tambourine and the shaker are Dollar Tree finds and the xylophone here was the cheapest one I could find. I can use it in color activities and music activities down the line. So I felt that it was worth investing a little money into.

Either way, you can make your baskets out of things entirely found around the home, or you can make them on the cheap. I’ve seen people create a Noah’s ark basket with animals for a Christian family. I have a friend who made a world religions basket for her toddler that has figurines of Buddha, Ganesh, and the Goddess.  This is a very versatile tool that can be used for play or learning.

I hope this inspires you to make your own baskets based on your own themes and passions.  I also hope that you’ll try rotating your child’s toys out as you go. I’ve seen it used in households and be a godsend. Not to mention the kids don’t ask for new stuff quite so often.

Blessed Be.


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