Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!


  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!



Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

6 responses to “Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

  1. Susan

    This is a great idea. We do mystery bags every day. We use them for math, science, reading and just about anything we can think of to do with them. Susan

  2. What a great idea! I will be teaching a combination Kindergarten and First Grade class in August. This will be a fun game to introduce letters and review for my Kindergarten children. For the FIrst Graders it is a great way to include them with bags that hold blends and special sounds.
    Blend example: bag, belt, bug
    Special sounds: sticker, stamp, stencil
    If the items are too large to put in the bag you could substitute with pictures of that item as Kelli mentioned.
    Thank you Kelli! =)

  3. This active learner activity is great for my Pre-K children . Commnication/language skills are involved as well as a great way to reinforce letter recognition and sounds. The “mystery bags” could be used throughout a school year and reinforce/introduce many concepts such as colors, rhyming words, basic concepts etc.. Thank Kelli for a great teaching technique!

  4. Judy Spradlin

    I love this language activity! It gives children the opportunity to use problem-solving skills to discover what all of the food items have in common. With the children being so involved in the learning process, they will be more likely to remember the connection between the objects and the beginning letter. Children love exploring a mystery and manipulating real objects, especially when it ends in eating fun food. I’m definitely going to use this idea in my classroom with my pre-k students this coming school year.


  5. Joey Byrd

    What a great idea! Mystery Bags will intrigue students and reinforce basic literacy skills. I will share this with my fellow teachers for sure.

  6. Susan

    We have used this idea a lot. I like it because I can use it with the different ages I have. Susan