Experience Bags or Boxes

A collection of materials used in making pudding to go into an experience bag or box.
A collection of materials used in making pudding to go into an experience bag or box.

Some children who are deafblind may not be ready for reading books, even homemade experience books. Something you can do as a step leading toward books is creating experience bags or boxes. 

What Are They?

Experience bags or boxes are simply a collection of objects (real objects not symbols) that are used or part of an experience or activity. When placed together they serve as reminders of specific things that took place or will take place as part of an event which can be tactually and visually explored by the child or individual. They serve as a point of joint attention between the child and their story partner where interaction and conversations can occur. 

For example, you might make an experience bag related to the activity of cooking instant pudding. In your bag or box you might include the box from the pudding mix, the inside packaging, a small carton of milk, a large bowl, a wire whisk, a large spoon, a small bowl, and a small spoon. Before the event and after the event you can sit down with the child or student and offer each object for them to explore in any way they choose. This might include such actions as:

    • looking at the items
    • licking, mouthing or smelling objects
    • banging, shaking,  throwing, scratching, rubbing, patting (etc.) items

Once they have had time to explore the object(s) you might model the action you will use or have used with the object. For example:

    • Opening the pudding box
    • Pouring the powdered mix into the big bowl
    • Opening the milk
    • Pouring the milk into the big bowl
    • Stirring with the whisk
    • Serving the pudding into the little bowl with a big spoon
    • Eating the pudding with a little spoon

Initially, you may or may not model the functions of the objects in a specific order. This depends on the interest of the child with any particular object or function. Eventually, after the activity becomes familiar, you may want to share the items in a particular order representing the sequence of steps or events that make up the experience. You can point out specific features of similar items, such as the big spoon for serving and the small spoon for eating. This is also when concepts such as first, next, and then can be introduced. 

Kentucky Derby Dash Experience Bag

In the video below, Peggy Sinclair-Morris from the Kentucky Deafblind Project, shares on the Paths to Literacy website,  how to make an experience bag. Her experience bag is about the Kentucky Deafblind Derby Dash

Tying to Print Books

Another great activity is collecting items that can help to illustrate or bring to life a print story book. For example, while reading the story to a group of children who are not visually impaired or deafblind, the real objects can be shared with the child who is deafblind making Story Circle accessible to the him/her. In her article, Easy to Create Story Boxes, on Paths to Literacy, Jaime Brown offers some terrific tips on creating story boxes for children who are blind or visually impaired, including suggested books for story boxes. This is also a nice way to include all your child in a bedtime story you might read building a life-long love of reading and books.

Learn More about Literacy for Little Ones

Literacy for LIttle Ones is a training series for families and professionals that focuses on early literacy skill development for children who are blind or visually impaired, with a focus on tactile learners. This training series focuses on the importance of motor skills, concept development, and language in developing literacy.