Why my mystery basket is better than your treasure box

Okay, sorry for the title. That sounds kinda rude, but it helped get you here, right? I’m sure your treasure box is great. If your own kids or your class intrests in it seemed to dull over time I have a solution for you. Hide the contents!

Meet the mystery basket:


I know it doesn’t look like much, but ol’ trusty has never dulled over time.

I had a much nicer large one of plywood complete with hinges and elaborate decorative cloth that I made in college. And by “I”, I mean my hubby. He built the box and I decorated it for a class project.

I left it to another teacher when I “retired”. Sorry, that was before the whole camera phone thing. So, no picture.

I still had tons of dollar store baskets from my teacher days that I used in my peg board-mommy-educator closet. I also had a gifted pillowcase from our engagement that my husband never found as amusing as I did. These two things are only the skin and bones of the mystery basket.image The guts are made up of crap. No really, it is. All the toys that come in kids meals, party favors, and best of all toys confiscated in the heat of the moment are what make up the guts. Sometimes toys that seem to have lost their appeal and would have otherwise ended up in the trash are given new life here. (Think Toy Story 3)

I will not include a picture of these things just as my children and CCE students are never allowed to look in to the mystery basket. Not knowing what is in there, and sometimes knowing just enough (I really want my Ironman Lego guy back) is why the luster never fades. Just the process of getting to dig in it without looking is the reward.

Imagine it- you have finally earned the reward of sticking your hand in this elusive basket and feeling around. Each new touch a curious puzzle to unfold. What is this???? Do I want this to be my choice??? Cue endorphin rush.

It doesn’t matter if what they chose is a disappointment or not. Perhaps next time it will be something amazing. They have no idea because they haven’t seen the contents of the basket. Therein lies the secret to why it never gets old.

In my CCE class my students earn stickers (or crayons if we run out of stickers)  when they are doing a great job participating in the lesson. The student with the most stickers at the end of class gets to go in the mystery basket.

At home I use it for when they have filled out their Mass Response sheet, or whenever I feel like they need a little motivation accomplishing a goal. Often times they suggest it as a reward. It stays out of reach since I have had a few nosey bugs.

In the classroom (before my “retirement”) I would do this once a week, on Friday. I would draw a slip of paper with a name on the back; much like a raffle. Tickets being earned by a variety of desirable traits throughout the week. It was a practical way to teach probability as well. BONUS!

If you have a treasure box try putting it in a pillowcase and adding a bit of mystery to it this year. My hope is that you will be able to tap into a neverending source of motivation to fuel your classroom environment, or to help you save your sanity at home.


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One Comment

  1. Amanda Hoyt
    Aug 15, 2015 @ 02:53:03

    Love this idea!


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