Back to School with Mystery Box Riddles (Ages 5 to 9)

Well, it’s back to school time! I’m not even going to attempt to describe what we are up against this year, but regardless of the situation, we need to put on our big girl panties (or boxers) and make it work.

I must admit I was feeling pretty defeated the first two days, but after lots of discussion, awesome support from my school administration, hard work and collaboration with colleagues, I left not only feeling ready to welcome my new students on Tuesday, but actually with a sense that some of the necessary protocols might in fact influence some of my future practises. Sometimes you have to dig deep, but in hard situations, when change is forced upon is, it might just be an opportunity to rise up and emerge stronger and better!

When we first were faced with school shutdowns in the spring, I decided to convert my Youtube channel BOWhemian WRAPsody to a kid based video series to support my own students as well as others throughout the world that might benefit and enjoy the daily Mystery Box challenges. I came up with a system for writing, shooting, editing and publishing that worked well and decided to continue to produce videos through the summer. I have now posted 138 Mystery Box Riddle videos (with another 9 scheduled to be released over the next two weeks). In addition to the Mystery Box Riddles, I had already published over 60 gift wrapping videos, so to date, my channel has 215 videos on it. It’s amazing how one’s direction can change so drastically in a moments notice. When I launched my channel at the end of June in 2019, my initial goal was to post 60 gift wrapping tutorials in the first year. I thought this seemed like a reasonable goal since I was still learning the ins and outs of using Youtube, blogging and working full time teaching Kindergarten. I honestly can’t believe that now, just over a year later, I have made more than 215 videos, most of which are riddles geared to young children! What happened there?!

Although I don’t really know the future of the channel and whether gift wrapping tutorials will emerge again or not, for now I have decided to continue with the riddles. The students seem to love them and in many cases, solving Mystery Boxes became a daily family routine. With so much still up in the air regarding school and Covid 19, I thought that I would continue for the time being.

Why Mystery Box Riddles?

This playlist was initially produced for students that were being impacted by the Covid19 outbreak and forced to learn from home. It was designed to engage early years students (5 to 9 year olds) in critical thinking, problem solving and vocabulary development….all while enhancing their listening skills. My goal was to use clues & riddles to engage students ~ hoping they would have fun trying to figure out what might be hidden in my mystery box. Our students loved them so much, that we have decided to make the riddles part of our daily routine, even though we’re back at school. The riddles can be used to promote great discussions, enhance English vocabulary, improve listening skills and develop critical thinking.

Subscribers can expect to receive a new riddle each school day through notifications! Aside from the fun in solving the riddles, the format is purposely patterned and predictable. This has sparked many students’ creativity and they in turn are writing their own riddles and some are even motivated to make their own videos. This can be done at school or as a home project because the channel is public and accessible by all!

What an awesome way to promote oral language skills!

I’m asking for your help: Please LIKE, SHARE & SUBSCRIBE.

I really believe that the riddles are a great tool for both teachers and parents. Many teachers are struggling to find new ways to teach and engage students while adhering to new regulations and many parents have opted to home school during the pandemic. We all know teachers, child care workers and parents! Please help me out by sharing this post and the link to the Mystery Box Riddle Playlist. I will be releasing new videos Monday through Friday, but you can always use the playlist to start at the beginning. The order you watch is irrelevant, but as a teacher of little ones, it makes sense to start at #1.

Again, my channel is a public channel, so it is fine to LIKE and SHARE the videos. If you wish to get regular notifications of new Mystery Box videos, I suggest SUBSCRIBING to my channel. In the mean time, please feel free to share with other teachers, child care workers and parents. Thanks for your support and have fun solving the riddles!

Mystery Box Riddle #12

Mystery Box Riddle #10

Happy solving! Don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE with friends and family…the mystery riddles are geared to 5 to 8 year olds. I’m hoping some will be inspired to make their own. One of my students just sent me a video yesterday. He made his own Mystery Box video and shared his own riddle with me…so cute!

Mystery Box Riddle #7

Have fun solving today’s riddle. Remember to LIKE and SHARE!

Just realized that I forgot to push the PUBLISH button! Guess you get two today!!

Mystery Box Riddle #6

Quick Mystery Box Riddle post before getting ready for online church!

One Stop Bake Shop: “Sweet Treats” Kindergarten Bakery


I’ve taught kindergarten for many years, but I never feel like my program has become boring or repetitive. I strive to keep things fresh and always try to enhance the activities, lessons and play areas to keep things fun and engaging. I definitely have a creative side and luckily teaching is a job that allows me to infuse my program with creativity and frankly, its what keeps me inspired. Every year or so, I try to create a new dramatic play space for my kinders. We have a Boston Pizza Restaurant, Vet, Post Office and Deli that we rotate through along with our standard house center. The students love dramatic play and these areas are always a hit. A few years ago, I decided I would love to create a bakery, but knew that it would be a huge undertaking because I just didn’t have enough pretend items to stock the bakery. This past winter, I finally took the plunge and with the help of my student teacher and a few volunteers, we set to work.

Salt Dough Bakery Foods:

We created salt dough pastries, breads and cookies. Originally, I tried colouring the dough by mixing variations of instant coffee, tea and cinnamon with the water added to the dough mixture. This created beautiful earthy coloured dough that we formed into the items shown below. They looked so amazing when we finished, but we were so disappointed when all of the dough dried much lighter and virtually looked the same. So in the end, each piece was carefully painted to look as authentic as possible and then little embellishments were added as needed such as sesame seeds to the bread sticks, icing to the hot cross buns, cinnamon dusting to the cinnamon rolls, and a bead to the imperial cookies. All of the items were given several coats of podge. For the most part, they turned out great (with the exception of how the podge yellowed on the imperial cookies). They are hard and sturdy, but would not with stand heavy duty play. When we set up the bakery and explained the centres to the students, we emphasized that unlike toys you buy in the store, these will break. Although the kids were certainly allowed to play with them, we also talked about how some of the items in the bakery would act more as display items that wouldn’t be handled quite as much. The students were really great about handling these carefully and they all survived the first year!

Salt Dough Recipe:

  • 2 cups of flour (plain)
  • 1 cup of salt
  • upto 1 cup of water

Create your items and then let air dry. We actually left ours over the weekend. Turn them over to dry the bottoms, once the tops has thoroughly dried. Paint and seal with Modge Podge or a similar product.

Cake PopsCake Pops:

The cake pops were a bit finicky and the sprinkles were not adhering well, so in the end, we told the kids they would be for display only. They were made with dowel and wood balls. We drilled a hole in the ball and then secured the dowel in the hole with glue. They were then spray painted and podged (the stripe was created with the narrowest painter’s tape). The sprinkles (tiny beads) were glued on and then podged over top.  They looked great, but any little bump and the sprinkles would fall off. There were so many things to do in the bakery, the kids really didn’t mind that these weren’t to be used. As a result, they held up really well and are ready for next year.

Classic Chocolate “Sponge” Cake:

Classic Chocolate Layer Cake

The Classic Chocolate Cake was made using regular yellow sponges we bought at the dollar store. I took them home and spray painted them all brown. We then glued a layer of felt between the layers for icing and covered one end and the top with additional felt for the frosting on the outside. Small pieces of felt were cut out and glued on to embellish the cake and then fabric glue was used to add sprinkles.

Felt Cakes:

We also used felt to cover round cylinder shaped boxes (and one rectangular box) that I picked up from Dollarama. We simply covered the entire surface with white felt and then cut out various felt strips for decorating the cakes. In addition, we bought cheap little silk flowers from the craft area at the dollar store and added velcro to the bottoms. The velcro stuck beautifully to the felt, so that the kids could “dress” and “undress” the cake for any occasion. I also made two sizes so the cakes could be stacked for a wedding cake. I was lucky to find some old spools of felt ribbon I had bought for scrapbooking years ago, this also made beautiful decorations for the felt cakes.

Cookie Tin Cakes:

I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to incorporate as many hands-on bakery experiences as possible. Eventually my mind settled on magnetic cakes. I went to a local thrift store and picked up several round cookie tins of varying sizes for 50 cents each. I took them home and spray painted them and then using a brush added a few details that would be permanent decorations on the cake. From there, we just took some of the many flowers I had bought from the dollar store and added magnets to the bottoms. The kids loved the ease with which they could change a cake according to the orders made by customers at the bakery.

Play Dough Baking Station:

I wanted to extend the students’ bake shop experience beyond decorating to the actual prep work behind those beautifully finished cakes.  I had a parent volunteer make a batch of my favourite play dough (omitting any colour as I wanted it natural):

Mrs. Roy’s Play Dough Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food colouring (Kool Aid also works great for colouring)

Mix oil, water and food colouring in a pot. Add the dry ingredients. Stir. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. When the mixture is very thick and dough like, remove it from the pot and let it cool a bit. Transfer to an air tight plastic container and chill.

We then set up a table in the bakery where the bakers could knead, roll and cut the dough as they chose. I have cookie sheets, muffin tins, pie plates, pastry cutters and cookie cutters, so they had everything they needed to bake. In addition, I put out some small beads and dried beans that they were able use to decorate and/or add to their baking (eg. chocolate chips, raisins, etc)

Natural Coloured Play Dough

We set up a station in the bakery with natural coloured play dough. The kids used rolling pins, cookie cutters and small beads/beans to embellish their creations.


I found several good tutorials on how to make sock donuts. I followed the instructions for making the basic donut shape, but was having trouble collecting socks that were authentic donut colours, so I ended up covering most of the sock donuts with panty hose to create more of a natural donut look. We then added the felt icing and fabric paint sprinkles to some. The donuts turned out great an were very durable. I picked up all of the wicker baskets at a local thrift store for no more than a dollar each.

Our kindergarten bakery created hours of fun for the kids. In addition to all of the homemade items, I also have a set of wooden Doug and Melissa Cookies and a set of commercially made cupcakes, as well as a few other random pieces from classroom sets. Of course, we also had a till and a telephone for taking orders and a table set up if you wanted to stay for coffee and a “Sweat Treat”. This was lots of work to plan and create, but the hard work is now done and next year the set up with be easy. The students get so excited when there is a new play area created for them. I love to see them step into these roles and see their own creativity emerge.

I love kindergarten!!



Counter Top Swatch Upcycle: Chalkboard Tags

counter top samplesI’ve had a string of counter top swatches hanging in my storage room at school for what seems like forever. I want to say I was given these (or picked them up from a home store – don’t remember how I got them) about 20 years ago. I’ve only used a couple of them over the years, but could never part with them because I was certain there was a project they’d be perfect for ….I just couldn’t seem to figure out what it was. Well, I finally did!

When I was preparing for back to school this year, I was making some little pots to hold my “leader of the day” sticks. I wanted to put a tag on each of the pots to distinguish between my morning and afternoon classes, and it suddenly dawned on me that the samples I’d been hoarding (I mean saving) for all these years would be perfect.

Counter Top Swatch Upcycle:

This has got to be the simplest project in the history of upcyles! Here’s what you need:

  • formica/arborite counter top swatches (smooth finish)
  • black chalkboard spray paint
  • spray paint (optional)
  1. Lay the swatches down in a “spray safe zone”. (You don’t want dust floating around or off spray ruining anything. I do all of my spray painting in my DIY spray tent which was made from a garage sale garment storage bag.)
  2. Paint one side of the swatch.
  3. Let them dry and then flip them over and spray the other side. (I used chalkboard paint on both sides, but of course, you could leave the original formica colour as is and just paint the back with your chalkboard paint, or use a colour of your choice to paint the reverse side.)

Marvy Garden MarkerAfter the swatches are dry, you can use chalk or something more permanent to write on your chalkboard tag. Depending on the project and how much the label will be handled, I often use my White Marvy Garden Marker for projects in which I want a “chalk look”, but the durability of paint/marker. These garden markers come in different sizes and colours, but I generally use the 6mm white marker. It goes on like paint, but has a chalk kind of look.  (I bought my Marvy at Michael’s, but I found something similar on Amazon called the Bistro Chalk Marker.)

You could also use acrylic paint to decorate the edges of your tag(s) with dots or swirls. The uses for these durable chalkboard tags are endless:  lunch bags, backpacks, basket tags, gift tags, etc. I honestly have at least 60 of these hanging on a string in my classroom storage area. I’m so glad I hang on to them! I’m going to bring them all home to paint.

If you’d like to find some counter top samples for yourself, I would suggest contacting home stores. They often have new lines of product and are getting rid of their old samples. If they don’t have anything available at that time, they might be willing to hang on to old samples for you. If you find a little “mom and pop” type store, they might even call you when they have some. Companies are constantly providing their retail outlets with new product/colour samples, so even after all these years, I think you should be able to get your hands on some.

I’m so excited about this simple project. I’m sure you’ll be seeing these chalkboard tags in many of my upcoming projects!

Dramatic Play Center: Boston Pizza Restaurant

I am still working on a few items for the Boston Pizza Restaurant in my kindergarten classroom, but it is already up and running. I will add the extra items as I find and finish them. I really tried to make this fun and a great learning opportunity as well. Play is such an important part of learning and should never be considered meaningless or a waste of time. Here are just a few of the concepts I tried to incorporate to make the play area not only fun, but educational as well:

  • size comparison (small, medium and large ~ pizzas and drinks)
  • play money (opportunities to use play money for the exchange of goods and begin to learn the monetary value of the coins and bills as well as their names)
  • writing (orders can be taken or for those not yet ready, I created a “write and wipe” order sheet that is laminated)
  • reading (the signs in and around the restaurant as well as the menus)
  • math (number recognition, simple addition for those that pursue it, money concepts and even fractions)
  • how to set the table properly (use the placemats to properly set the table for customers)
  • learn about the different roles of the people who work in the restaurant (Chef, server, dish washer, host, etc)
  • fractions ~ we talked about how if one person likes a topping and the other doesn’t, you could order your pizza with a topping on only 1/2 of the pizza
  • manners and customer service
  • phone etiquette
  • taking turns (only 5 children allowed in the center at one time and deciding who will work in the restaurant and who the customers will be)
  • vocabulary development
  • the opportunities for learning really are endless and something that is so engaging also makes a great springboard for other learning activities in the classroom

*Be sure to click on the first image. It will take you to the enlarged slide show and reveal the captions.

Some of these concepts are definitely more applicable to a classroom or day care setting, but setting up a similar play area for your little ones can foster the same great learning opportunities at home. Let me know if this sparks some creative play ideas in your home, classroom or day care!

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Pretend Pizza for Dramatic Play

I have been working on transforming my play kitchen at school into a pizza restaurant. I will share the entire center, but wanted to start by sharing the pretend pizza. My goal was to create pretend pizza that I could use over and over again, year after year. I wanted to put big effort into the creation of the center, so that I could simply store the items away when it is not in use and pull them out the following year. I didn’t want to have to re-collect and re-make items for the restaurant. I came up with this idea for the pizza and they turned out great. I am still on the look-out for a 12″ wooden base, but otherwise the pizzas are done. This would be great for any classroom, day care or child that loves to engage in dramatic play. What a great DIY gift for that special little one who loves pretend play.

Any child that likes to play house would love this as a gift or play center at school or day care. The bases were not easy to find, but the felt pieces were super easy to make. You might be able to opt for plastic or metal plates/trays if you are finding the wood bases too hard to find. I really had/have my heart set on wood, so I will continue to look for a piece that will work for our “large” pizza.

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Rainbow Jars

Here is another quick and easy project that could be used in a children’s bedroom, classroom, office or even for a Rainbow birthday party decoration. Again,  I can’t take credit for this idea. I saw it on pinterest and just had to make a set for my classroom.

Rainbow Jars:

  • Purchase a set of jars at the dollar store.
  • Add water and food colouring to each jar.
  • Seal and shake to mix.
  • Place on a window ledge to catch the light.

You will notice that I don’t have all of the colours of the rainbow and they are not actually set-up in rainbow order.  I played with the order until I like it. Unfortunately, when I was taking the photo for this post, it was overcast. When the sun shines in the classroom windows, it creates a beautiful reflection of light and colour through the jars.  The children love to look at them.

rainbow jarsThe original poster had the jars set up in her kitchen.  I am not sure that would work for me, but it gets me thinking that it might look cool to create a set in different hues of the same colour for home decor.

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