A find-it jar (or scavenger hunt in a bottle) is a great toy for kids who are learning Spanish. I have played with these in stores and love them. Searching for the tiny boat, discovering the dinosaur – it is captivating! Find-it jars can be a good language learning activity, so I was happy to discover that making your own is not complicated at all.
A find-it jar is a plastic or glass jar filled with colored rice, sand, beads or glitter with tiny objects in it. You can put any variety of small things you find around the house into the jar. Children turn the jar looking for the objects. Take a picture of the objects before you assemble the jar, so kids know what they are looking for. It is a good idea to glue the lid closed with super glue or a hot glue gun. There are detailed instructions for making a find-it jar here and another good explanation for making a find-it jar here. This site calls them Lookie Loos – a scavenger hunt in your hand and also has instructions.
With a find-it jar children can learn new Spanish vocabulary or practice words they know. They can also practice noun-adjective agreement, the verbs buscar (to look for), ver (to see) and encontrar (to find), and direct object pronouns. These are a few suggestions for how to make and use a find-it jar specifically to practice Spanish with children:
• One option is to make the selection of objects completely random, based on what you find around the house. These are a few of the things that we found and the Spanish vocabulary:
el dado – die
el caballo – horse
el león – lion
el perro – dog
el zapato – shoe
los lentes de sol – sunglasses
la concha – shell
la moneda – coin
el clip – paperclip
el tornillo – screw
la cuenta – bead
la canica – marble
el candado – tiny pad lock
la piedrita – little stone
el imperdible – safety pin
la casa – house (from Monopoly)
las uvas – grapes
el plátano – banana
la manzana – apple
la taza – cup
la llanta – a tire
el botón – a button
la carita feliz – a smiley face (a button)
el toro – a bull
el conejo – a rabbit
el anillo – a ring
el oso – a bear
el delfín – a dolphin
• When you take the picture of the objects, you can label them if you like. This will depend on whether or not your child reads in Spanish and how familiar she is with the words.
• You can focus on a theme like animals or colors.
• You can choose objects that start with different letters and put in the letters, too. Kids can look for the letter and the object that begins with that letter. There are lots of craft beads with letters and also tiny alphabet blocks for crafts ($.99 for the set at our craft store).
• This is a great activity to practice describing. Kids will probably say things like Veo el zapato azul (I see the blue shoe) anyway, but you can focus on adjective placement and agreement by listing or labeling some of the objects with an adjective. It does not matter if the adjectives are obvious; it is still good practice. Describe objects by using phrases like:
un botón redondo / un botón cuadrado – a round button / a square button
una canica vieja – an old marble
un toro negro – a black bull
un león feroz – a fierce lion
un perro bonito – a pretty dog
una casa pequeña – a small house
• Regardless of the objects that you put in the jar, children can practice these verbs. Just use veo and no veo if your child is a beginner.
Busco – I’m looking for
Veo – I see
No veo – I don’t see
No encuentro – I’m not finding
No puedo encontrar – I can’t find
Es el (la)… – It is the..
Allí está el (la)… – There is the..
Creo que es el (la)… – I think it is the …
Vi el (la)… – I saw the…
Encontré el (la)… – I found the…
Ya vi el (la)… – I already saw the …
Ya encontré el (la)… – I already found the…
• The verbs above are easily combined with object pronouns when kids are playing with a find-it jar:
El perro. Busco el perro. ¡Lo veo! – The dog. I’m looking for the dog. I see it!
La casa. Ya la vi. – The house. I already saw it.