1. Bags for Blocks. Invite children to make paper bag blocks. Open the bags, fill them with crumpled newspaper, and tape them closed. Talk about how much crumpled paper the children need to fill different-size bags and how the bags feel when full. When children have a collection of paper-bag blocks, provide them with paints, scraps of art materials, glue, and other materials they can use to decorate them. As they work, encourage children to talk about the different methods they are using in their constructions.
Later, ask children to think about what they would like to build with their blocks. They might want to build individually or make a group construction. Either way, set up a large area where children can work.
2. Get in Character. Collect large paper bags with attached paper or plastic handles (at least one for each child); additional paper shopping bags to use as masks; an unbreakable mirror; a variety of materials such as juice cans, egg cartons, plastic-foam pieces, empty boxes, fabric scraps, and straws; scissors; glue; tape; crayons and paint. Cut off the bottoms of the bags that have attached handles. Children can wear the bags as costumes by stepping into them and using the paper or plastic handles as shoulder straps. On the day that you engage children in this activity, arrange the collage and scrap materials on a table so children can decorate their costumes with them.
3. Pop on a Paper Bag Puppet. Bring in a few of the children's favorite books to group time. Together, brainstorm a list of other books children have read in school, at home, or in libraries. Talk about the characters in the stories. Which do children like best? Ask each child to name his favorite character. Write children's choices next to their names on an experience chart.
Invite children to make paper bag puppets of their favorite characters. Talk again about what characters children want to be. Offer children collage and scrap materials. Encourage them to use planning, problem-solving, and creative skills to decide what types of puppets they want to make. How can they use the materials to represent their ideas? Ask them to let you know if they want other materials, and plan together where and how you'll get them. Then observe as children work.
4. Make a Mascot. Provide children with two large paper shopping bags, colored yarn, and scrap materials that can be easily crumpled, including clean rags, newspaper, and pieces of cotton fabric. Invite children to choose pieces of scrap materials, crumple them, and stuff them into the paper bags. To make the mascot's head, ask children to stuff the first bag halfway full, and then tape it closed. Ask children to use markers, paint, or decorative materials to make a face. Invite them to decide together on special characteristics, such as what color yarn to glue on for hair. Encourage them to work together to make a mascot that represents the whole class.
Suggest that children problem-solve ways to create a body using the second shopping bag and remaining scrap materials. Work together over several days.
Help children attach the mascot's body to its head. Ask them to decide on a name for their mascot. Find the mascot a home in your classroom.
5. It's in the Bag! Use paper bags to surprise and delight children's senses. Collect a variety of objects of different textures, including feathers, pinecones, cotton balls, sandpaper, and bubble wrap. Place the objects in the bag, one at a time. Invite children to close their eyes, reach into the bag, and try to identify the object through their sense of touch.
Now try a variation on the game. Invite one child in the group to try to identify the object in the bag. Add another object to the bag. The next child can try to "find" the first object (by touch) and then try to identify the second object. The third child will try to identify the two previous objects in the bag, as well as a third, new object added to the bag. Keep the game going until the last child in the group has to identify the entire group of materials added to the bag.