Mystery Bag

Synthetic selection

Synthetic selection

Start a conversation with some everyday objects

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:


You will need:

Opaque bags filled with a selection of items made from plastic. For example, kitchen utensils, toys, pens, headphones, plastic cups and a computer mouse

Start a conversation about objects made from plastic. A tried-and-tested favourite with teachers, spark curiosity and debate with a selection of everyday objects.

Run the activity

1. Several parcels of mystery items have been delivered! How can they tell what’s inside without looking? Some methods they could use:

  • feeling
  • observing
  • listening
  • smelling

2. All the objects have something in common. They're all made from plastic! Has this changed what they think is in the bag and if so, why? Reveal the items in each bag one at a time. 

Background science

All of the items in the bag are made of plastic. The first synthetic plastic was invented by Dr Leo Baekeland. He called it Bakelite, after himself. It was very hard and inflexible; very different to the plastics we can make today. Today, plastic is used to make lots of different things, from plastic shopping bags to water bottles or toys. As of July 2017, scientists estimate that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced in a period of only 25 years. The problem with this is that most plastic isn't biodegradable and a lot isn’t recyclable. This means it can end up in our oceans and on our beaches where it can be harmful to the environment and wildlife.



Take it further

We use a lot of plastic in our daily lives. Find out what other things are made of plastic around the classroom or home. Talk about what happens to the plastic items when they wear out,or are broken or no longer useful. Are there any swaps we could make or things we could do without? 

Image credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr CC BY 2.0