How to Make an I Spy Bag–the Easy Way

In two weeks, Tarica will be in the hospital. My to-do list is as long as my leg.

One of the things on that list was an I Spy bag for Tarica. I could buy one, but I didn’t feel like spending $20.00 for something I could make myself. When I looked online, I found dozens of patterns and ideas. However, most of them involved sewing.

Don’t get me wrong: I like sewing. I’m a Mennonite; unless I want to pay someone to make my dresses, I need to sew and might as well like it. But right now I’m booked solid at my sewing machine. Tarica has been in dire need of dresses, and I want to take enough clothes along to the hospital so I’m not worrying about laundry every few days. Plus, I need a few new dresses as well.

With all that sewing to do, I didn’t feel like stitching together a craft project. So when I found instructions for a no-sew I Spy bag, I was thrilled. All I had to buy was a pencil pouch at Walmart for 97 cents. I had everything else I needed.

Two things, before I begin:

1. This idea is not original with me. I refuse to take credit for it. Google this project, and you will find many who have gone before me, and more creatively, too.

2. I am not a photographer. These pictures I am about to show you would embarrass anyone endeavoring to be one. I’m sure editing would improve the photos, but I edit words, not pictures.

Enough with the excuses. Let the game begin.

We started with this:

  • a pencil pouch with a large window
  • 2 cups of Perler beads
  • little odds and ends from craft boxes and around the house, i.e. junk
  • a paper to list all the…uh…junk before it went into the pouch


The girls had spent the previous evening ransacking the house for little things. They waved more items than these under my nose, but those I rejected because they were too large, too sharp, or too indescribable. A few indescribable items did make the grade, because I didn’t have the heart to say no every time.


We filled the pouch with beads, and then I listed each I Spy item, the girls tucking them into the pouch as I wrote.


I also collected my own pile of treasures, but I didn’t show them to Tarica. I want some of the things in the pouch to be a surprise. Buttons and beads are featured prominently.


Jenica put my collection into the pouch while Tarica hovered at the other end of the room.

And then, we zipped it shut. Done. I’d do more crafts if they were all this easy.


Everyone approved. There’s something addictive about the slide of the beads, the challenge of the hunt, the thrill of the find. Even I am not immune to it.

I want to type up the list and slide it inside the pouch for safe keeping. There are more clever ways to do this, involving laminating and hole punching, but I’m sticking with easy. I could also print out the photos I took of the junk, but as good as Tarica is at this kind of thing, she needs the challenge of not knowing exactly what each item looks like.

In looking over the photos, I just realized that we put two orange heart beads in the pouch. I’m going to have to change that. How would you ever know if you found the second one, or if you’re seeing the same one over and over again? Duplicates do not work in a pouch of moving parts.

This is one toy I’ll be keeping out of Micah’s reach. The site where I found this idea recommended putting a blob of hot glue on the zipper so it doesn’t “accidentally” come open. I didn’t do that because Jenica contributed the Perler beads—last year’s birthday gift—and she wants them back. I told her perhaps I’ll get her more beads, but until then, we won’t seal the zipper. I hope I don’t regret it. Did you ever pick up a thousand Perler beads?

Oh, and I guess what I found at a thrift shop the other day?

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I like how this book has pictures of each item to be found, with a number beside it. Not only will Tarica have the fun of looking for bugs, but she will get practice counting—and she can work independently. I’ll need to babysit her with the I Spy bag, since she doesn’t know what to look for next.

2015-01-23 08.10.39

A big thank you to all those who told me about the Usborne books. I doubt it would have stood out to me at the thrift store otherwise.

That is not all: The first grade teacher at Jenica’s school offered to lend us her 1001 Things to Spot on the Farm. From Tarica’s response to the bug book, I know she will enjoy the farm book as well.

Last week, I went through a period of wondering if I was overreacting. Did Tarica really need all this stuff I was thinking about taking?

Then we received a packet in the mail from the hospital, a stack of papers detailing what to expect during her stay and describing all the tests that would be inflicted upon her. The more I read, the worse I felt. Nothing short of divine intervention is going to get Tarica through this. Many of the tests involve sticking her head into a huge machine, and she is semi-claustrophobic. Besides, she is fully uncooperative when it comes to doctors.

We were at the orthopedic on Wednesday for one last elbow checkup. Tarica refused to move her arm for the doctor. He was a safe distance away, and she knows him by now, but she automatically locks up when anyone in a white coat gives her a command.

I got her to move her arm by telling her to give me a high five, and once she moved it, she relaxed and cooperated a little. But it’s getting her out of lockdown mode that will be tricky.

By the way, the elbow looks wonderful. Praise the Lord for healing!

Seizures aren’t any harder than an elbow for the Lord, right?

9 thoughts on “How to Make an I Spy Bag–the Easy Way

  1. I love your posts Stephanie! I really enjoyed this one again……I’m not a crafty type person either, but I think that I could even handle this one! My children actually have some of the ‘real’ I Spy cannisters, but I think it would be fun to come up with my own ideas!
    And if I’m not too late to make a suggestion for entertainment while in the hospital……my children have been entertained for hours listening to audio stories. They have their own personal inexpensive CD player with headphones, and have been lifesavers while travelling the many miles between MO and PA many times! Through the years, we have accumulated many good character building audio stories, and I feel we have a ‘library’ of sorts already. I’ve never been really impressed with the selection at local libraries, but there are some good things there. I could give you many recommendations if you want, and I am also offering to loan them to you if that is a possibility too?

    • You are not too late, Charlotte. I would love to hear your recommendations, although keep in mind Tarica is five and doesn’t have much patience with complex story lines. The paperwork we received from the hospital recommended using headphones and CDs for some of the head-in-a-machine tests, so I think I will need audio stories more than I first thought. Perhaps I can track down your recommendations locally and save you the bother of getting them to us.

      • When my children were that age, they loved Christopher Churchmouse stories. Some of mine have a book to go with the story. One possible drawback here-they are on cassette tapes. Imagine that! I have a CD of Little Bear stories. Ethel Barrett stories-again on cassette. What about Little House on the Prairie stories? I have that set on CD. Well, this is a start, should I keep going? Let me know! God bless u with courage and peace in your preparations.

        • Cassette tapes? What are they? 🙂 We don’t have a portable cassette player with headphone capability anymore. Little Bear is great, but we have the books, which I read frequently. I had to Google Ethel Barrett–but then there’s the cassette problem. We have Little House on the Prairie already, but I could maybe borrow the Big Woods CDs from a friend who has them. Isn’t Laura five in that book? Tarica would enjoy that.

          So…keep going. I like these ideas. 🙂

          • Stephanie, you don’t know me but my children have spent HOURS listening to stories on tape. Here are some of the stories that have been listened to over and over…
            “Farewell to Shady Glade” by Bill Peet
            “Make way for Ducklings” -Robert McCloskey
            “Katy and the Big Snow”- Virginia Lee Burton
            “Curious George Goes to the Hospital”
            “Frog and Toad are Friends”- Arnold Lobel
            “The Little House”- Virginia Lee Burton
            “Maybell the Cable Car”- Virginia Lee Burton
            “The Rainbow Fish”-Marcus Pfister
            “Lost in the Woods”-Carl R. Sams II
            “The Biggest Bear”- Lynd Ward
            “Tacky the Penguin”- Helen Lester
            “The Story of Ping”- Marjorie Flack
            “Frog and Toad all Year”- Arnold Lobel
            “Farmyard Tales”- USBORNE

            These are some of the stories my children have enjoyed. I don’t know where you live, but you would be welcome to borrow them if you live close by. My address is Ephrata.

          • Unfortunately, I don’t live close by, but this list is GREAT. A few of the stories we have heard already, and a number of the books are familiar, but this will give me a great starting point for checking with our local libraries and friends. If nothing else, I should definitely track down the book and/or CD about Curious George at the hospital. Tarica likes Curious George.

  2. Oh my those 3 little heads are so adorable and precious! I love that craft idea. I will be praying that the Lord will bless you with strength to tackle that ‘ long as a leg list’ And by the way you really blessed us by being so courageous and baring your heart when you wrote Light My Candle. That is one good book! My sister gave it to us a few years ago after our miscarriage and you put words to my pain. Thanks so much.

    • And it’s so easy to make. It took me longer to write the post than to assemble the bag.

      I’m glad the book was a blessing to you.

      God was faithful then, and He is still faithful now.

  3. I love your ‘pouch’. My sister made one with a plastic peanut butter jar- worked great and you can super glue the lid on. Not expensive to just replace the jar either. 🙂 I have all the stuff- just haven’t made one yet. I did buy a bag of little white crystals (from Hobby Lobby I think) since I figured my little guy would get too frustrated with the colors. Now he’s old enough not to care. Help! I’m so slow. Wishing you strength and patience and courage…

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