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‘Bag O’ Shoes’ Is a Speed-Matching Game That Keeps Kids Guessing

It's like playing a fast-paced game of 'Memory' but with real kicks.

Unlike Bag O’ Glass from the iconic 1976 Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live, Bag O’ Shoes is a fun (and totally safe) game where kids pull random footwear out of a giant garbage bag and try them on. They can mix and match the shoes ⏤ both adult- and kid-sized ⏤ based on size, color, and style, accessorize with various outfits, or just engage in a heated footrace down the hall in dad’s mismatched loafers. All while letting their imaginations run wild.

We inadvertently invented Bag O’ Shoes when my sister dropped off a plastic garbage bag full of her six-year-old son’s hand-me-downs. Within minutes, my kids were arm-deep into the bag and shoes were strewn everywhere. Bag ‘O Shoes was born. Ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, setup is extremely quick, inside or outside, and it helps develop motor skills, enhance creativity, and teaches kids to sort and clean-up.

RELATED: The Best Board Games for Toddlers

  • Prep Time: 2 minutes, or enough time to grab a large bag or container and pack it full of shoes
  • Entertainment Time: 30-45 minutes, depending on game variation
  • Energy Expended by Child: Moderate physical, as long as the game evolves into more than just trying different shoes on; Moderate mental from matching, brainstorming ideas, and practicing putting them on correctly

What You Need:

  • It works best with a drawstring garbage bag, but a large storage container (box or tote) works fine.
  • 10-20 pairs of shoes (both kid and adult). The more variation in size, type, color, the more fun the game.
  • Hats, accessories, masks, superhero costumes are optional but can make the game more entertaining
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How To Set Up:

Simple, put as many pairs of shoes as will fit in a garbage bag and cinch it tight enough that the footwear is hidden from sight. If using a storage bin, dump all the shoes in and cover the top with a blanket.

How to Play:

Players take turns one at a time, with the first participant blindly picking a shoe from the bag. After holding it up to show the room, they open the bag or bin and begin trying to find the matching shoe ⏤ and put them both on ⏤ as quickly as possible. Depending their ages/proclivity for competition, you can time them with a watch or just casually count aloud. Once the child gets the shoes on, they proceed to strut around and show off their new footwear on a pretend runway as everyone else cheers. Music is optional but can add energy to the game. When the player is done strolling down the catwalk, the next participant takes their turn and draws a shoe. We also sometimes incorporate speed battles in which two or more kids pick a shoe out simultaneously, and then race to find the appropriate match and put it on first.

Boredom has no place in the Bag O’ Shoes. Once kids tire of the standard game, it’s easy to redirect into more exciting spin-offs. For example, we often play with props, where we’ll pick appropriate wardrobes to match our chosen kicks and transition into a corresponding adventure. Soccer shoes require a soccer outfit, which leads to a game of ‘hallway soccer-ball. Dress shoes are a magnet for trying on daddy’s fancy shirts and ties. Make-believe career adventure will then often follow. We even do foot races (mostly when my girls wear oversized adult shoes), play dancing games, or invent various jumping games.

ALSO: The Best Toddler Games That Promote Child Development

Or sometimes, my daughters just prefer to read straight from the official rule book ⏤ they sit on the floor and patiently practice putting different shoes on and taking them off, sort by functionality, or walk like Frankenstein in mommy and daddy’s shoes.

Wrap Up:

And that’s the beauty of Bag O’ Shoes: There are an endless number of ways to play and each new twist keep toddlers re-engaged. It’s a ton of fun, can be played rain or shine, and, depending on the kids’ ages, helps them practice putting their shoes on the correct feet, which my girls sometimes struggle with, not to mention it works on their recognition and matching skills. Even better from a parent’s perspective, they learn how to clean up at an early age ⏤ because all of those shoes aren’t going to put themselves back in the closet.