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Way, way way back last Spring I started putting together some ideas for “busy bags.” I’d never actually even heard of busy bags until I kept seeing them on Pinterest. It was such a great idea!
Bags of simple activities to keep the kids engaged. A great way to provide structure for my kids over summer break, a way to organize random educational materials I already owned, and an inexpensive way to add new fun to our daily routine. I put together several bags and just took my own sweet time in finally posting about them 😉
1) Plastic Eggs: When I first decided to make busy bags it was around Easter time. My kids had already been playing with plastic eggs and LOVED them! Rather than packing them away until next year, I used them to make a counting game for Kye. I did one set of eggs with the numbers 1-20 on them. I put the numerical number and spelled out number on the bottom portion of the egg then I put dots on the top portion. Kye matches which top goes with the appropriate bottom. I also did the same game with upper and lower case letters. This game helped him over the summer to stay fresh on his preschool skills. For Britt I put together a bag of just the plastic eggs and she enjoyed taking on and off the tops.
Don’t have any eggs leftover from Easter? You can purchase some from Amazon here!
2) Beads: I went to the dollar store and bought some supplies for my busy bags and grabbed a bag of beads. These are THE biggest hit of ALL the busy bags. Seriously. The kids ASK to play with them on a regular basis. Britt enjoys putting them in a cup and then dumping the cup out. Kye enjoys creating designs with them. Can’t find them at your local dollar store? This is a great price for over 2,000 beads!
3) Pool Noodles: I cut up a couple pool noodles and bought some thick string. For Britt she practices putting the string through the noodles. For Kye I put numbers from 0-9 on each noodle and will tell him different combinations of numbers to put together on his string in a certain order. I plan to eventually laminate a card with different number combinations for him to look at independently.
4) Pom Poms: This one is only really for Britt. I took an old butter container and cut holes in it then filled it with multicolored pom poms. Britt enjoys pretty much just dumping them all out and playing with them. She will also put them back in the container in order to dump them again 😉 Simple joys of a toddler! You can purchase pom-poms here
5) Puzzles: I keep a stack of puzzles in my kitchen in a low cabinet where the kids can get to them. They both enjoy the chunky Melissa and Doug puzzles. Kye likes to make up stories with the pieces and do more imaginative play while Britt is learning how to put the pieces in their proper spots.
6) Writing Board: I didn’t plan on this item but when I saw it for $1 I totally couldn’t pass it up!!! Another dollar store find. Kye is in preschool and learning to write is letters so this is a fabulous way for him to practice and he loves being able to use markers and get to erase the board when he’s done (or messes up…my little perfectionist!)
I keep this bin in the bottom of our walk-in pantry. Yes it’s overflowing with busy bag items! I typically grab from it for things to keep the kids quietly occupied for church as well (want my church bag ideas? Check out this post). It’s easy access for the kids to dig through and pick out things they want to play with and it’s also an easy spot for me to grab things while I’m cooking dinner or preparing lunch and need something to occupy them!
7) Soft Puzzles: Another dollar store find! These soft puzzles are awesome for church and great for younger ones to play with. They can also double as a chew-toy in a pinch 😉 Britt isn’t able to put the pieces together but likes for me to help her do it. Kye has one that is a Cars theme and he loves to put them in number order over and over again.
8) Connector Guys: I have no clue what the technical name for these is? I found them in the dollar bin at Target and they are a hit during church. You can connect them in lots of different ways to make all kinds of neat designs with them. It’s one of those things that Daddy finds entertaining as well 😉
9) Lacing Beads: Kye will still choose this bag from the stack. He loves organizing all the beads into their proper color families then stringing them on their coordinating string. I pre-tied a knot on one end of each of them to avoid the frustration of them falling off the string. I especially like this set (again, dollar bin at Target a couple years ago) because it has a variety of bead shapes!
10) Nuts and Bolts: Yes, another find in the Target bin! This was a favorite of Kye’s when he was a toddler. Another wonderful church toy and I also love the shapes and bright colors. Lots of optional games of matching!
11) Color Wheel Matching Puzzle: I like that this puzzle set is easy to take along with us places and is the perfect size for a busy bag. It’s a great way to teach colors and to show color combinations. I mean even as an adult I get confused on what colors mix together to make other colors, don’t you?
12) Tissue Box: This looks pretty ghetto and that’s because it is haha. I had a tissue box that I took home with us from a hotel room and used it to make this “busy bag” item. I bought a package of multi-colored tissue paper and then cut it into strips. I put each strip into the tissue box and Britt loves taking them out and putting them back in. I admit though, many of them don’t make it back into the box. She likes to ball up the tissues!
13) Matching Card Game: Zach and I got this Toy Story matching card game for free when we visited Disney a few years back. You could easily use any matching card game to make this busy bag though. I laminated each card and the kids enjoy matching up their favorite movie characters!
14) Foam Letters and Numbers: I have used these from birth with my little ones! Early on they are a great chew toy (as the letter “B” clearly shows…) and I’ve seen many people use them for bath toys too. Mine enjoy playing with them and now that Kye is older he will also make words with them. You can purchase some here!
15) Magnetic Letters: These get played with much more than the foam ones. Kye was very upset when the two sets of magnetic letters we have got mixed together. Both kids like to put these on the fridge and dishwasher. Kye will put them in alphabetical order and will also create some words with them. Our new game is where Kye asks me how to spell things and then he finds the letters. You can purchase a set here 🙂
16) Leap Frog Fridge Fun: There are some things I don’t think are worth the hassle of making the kids share. One of them is our fridge Leap Frog sets. Both kids want to play with them at the same time so Mrs. Charlotte bought Kye an extra one for Christmas last year. Our original set just does single letters and the sounds they make (the song is guaranteed to get stuck in your head! And it goes perfectly along with the Leap Frog DVDS) but the new one makes words.
Perfect for the preschooler age! It has a setting where it calls out the letters for a word and Kye has to find the letter it asks for. It also has a setting where he can create his own words and it will “read” the word out loud. This is MY personal favorite busy activity. It keeps them both equally entertained!
17) Leap Frog Junior Books: This is THE least played with busy bag item. And probably the one that cost the most!!! We read a LOT in our home and neither of my children have found this to be very entertaining. I don’t see myself buying any more of the books in the future. Maybe it’s just not interactive enough to keep my kids’ attention?
18) Sight Words: I found these writing sheets at the dollar store and wrote all of Kye’s sight words for this year on them. I then laminated them and bought him a dry erase marker to use to trace them. It’s a great thing for church to keep him busy, quiet, and provide an opportunity to learn his words!
I am really glad I started to put together these busy bags for my kids. I probably spent under $30 total for all of the items featured in this post (other than the Leap Frog electronic items, which were gifts) but have been able to provide my children with endless entertainment…as well as some quiet time for myself to get things done!
Do you have busy bags in your home? I’d love more ideas to add on to our collection!