Busy Bags: Keeping Kids Entertained So Mom Can Be Productive

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.

Busy bags are excellent for keeping kids busy but also for providing sensory play.

They are great to take on road trips, while waiting at doctors appointments and provide school time snippets in your child’s day.

I put together several bags and just took my own sweet time in finally posting about them ๐Ÿ˜‰

pinable image: super simple busy bag ideas for toddlers and preschoolers

Check Out This Video About Busy Bags and Why I Love Them!

Want to Start Stocking Up? Scroll Through My Favorite Busy Bag Items…Click Photo to Purchase:

Letter and Number Puzzles
Dry Erase Book
LeapFrog LeapStart
LeapFrog Learning DVDSq
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics
Magnetic Letters
Foam Letters
Matching Game
Tissue Paper
Matching Egg Toys
Color Matching Puzzle
Nuts and Bolts
Lacing Boards
Lacing Beads
Buddies in a Bag
Soft Puzzles
Chunky Puzzles
Pom Poms
Pool Noodles
Plastic Eggs

Busy Bag Ideas: 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 the 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!

Child playing with toy eggs
Child playing with toy eggs
Child playing with toy eggs

Busy Bag Ideas: 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!

girl toddler playing with beads
boy playing with beads
girl toddler playing with beads
girl toddler playing with beads

Busy Bag Ideas: Pool Noodles 

I cut up a couple of 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.

You can purchase pool noodles here!

toddler girl playing with pool noodles
preschooler boy playing with pool noodles

Busy Bag Items: 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ Simple joys of a toddler!

You can purchase pom-poms here

toddler girl playing with Pom Poms

Busy Bag Ideas: 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.

I love toys that also educate. When kids struggle to learn letter and number recognition these puzzles are an AMAZING help! My kids LOVE THEM!

kids playing with puzzles

Learning Activity: 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!)

My kids also love these dry erase books!

boy practicing writing
boy practicing writing

Quiet Activities: Soft Puzzles

Another great item to find at your local dollar store!

These soft puzzles are awesome for church and great for younger ones to play with.

They can also double as a chew toy for a teething child in a pinch ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

These soft puzzles are also a great option!

soft puzzles

Busy Bag Item: Buddies in a Bag / Connection Figurines

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

After originally writing this post I have now learned they make an educational toy product called “Buddies in a Bag” that is similar in concept to these figurines! You can learn more and purchase them here!

buddies in a bag

Busy Bag Item: Lacing Beads and Boards 

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!

You can purchase a similar set of lacing beads here!

In addition, I’ve purchased lacing boards where the kids can lace the string through a photo scene. These are also great for church!

You can check out lacing boards here!

lacing beads

Learning Activity: 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!

And an excellent tool for working on hand-eye coordination.

You can purchase a set of nuts and bolts here!

nuts and bolts

Quiet Activity: Color 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?

This is a great option for a color matching puzzle!

I also love looking for toys that teach while working on fine motor skills AND having fun!

This egg set is so perfect for all three and teaches shapes too!

color matching puzzles

Simple Quiet Activity: Tissue Box 

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!

Colorful tissue paper comes in a nice large package so it can really go a long way!

tissue paper box

Busy Bag: Matching Card Games

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!

There are tons of great Disney matching games, I love this one! Even older children LOVE matching so it’s a worthwhile purchase to have on hand.

matching card game

Learning Time: Foam Letters and Numbersย 

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!

foam letters

Easy Learning Activity: 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 

magnet letters

Entertaining Kids: LeapFrog 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 LeapFrog Fridge Phonics 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 LeapFrog 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. T

his is MY personal favorite busy activity. It keeps them both equally entertained!

You can purchase the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics sets here!

leapfrog fridge phonics

Tech Learning Time: LeapFrog Junior Books And LeapFrog LeapStart

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?

leapfrog tag

Update: LeapFrog is no longer making the “Tag” products.

In recent years I’ve purchased the LeapFrog LeapStart and LOVE IT!

It has been great for my preschooler who loves to have “tablet time” while not having an actual SCREEN.

The books are educational and fun and keep her attention on long car rides too!

You can purchase the LeapFrog LeapStart here!

leapfrog leapstart

Help Your Child Learn: Practice 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!

These dry erase flashcards are also perfect for sight word practice too!

sight word practice

Scroll Through And Purchase All of My Busy Bag Items Here:

Letter and Number Puzzles
Dry Erase Book
LeapFrog LeapStart
LeapFrog Learning DVDSq
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics
Magnetic Letters
Foam Letters
Matching Game
Tissue Paper
Matching Egg Toys
Color Matching Puzzle
Nuts and Bolts
Lacing Boards
Lacing Beads
Buddies in a Bag
Soft Puzzles
Chunky Puzzles
Pom Poms
Pool Noodles
Plastic Eggs

How to Store Your Busy Bags

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 to 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!

busy bag ideas

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 LeapFrog 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!

Be Sure to Check Out Other Posts You May Find Helpful Here:

pinball image: preparing for the first day of preschool
pinable image: 5 disney movie themes
pinable image: using legos to teach coding


  1. Danielle
    November 20, 2013 / 1:58 am

    LOVE these ideas!! I need to pin this….

  2. Rebecca Harrell Ward
    November 20, 2013 / 2:21 am

    I bought the TAG Jr last year for my son, who is almost 4, and he doesn't play with it. Big waste of money! We do have the talking fridge letters and he LOVES it..we have it on the fridge and he plays with it everyday :)…thanks for the new ideas!

  3. Jessie
    November 20, 2013 / 7:07 pm

    Our quiet bag also includes the traditional coloring book and crayons:) I've also picked up the small (2.5" square) books at garage sales that my daughter likes to flip through. I also made lacing cards with foam board and a paper punch. I printed clip art out to trace to make things easier for me!

  4. Marissa Khosh | MamaRissa.com
    October 24, 2019 / 9:41 pm

    I love these ideas! Definitely planning to put together some new busy bag activities for my toddler with some of these ideas.

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