Busy bags are great when you need something to entertain your child when you are out. I started making them when my oldest was about a year and an half, when i got sick of carrying an enormous bag (half filled with various toys) every time we go out to eat or travel. There is nothing wrong with packing toys, and in reality, i have a mixture of toys and busy bags, but toys in general are usually more bulky, save for toy cars and small animal plastic toy things (which i do pack into a busy bag). Also, busy bags are made with an activity that i want my child to “practice” on. It can be something simple like practicing tying shoelaces or even buttoning for example, so they offer a different sort of “entertainment” compared to their toys. Additionally, busy bags are inexpensive and generally relatively quick to make. They can be educational, small and compact to pack and most importantly, entertaining for your child.
When choosing which busy bag to make / buy, it is important to think specifically about the needs and interests of your child. You would want the activity to be something that is not only engaging, but also developmentally appropriate. If you make something too difficult , it will only frustrate them. But if you choose something too easy, it will bore them, and they will only work on it for about 5 seconds. It can be a little tricky in the beginning to find the right balance for your child. But once you do, they will be able to entertain themselves independently while you are able to eat your lunch in peace or just have them not run around and scream on the airplane. A good starting point would be to notice which toys and activities that your child is already interested in and in the beginning make miniature or scaled down versions of them.
As i have 3 children myself ranging from 1.5 years to almost 6 years, my busy bags tend to be on the more challenging side so that more than 1 child could use them. I hope that you would have a go making these busy bags, it may be a lot of effort in the beginning but it definitely beats the alternative of giving them screen time (in my opinion). And if you have older children, you could even involve them in the making of the busy bags. We will be sharing a series of posts on busy bag ideas and hope that it will inspire more to try making some for your children.
- Velcro cubes and sticks
For those who have children that love building or legos, they would love this. And its super easy to make. I found some colored woo
den cubes and colored ice cream stick from spotlight, and i just cut up some stick on velcro circles and stuck them on.
It also became an activity for me and my 4 year old to do together, and even she was entertained while making the “sticky” blocks.
And just pop everything into a bag and its ready for use!
2. Sensory Eggs
Sensory eggs are great for toddlers as they not only provide auditory stimulation, but by giving the surface more texture, you also provide some tactile stimulation that toddlers love. Again it is inexpensive and you could use whatever common items such as pasta or beans that are lying around the house. Click on the link for full details on how to make sensory eggs. 5 Sensory Egg Ideas
3 . Felt Chain Buttons
This is one of my children’s favorite busy bags and can be made very quickly. All you need is some felt, cut it up into strips (size depends on the size of buttons you have) , sew a button on one side and cut a button hole on the other. DONE! Felt is great for this as it will not fray, so you don’t have to do any additional sewing. I usually have a stash of “cute” buttons and will use them to make the activity more interesting, as we can talk about the buttons as well. The width of my strips are about 1-2 inches, and i make a variety of sizes as well, it doesn’t even need to be very even, so this is a good busy bag to make if you want to try making a busy bag for the first time.
When i made this most recent batches, my 4 year old was really interested with watching me sew the buttons and she wanted to try sewing some buttons. Was really pleased that she was able to sew her first few buttons! yeah!
And our final product, with the buttons she choose or helped sew on..If you want to make it more “challenging” you could use smaller buttons and cut the button hole slightly smaller.
4. ispy bags
ispy bags or ispy bottles are fun and engaging for little toddlers, it is basically a “container” of sorts like a bottle or a bag with a see through window. Inside the bag or bottle, its filled usually with rice or beans, and among the rice / beans, you put in little random items such as buttons, a pom poms, really anything you want or may interest your child. And you make a little photo card of the random items you put in the bottle or bag, and you get your child to “hunt” for those items. The most “basic” way of playing is just searching for the items, once its get boring for them to just find items, you could give them a time limit, you could ask them to find according to groups or by color, or even when they are older to come up with a story as they find the items. The different ways you could “play” with an ispy bag is really limitless.
In terms of making, the bottles are way easier as long you use a clear plastic bottle, just fill it up and screw on the lit and you are done. For myself, i have a preference with working with fabric so i made them ispy bags instead. It will involve some sewing, but its really simple enough for a beginner to make. To make it more attractive for the children, i used plastic beads as the filler.
The kids love them so much that i ended up making a few bags with different themes, i made a bag with buttons for my youngest and slightly more challenging one with a train theme and a dinosaur theme.
If you are interested in our ispy bags and have no time to make them, we have them in our online shop, so just click on the link to check them out. ispy bags
5. Phonics card practice
If you are anything like me, its always a struggle to “sneak” in some phonics practice without them realizing they are doing phonics. My kids in general like looking at pictures, so i printed out some easy 3 lettered words to get them going.
The children would have to sound our the individual words for each picture, and write down the letter that the word begins with. The way i sold it to the children was that, after writing out each letter, it would reveal a SECRET MYSTERY word, which they would have to read. We have been doing this activity once a day, just using a word or two each time and its been two weeks, they are still interested, so time well spent making it i say!
If anyone is interested in having these, just drop us a mail and i would send over the file to you. Alternatively, you could make it yourself, i use plain old Microsoft word, inserted a table with 3 columns and 3 rows, went to google images clip art to find the relevant pictures. Insert the pictures into the tables and you are done! 2 words per page, and all you need to do is print it out. If you want it worksheet style, just print and its ready to use. But if you want to re-use them, print, laminate it and cut into 2, round the corners so it is not sharp and you are ready!