Busy with Busy Bags

by Florence B. 

The inspiration behind this post comes from a conversation I had with a friend who also has a toddler. She lamented that she takes the time to set up fun stuff for her kiddo…to only have a bored toddler after about 10-15 mins. That meant she needed more time to set up another fun activity. Ten to fifteen minutes later, I’m guessing you can figure out what came next…time to set up another activity. And of course, this is all happening during the desperate attempt to make dinner without buuuuuuurning it again.

So, I asked her if she’s ever heard of busy bags. I mean, really, 10-15 min attention span? No problem with busy bags! You’d think I’d offered her the Holy Grail, because she had never heard of busy bags! If you know what busy bags are, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Ah, I do love busy bags” as you reminisce about that magical busy bag moment when your child was playing by him/herself as you slowly backed away like someone trying to not spook a horse. If you don’t know what a busy bag is…well, reader, you’re in luck with today’s post!

OK, busy bags. Think of them as little repeatable activities stored in baggies, which you can pull out whenever your kiddo needs entertaining. You can bring them on planes, in cars, at restaurants, at the doctor’s office, or even just in your own living room! You create the little activities so they’re totally customizable with what you’ve got lying around the house and what you want your kiddo to learn and practice! If you search “Busy Bags,” you’ll find so many fantastic ideas! Even better, grab some friends and have a “Busy Bag Party!” After all, at BFCP, you already have a class of friends with similar aged kids, so go for it!

I’ve had the awesome luck to be part of two busy bag exchange groups—one in a large toddler group setting (where each mom made sixteen copies of the same busy bag ahead of time and then passed them out to the other fifteen moms at a set time so we all ended up with sixteen unique bags) and another as a small playdate (where we all brought materials to make our busy bags to pass out at the end of the playdate). The awesome thing about forming a busy bag group is that you can buy materials in bulk/packs, only have to focus on creating one item multiple times, and you can get the benefit of having so many different ideas go into your final busy bag collection!

So enough talk, how about some pictures to give you some ideas to get your own busy bag collection growing?! First note: I am not a Pinterest mom! You do not need to be a Pinterest mom with amazing artistic/creative skills to make busy bags! In fact, all the pictures you’ll see are straight from my busy bag collection and made from other moms who just love their kids and want to make fun activities for them (you know, like you, if you’re still reading this post!). Second note: since many of these are from other moms, I have no idea where to reference where these ideas came from so sorry in advance if there’s a certain printable you adore and want to find out where it came from!


1. Busy Bags: Different Levels of Complexity Yet All Are Tons of Fun.


Let’s start out with the fact that busy bags can be easy to make or require a bit more effort/materials to make! Here are four examples where let’s face it, the top two were probably made by Pinterest moms or at least moms who are familiar with making busy bags! In the pizza box busy bag, this mom even provided pizza boxes and cups for the “toppings,” which is where

buying in bulk/packs/lots for a busy bag group comes in handy! She also made the pizza and toppings out of felt (again, great if making a bunch and you have a rhythm going) and made some recipe cards to truly make a game out of this busy bag! This is a great little idea that can last over time since you can just make pizzas or add in the cards for older kiddos learning math skills! Also, don’t feel like you need to make recipe cards all by yourself; many of these can be found as a printable ready for you to print (in fact, here’s a link with some more ideas and a set of pizza recipe cards right here for you). 

The second busy bag is another perfect example where you can buy pieces in packs for a busy bag exchange party! Here we’ve got pom poms, tongs, silicone cupcake cups, and the potential for some much fun and learning! In this little game, kiddos match pom pom colors to the cups. For an added challenge, use the tongs!

In the third example, this mom made a quick and easy memory game out of foam stickers and foam cards—easily customizable depending on what foam stickers delight your kiddo! The fourth example is so perfect of something surprisingly entertaining! With this easy to make activity, kiddos can practice some fine motor skills matching the nut to the correct bolt and spinning them on and off.


2. Clothes Pins and Popsicle Sticks


Yeah…some of these picture groupings don’t really make sense, but since clothes pins and popsicle sticks are both made from wood, I’m going for it! Here are some more examples where you can buy in packs for a busy bag exchange group. Notice how you don’t really have to do a super stellar handwriting job on the clothes pins and popsicle sticks to have a fun activity! The third example has little black velcro pieces, in case you were wondering what those were, so they can be stuck together and made into shapes! In this case, they’re little pens for animals. Another variation for younger kiddos is to print out shapes directly for them to put the popsicle sticks on.


3. Stringing, Chains, And More…


…also known as the three pictures I had leftover after grouping the others. Again, these are some more great examples (well, the 1st and 3rd) of how buying in lots/packs for a busy bag exchange group works out! The mom in the first example cut up pool noodles to make a large scale fun version of stringing beads on a string! She also used circles made from cardboard boxes as a stopper at the end, so that shows busy bags don’t have to be fancy to be fun! My kiddos also had fun stacking the rings on each other and then dropping beads/pom poms in the hole!

The second example shows how velcro and felt strips can be fun. Another variation of stringing and felt is to cut out felt shapes with a slit in the middle to be strung on a piece of ribbon. Finally, the last picture is three busy bags that I ended up combining since the materials were similar! With this set, kiddos can string the beads on the pipe cleaner, make shakers by putting beads in the plastic eggs, and match bead colors to the plastic eggs (there are actually several more pipe cleaners and eggs not shown in pic).


4. Print and Laminate!


I only learned earlier this year that a basic laminator machine can be picked up for $20! Well, guess what I got and haven’t regretted?! Getting a laminator made my busy bag collection grow quite a bit since there are so many more things to be made without worrying about getting destroyed with repeated use. Here are some fun examples of print and laminate games.

The middle example shoes how you can also customize the games. The ladybug example is supposed to be a color matching one, but I added some stickers to form letters when matched up properly. The third example is actually a printable for scissor skills that I repurposed into a matching puzzle game. Once you have a laminator in hand (er…on table?), you can get started searching for “printables” if you think this is a style of busy bags that you like!


5. Buying from the Store Is Sooooo Not Cheating.


Guilty confession: these examples aren’t homemade and were pretty much ready to go at the store! While I love making busy bags since they won’t break the bank, there are some fun activities already out there if you can find them! The first example is one I found at the dollar store (yes, all three lacing cards with 3 laces!) and perfect to add to my busy bag collection! The second example is a busy bag with only nine of the original twenty-six cards since we lost a card and I realized my toddler enjoyed this activity much more when not overwhelmed by so many options. Don’t forget to check out those bargain bins and incomplete toy sets since you might just find some busy bag possibilities for cheap!

Just a warning, the beauty of busy bags is that the activity is reusable and easy to rotate through to keep your kiddo entertained! Getting already built play packs with coloring books and markers are typically one-time use and repurchasing can really add up over time! Although I have an activity bag that I take places to keep my kids entertained, I’d say that 25% of that is the non-reusable stuff (i.e., play pack sets, coloring books, stickers, note pads, etc.) and the other 75% is reusable busy bag stuff that I occasionally swap out to keep interesting!

Well, I hope this post inspires you to get your busy bag collection started (or help give ideas to grow it!)! If you’re ready to dive in and want some more examples, there are so many sites to give you great ideas! Consider forming a busy bag exchange group for even more fun (like ask your BFCP class!)!

Here are a few links to get you started:

- “Ultimate Guide of Busy Bag Ideas – 100+ Ideas Sorted by Category” from Powerful Mothering


- “Busy Bags 101 — and Lots of Busy Bag Ideas!” from Teaching Mama

Thanks for stopping by! Shout out in the comments below if you know an amazing link with busy bag ideas or if you have a favorite busy bag idea you’d like to share!