Keeping Little Hands Busy: An Easy Guide to Toddler Busy Bags


We are gearing up for another school year here in our homeschool. This year I will be officially teaching third, first/second, and preschool. Unofficially, we still have a sweet little toddler to try to contain during our time of learning. As I was lesson planning and preparing for this school year, I mulled over this problem. How do I keep little hands busy, and a growing mind stimulated enough while teaching her older brothers? How do I do this in a way that communicates to her that she is an important part of family learning time, while entertaining her enough to not need constant one on one attention from me?

Of course! Busy bags!

I’ve seen these all over Pinterest and my favorite creative mommy-blogs. Busy bags are perfect for road trips, restaurants, or quiet time. They are filled with little (often inexpensive) activities to keep kids quietly engaged. The key is to only bring them out during a specified time so that the goodies inside remain new and intriguing. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Decide how many bags you want to utilize. For our needs, I decided on five: one for each weekday. If this is for a longer road trip, you may just want to assemble two, or have just one for restaurant waiting time.
  2. Decide on your themes. Since Samantha will be doing her bags while I teach her siblings, I wanted an educational theme to her boxes. I decided on letters & numbers, shapes, colors, in & out (putting objects inside of a homemade piggy bank of sorts), and pretend play. Some other theme ideas include art, textures, things with buttons or clasps; really anything you can think of.
  3. Shop the Dollar Store and Target’s Dollar Spot. Seriously, this does NOT have to be expensive. I spent less than $30. You can probably assemble these with a lot of household items too, but I really wanted an excuse to go to Target.
  4. Think outside of the box.  Get creative with your boxes. I bought a giant game of checkers just to use the tokens for our in & out container. I also found rainbow colored hair ties and pill containers for our color themed box. Giant cookie cutters lent themselves nicely to our shapes box. Look around the entire store, not just the craft or game section. You’ll be thrilled with what you find. 

Now it is time to assemble and store your boxes or bags. Like I mentioned before, I think the magic of these is in saving them for a special time. Here is what our busy boxes look like:

And now, the moment of truth. If you have a toddler you understand that just because YOU think that something is a great idea, doesn’t mean you child will. Please don’t make me relive the nightmare that was the sensory bin of 2011. Beans and rice everywhere. 

Anyway, I am happy to report that the busy bags (or boxes in our case) have been a delightful success. So much so that my preschooler joins right in to “teach” her while I am busy teaching math and reading to my two older boys. Excited to add this one to the “#momwin” column! Hopefully it is a win for you too!