Looking to catch a minute to yourself? With little ones in the home, doing anything by yourself is a daily challenge. Forget cleaning the bathrooms, let alone using the bathroom, vacuuming, or cooking dinner without the help of your little shadows. If you feel like you’re constantly looking to catch a small break in order to mark items off your to-do list, without placing the children in front of the television, then busy bags might just be the perfect solution!
Busy bags are a fun way to entertain your child while also helping them to learn and grow. Using their fine motor skills while also practicing their colors, numbers, letters, and sorting skills, your young ones won’t even realize they’re learning, and you’ll be able to catch a small break to do something for yourself while they’re busy. Win-win! Busy bags can be done at home or on-the-go, depending on which activity you choose. Stash a few in the car or in your purse for easy entertainment in a time of need. Or, join in on the fun with your child and use it as a family activity you can do together!
1. Toothpick Statues
Items: toothpicks, small marshmallows
Build your child’s imagination by enlisting them to build anything they want! Place a handful of toothpicks in a small bag. In another bag, place a large handful (or two) of marshmallows. By connecting the toothpicks with a marshmallow as each joint, children can build large, free-standing statues of any shape or size.
Items: Paper plate, glue stick, pom poms
Cut out a circle in the middle of a plate, making a large “O” shape with the rest of the plate. Place a glue stick and pom poms of various colors in a sandwich bag. Encourage your child to fill the wreath so that no part of the plate can be seen.
3. Beads and Pipe Cleaner Bracelet
Items: Pipe Cleaner, beads
Create a simple bracelet (while practicing those fine motor skills!) by knotting one of the pipe cleaner’s ends, then stringing the beads onto the pipe cleaner. Leave enough space at the end of the pipe cleaner to be tied to the adjacent end to form a bracelet.
4. Bird Feeder
Items: Pipe cleaner, Cheerios or fruit loops
Using a pipe cleaner, string the cereal onto the pipe cleaner, leaving a little bit of room on both ends to tie into a circle. When complete, place outside for a festive bird (or squirrel!) feeder.
5. Counting Activity
Items: 10 Pipe Cleaners, 10 small sticky note strips, a large amount of beads
Practice counting to 10 by labeling each pipe cleaner with a number and having your child place the corresponding number of beads on each pipe cleaner. In a bag, place 10 labeled pipe cleaners and 136 beads, or roughly a couple handfuls.
6. Painting with Toilet Paper Rolls
Items: Empty toilet paper roll (or paper towel roll), plain paper, paper plate, paint.
Pour paint onto a paper plate. Using an empty toilet paper roll as a paintbrush, dip the end in paint and stamp it onto a piece of paper. Use multiple colors of paint for a colorful effect.
7. Play-Doh Alphabet
Items: Play-Doh, printed letter worksheets
Print large letters of the alphabet, then using Play-Doh, have your child trace the letters. The Play-Doh can be rolled into long strips or rolled into small balls for this activity. For easy free letter printables with both capital and lower case letters, check out Quality Kids Crafts!
8. Color Organizing with Tongs and Pom Poms
Items: Tongs, pom-poms, cups or egg crate
Using tongs and color coded cups (or an egg carton!), have your child practice dropping each item in the correctly matching cup. You can use children’s chopsticks for this busy bag activity, or mini tongs. Half the fun of the activity will be trying to pick up each item and hold onto it before making the big drop.
9. String and Felt Art
Items: Felt, scissors, string, hole punch
Cut a piece of felt into the shape of an animal (Hint: fish are very simple!). Using a hole punch, make holes bordering the shape of the animal. Using string, have your child weave the string in and out of the holes to create a string and felt art piece.
10. Popsicle Stick Butterfly or Super Hero
Items: 3 popsicle sticks, glue, plastic eyes, markers or paint. Optional: pom poms, glitter glue, or buttons.
Butterfly: Have your child glue two popsicle sticks in the form of an “X” on top of a vertical popsicle stick. Have your child color the sticks in any color they choose with markers or paint. Then, apply plastic eyes and any other design enhancements you choose. Pom poms, glitter glue, and buttons make for a fun addition!
Items: 1 popsicle stick, felt, markers or paint.
Superhero: Paint one popsicle stick and have your child practice writing their first initial in the middle of the vertical stick. Using felt or construction paper, cut a small triangle to serve as the cape and a small horizontal strip to serve as the eye mask. Depending on your child’s age, you might have them practice their scissor skills by tracing the shapes onto the paper and having them cut it out themselves. Then, have your child glue the cape onto the back of the popsicle stick and the eye mask to the top front. Encourage them to decorate their superhero however they wish.
Bagging your Busy Bags
To make your busy bags, you can use lunch sacks to hold all contents or a clear gallon size ziplock bag with all contents inside. The ziplock bags make it easy to label and stash so you can grab one when the need presents itself. As a helpful hint, you may want to include directions or an example in case the child completes an activity with a babysitter or other parent.