Whether we are parents of extremely spirited and busy kids or we travel a lot (or maybe both), having lots of busy bag ideas is a must. Having several choices of ways to keep kids and toddlers entertained is nice, but it can be expensive. That’s why I have tried to gather materials from the dollar store, the dollar section at Target, and Thrift Stores. Because I strive to live an eco-conscious life, most of these busy bag ideas are sustainable in terms of materials used and their re-usable nature. A few items like stickers are not, but there is just no substitute! Here are several items and busy bag ideas that you should be able to find at dollar stores or thrift stores for $1 or less. And for more travel games and ideas, click here.
Basic Busy Bag Rules
- Aim for 6 items or less – This means it’s not as difficult to round up everything when you’re child is finished playing with it.
- Try to go for Easily Replaceable – It’s likely that using these for travel and out and about will mean that you will probably lose pieces eventually. Therefore I like to use a lot of recycled goods so I am not so upset when things get lost.
- Make them FUN – That’s a no-brainer, but it’s true. Try to make sure there’s something fun but also facilitates some sort of learning.
- Make them meaningful – I one time had a teenage student tell me that even though I was their hardest teacher, I was their favorite. Her reasoning? Everything I taught was meaningful and I put some effort into what I did. This extends to all ages and in everything we do. So make sure your busy bags teach something.
- Stick to a theme – make sure that your busy bags aren’t too “busy”. This means make sure there is a theme to it and that there is a clear purpose to why they are doing it.
- Make busy packs full of busy bags so that your child can take ownership in spending their time learning!
- Utilize the season – whether there is a holiday around the corner like Christmas or Easter or even just something big going on in your family, take advantage of those moments. It makes it more exciting for kids and not as mundane.
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One thing that every dollar store I have ever been to has is puzzles! These wooden and cardboard puzzles are fabulous for busy bags. The wooden ones pictured were sold individually while the cardboard food theme ones were sold as a set of four. Both are awesome sizes for sliding into a small busy bag.
Most dollar stores also have a great selection of tin containers with lids. These make great sensory bins. They can be filled with whatever sensory object you would like (like rice) and covered for easy storage and/or transport.
Quick & Easy Busy Bags
Be on the look out for Musical instruments. I have found several small wooden instruments in the dollar section at Target. Other quick and easy finds include elastic for stretch themed bags, homemade or store-bought lacing games, and household items that encourage pincer practice!
Eye Spy bags
These are a great time-waster in the car, and kid-entertainer when needed. This one is one that I made with all household supplies and with an old Robeez shoe bag. Think outside of the box and put in whatever you have with no need to buy anything extra!
- Spare toys/puzzle pieces
- Broken necklaces/old jewelry
- Key Chains and old keys
- small picture from old photographs, postcards, and more
- Small ornaments
- And the list could go on!
Book and Toy Combo Bags
How to Organize Busy Bag Ideas
Collect those small make-up bags from your local thrift stores for a dollar or less and fill each one. After that, I make a couple of “busy packs” with the small kid sized backpacks with the busy bags that we made inside. This keeps them organized and they are ready to go. Most importantly, however, is that your child is in charge of them. It gives them ownership in their learning and i how they choose to spend their time.
For more Toddler ideas, click the image links below.
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!