Thrift shop finds can sometimes be the most exciting purchases. I mean, who doesn’t just love finding something that should cost them like $50 for just a couple of bucks?! My love of thrift shops made me want to figure out how to make busy bags from awesome thrift store finds. Now to pass on to you how to have an eye for great deals and activities while browsing your local thrift stores.
Rules for Making Busy Bags
So while you do not have to follow these rules, here are some rules I have made for our busy bags. (This is a recap from an earlier post I did about Busy Bags on a Budget. For more, click over to see these rules elaborated) Sometimes I break these rules, but many times they really help me stay on track to help my daughter get the most out of her learning and playing experience.
- Aim for 6 items or less in each busy bag.
- Try to go for easily replaceable or make it something you’re not afraid to lose.
- Make sure your bags teach something.
- Stick to a single concept or theme.
- Make them fun.
How to Turn Thrift Shop Finds into Busy Bags Your Kids Will Enjoy
Get Some Bags!
I love going into thrift stores and looking at their selection of Clinique make-up bags, Cumberland Concepts hardware bags, clutches, and school pencil bags. There are so many in every thrift store and most of the time you can get the bags for $1 or less. This allows you to get a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. I like not having any two bags the same because I know what is in each of them. My favorite bags are the ones from Cumberland Concepts. I found 5 (in different colors; orange is pictured below) at our local pay-by-weigh thrift outlet and loved them so much a bought a few more new.
What makes a good bag? You decide! This means, maybe you need to have really big bags. That means obviously the little ones wont work as well. In any case, check the zipper, make sure there are no holes or tears, and see if there is any fraying on the edges.
Find Puzzles with Missing Pieces
We love finding great toys in thrift stores that have pieces missing. In fact, we continually come up with ways to utilize stray toys. There is no reason that an awesome puzzle has to be at the end of its life just because it has a piece or two missing. Pick out a few of those pieces (or all if you want), put them in a bag with some note cards and a crayon. These can make great tracing games. OR, you can even make some cards for each piece to create a simple travel matching game.
Other “puzzle-like” games that have lots of pieces can be used in new ways. For instance, I found this Melissa and Doug Puzzle Clock for 50 cents at a local thrift shop and it did not have any of the pieces. Instead of just passing it by, I saw so much potential in it! What did I do? First I found a zipper bag at the thrift store that it would fit inside of and then I found a bag of craft supplies to make it a fine-motor and number-matching game. This means there is a bag of pom-poms or beads in with the clock to put in each slot where a puzzle piece would go to count out what each number represents.
I don’t know what it is about stencils, but I can almost always find a few in many shapes and sizes at various thrift stores around town. I pictured my favorites below because they’re the perfect size for our busy bags. But, I also have some larger ones that go with a white board that has gotten me through a 45 minute prenatal massage and I have some others that I have cut to size for other occasions.
Look for Toys that are Only a Partial Set
I not only find puzzles without pieces or pieces without their puzzle, I also find a lot of toys that are not with their complete set. From magnetic dolls and their clothes to magnatiles and pretend tools, I have been able to collect some really awesome toys to put in busy bags to make a fun and educational activity. Below you will see that some of the magnetic clothes don’t perfectly go with the girls (straight vs. downward arms), but they still work and are fun… and I don’t mind if a piece gets lost! We have also put together bags with little people and characters that don’t have all of the people there and other ideas.
Click Below for More Thrift Shop & Busy Bag Ideas on my own site!
More Busy Bag Ideas from Other Great Bloggers!
Check out the other creative preschool busy bags from this talented group of kid bloggers. From left to right:
LEGO Patterns Busy Box // Mama.Papa.Bubba.
Printable Animal Puzzles // Itsy Bitsy Fun
Free Letter Tracing Roads // Playdough to Plato
5 Easy Bottle Cap Busy Bags for Tiny Tots // Best Toys for Toddlers
Brown Bear Lacing Busy Bag // Preschool Inspirations
DIY Car Track Busy Bag // Adventures of Adam
Three Pretend Play Busy Bags // Lalymom
How to Make Busy Bags: Thrift Shop Finds // ALLterNATIVElearning
Apple Counting Busy Bag // Coffee Cups and Crayons
Counting Caterpillar Busy Bag // Powerful Mothering
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!