5 homemade busy bags for preschoolers

by Whitney Moss on March 21, 2012

in Big Kid,Crafty,How to,Indoors,Link love,Preschooler,Travel

It’s my pleasure to introduce Steph from Modern Parents Messy Kids as our guest contributor today!

Thanks so much to Heather and Whitney for having me today, it’s such an honor to be here sharing with all of you!  Recently over at Modern Parents Messy Kids, we’ve embarked on a small little adventure we’re calling Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life which, as you may have surmised, is actually a pretty huge undertaking.  We’re approaching the challenge at our own pace, one baby step at a time, and today I wanted to share my latest effort – a busy bag swap.
Along with meal planning, cleaning schedules and etc., a big part of POYEL (our shorthand term for the project) is to try to establish a dependable flow to our days and weeks.  The idea for the busy swap came about in my search for some quiet time activities for my now-only-occasionally-napping 3 year old.  After another late night spent in the Pinterest vortex, I stumbled on the idea and was hooked.
If you’re not familiar with the busy bag concept, you can check out my Pinterest board here.  Basically, it’s a small bag containing a re-usable activity for your child to do independently.  A collection of these little wonders can be invaluable when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, are traveling with kids, or even sitting in a restaurant or waiting room.  The problem is assembling a variety of them can be tedious, time consuming, and more than a little maddening.
The genius behind a busy bag swap is that you only have to track down the materials for one project.  You get 10 – 20 friends to do the same, make as many bags as people are participating, and then swap your projects.  While the whole thing still definitely takes time, it’s SO much easier and economical.  I’ll have a few more logistical tips at the end of the post but for now I wanted to share with you 5 great busy bags I recently received from my first swap.
Above is project #1 – a paint chip color-matching activity.  Simply grab two matching paint chips, cut one up and glue each color to a clothespin while keeping the other intact.  The idea is to mix them all up and then hand them over to your kiddo to match up again.
 

Next up is another clothespin activity (you’ll find they’re very popular in the busy bag world), the number wheel.  This one was used by applying a different number of stickers (1-10) onto each wedge of the pie and then laminating.  Corresponding numbers were then written on each clothespin.  To make things more simple, though, you can find a template complete with the circles here.

Side note: if you’re seriously going to get into busy bagging, I’d highly recommend purchasing an inexpensive laminator as it really does help with the durability of these project.  This is the laminator I use.

Another popular trend are laminated work sheets.  I’m not sure where my friend sourced these farm mazes but here’s a similar idea using letter tracing.  Dry-erase crayons are a nice alternative to messy markers for these (gives you a little piece of mind that if you leave your child alone to do a load of laundry, you won’t return to a catastrophe).

This was my contribution to the swap.  It’s sandpaper glued to a piece of cereal box cardboard (for rigidity) and a bag of yarn strips in various sizes and colors.  The yarn will stick to the sandpaper just enough for kids to make pictures, shapes, letters and numbers.  I also cut slits in the sides of the paper and wove a long piece of yarn into horizontal lines across the back so that the whole thing could be flipped over and used as a loom.  Weaving the yarn in and out of the loom builds fine motor skills (and is strangely calming).  For more info on the project, see here.

I also wanted to illustrate that a successful busy bag can be very basic.  This was just a bunch of different beads and lacing strings but it’s an equally effective attention-getter as all the rest.  Finally, before I go, here are a few tips to help you organize your own busy bag swap.

  1. Establish an age range.  It’s best to stick to swapping with moms who have kids close in age to yours so that you don’t end up with a bunch of activities either too complicated or too simple to stimulate your child.  Also, it’s always a good idea to remind everyone to assess each bag for safety.  Each mom knows whether or not their kid can be trusted not swallow a bead when left alone (or stick it in a place it should not be!)
  2. Stick to moms who know each other if possible.  This is just because it’s easiest to all get together at once to swap your creations.  If you all go to the same play group, coordinating a time to do this is much more simple.  I invited moms from several areas of my life and it took a bit of time to collect and redistribute all the bags.
  3. When inviting moms to participate, be sure to stress that this will take some time (mostly a few mindless, repetitive hours that can be spent in front of the TV).  Also encourage your friends to consider the complexity of the bag before taking it on.  That 15 piece felt dress up doll may look super fun but cutting out the parts for 20 kits won’t be!
  4. It’s a good idea to provide everyone with a short primer on what a busy bag is just so you’re all on the same page.  Providing links to ideas on pinterest can go a long way in getting the idea across.

That’s all I’ve got for you.  If you’re dying for more busy bag inspiration, you can check out my site today for a few more ideas.  Also, if you’re ever in need of additional rainy day activities for the kids – MPMK’s Make & Play Vault is full of them.  Thanks again so much for letting me visit with you all today.

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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