Have you ever been out and about with your toddler and reached for your phone to play some Sarah and Duck to try and keep them occupied? You are NOT alone! Sometimes it can be tricky to keep our little ones busy while we’re waiting for a meal at a restaurant, waiting for an appointment, traveling in the car or even while we’re nursing a new baby brother or sister.
I’m such a big fan of busy bags! They’re a great little tool for keeping little hands occupied and they’re SO simple to put together with just a few things you probably already have on hand. Today I’m going to share 8 simple busy bag ideas to add to your toolkit!
Getting Started with Busy Bags
I’ve used variations of busy bags and busy boxes for many years now. They’re great for encouraging some independent play while we wait for appointments or get things done in the home. But my biggest tip is to pop things inside that your little learner can do independently. We want to set them up for success and for them to be able to use the materials without too much help from us.
In our old house, we had a set of busy boxes set up on the shelves in our dining room for many years which we often used when I was breastfeeding a baby sibling, making lunches or just needed a few minutes of peace! Inside the tub, we had a few busy bags and other little activities like play dough, games we’d played together before and sometimes even art and craft supplies. Below you’ll see some examples of busy boxes which we just rotated. Sometimes we’d have a play dough tub and other times an art and craft tub. But the goal was to have materials inside that the kids could use independently.
You’ll also notice some little bags which were filled with activities that the kids could do independently too. We have a big tub of ready made busy bags in our cupboard that we can grab quickly when we’re going out or heading away on holidays. These bags were from Amazon*. Sometimes we pop these in busy boxes too.
8 Simple Busy Bag Ideas
Now let’s jump into some simple busy bag ideas for your toddler! Just remember, once they’ve done these a few times with you, they can be added to your busy bag rotation!
Bug Counter Colour Matching
For this busy bag, I just cut up some coloured cardboard into small squares and then laminated them. Next, I added some insect counters which you can find at Growing Kind* and Amazon*. I just chose a few insects for each colour and then added it all to a bag. You could add a pair of tongs for older toddlers to add a fine motor element to the bag too!
You can grab some great two-part and three-part puzzles from your local toy shop! We love the Djeco* and Petit Collage puzzles the best. We also have a great animal two-part puzzle set from Amazon. Alternatively, you can make your own by printing some photos and cutting them in half!
Play dough is always a winner in our house. Whether we just add some play dough tools and cutters or print off some play dough mats, we can always guarantee that it will be a hit! You’ll find some Play Dough Task Cards over in my store which are perfect for older toddlers and children! You can see Nikki from @the_magic_of_play using these task cards with her daughter below.
We made some animal matching cards by taking photos of some of our animal figurines and printing off the pictures. Our toddlers have always loved matching the figurines up to the photos. The Toob brand figurines (Amazon* and Mini Zoo) are perfect for this activity but we’ve also found some great little animals at our local dollar shops too!
Pom Pom Posting Bottle
This little invitation doesn’t quite fit in a bag but it was too good not to include! Simply pop some pom poms and paddle pop sticks into a bottle and you’re good to go. I took this one on a solo plane trip that I took with my 9 month old last year and she loved it!
Pom Pom Caterpillars
Collect some coloured pom poms and invite your little learner to match them to the spots on the caterpillar. This is a great one for developing their hand-eye coordination, visual discrimination, fine motor skills and colour knowledge! You’ll find the printable for this activity in my FREE busy book guide!
Portable Small World
We love a good small world! The GLIS containers from IKEA are perfect for creating mini small worlds in. We add some animal figurines, branches, pebbles, artificial plants and squares of fabric or felt. We recently attended a wedding with our three young children so I packed two of these which were such a hit – even with the grown ups!
This activity is straight from my Dinosaur Play Pack in the Little Play Club [find out more here] but I’ve also included as a FREE download in the Busy Book eBook which you can grab right here. This one is perfect for colour matching while developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
I hope this blog post has given you some simple ideas to inspire your busy bag creations! If you’re looking for more ideas, be sure to check out this blog post and be sure to download my free busy bag guide below! It includes some free printables to add to your busy bags as well as Amazon and Creative Toy Shop buying guides with some of my favourite resources for busy bags!
*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). All of the products I link to are things we have personally used and loved!