crafts, toddlers

Busy Bags – DIY!

In preparing for our Christmas road trip, that didn’t actually happen, I spent several hours researching (pinterest-ing) busy bag ideas for toddlers, road trips, etc. I loved all the ideas I got from so many neat boards. None of my creations look exactly like the ones I researched, and that’s the beauty of it, collect ideas from a few (or several) resources, and then make it your own!

One recurring tip I saw for my son’s age group (18-36 months), that absolutely worked out for us, Keep the busy bag activities out of sight, and hand one activity at a time to the child so they can get lost in what they’re doing and not rush through all of them at once and then run out of activities before you’re very far down the road. I tried to keep in mind there were 14 hours to survive one way, so I’d need to keep things fresh coming and going!

Another tip, plan snacks for after an activity or two get old and the kid is getting frantic… that really helps! Versus making several long stops and taking even longer to arrive. When food loses its power, then I allow some screen time with a few favorite downloaded episodes of Thomas, Dinosaur Train, Daniel Tiger, or Curious George (the favorites for now).

So let’s dig in! (Caution… Picture Heavy!)

I’ll show the activities then how we like to transport and store them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASorry for the dark picture here! I love this idea of re-purposing a plastic bottle, filling it with cut pipe cleaners, or other small metal objects and waving a magnetic wand over it. Picture the memorization of your child for at least, 30 seconds! 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome random fun here, tiny plastic dinosaurs available at the dollar store. Trusty flash light for hours of fun when you’re leaving before the sun comes up! Random truck given to us with a plow and dump, how could that not entertain? All those moving parts. Ok, two moving parts, but still. Trucks are cool!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis family loves puppets of all shapes and sizes. Finger puppets travel well! We scored this one on sale on Amazon a while back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALovely boy toy… Sticky, stretchy, bugs. $1 each at your dollar store. Crazily entertaining.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMusic kit from his toddler music class. Sometimes you just have to let them make a little noise! My husband is good at this, he joins in on a cheap kazoo or harmonica and they really go to town! If only it were safe to drive with ear plugs… tiny cars. Know yourself before you pack this 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor a few days I observed my son and what some of his favorites seemed to be. When he wasn’t looking, I confiscated them and stored away in hopes of creating a happy moment when things got intense. You’re getting the idea now, random stuff around your house will work!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is fun and easy! And fun to play with after. 1 TBS elmers glitter glue per cup warm water. The water has to be warm enough for the glue to mix. I added additional dashes of glitter I had on hand for more colors and sparkle. I chose the bright green glitter glue and used 2 TBS for my peanut butter jar. Hot glue the lid closed when your’e done! The idea here is (if you haven’t read this on other pages or pinterest already) The kid shakes up the jar to get the crazies out, and watching the glitter settle is supposed to have a calming affect. (i’ll be honest hubs and i enjoy it more than our kid right now… but like many things, I think he’ll grow into it).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love using 3-hole pencil bags for sturdiness and they’re really handing to pack around, however, I have to pace myself on buying too much, so hefty gallon size zip bags are great! This is a random collection, just something I want to grab in case all the more planned activities aren’t working out. $1 etch a sketch. Random octagon that transforms into a turtle at the push of a button, man from pictionary man and white board marker, foam sesame street character book, and I think there might be a flashlight in there too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I found this great little chalkboard in the clearance section of a craft store for $1.47. I had the popsicle sticks on hand so I added my own flare to it, plus it really sured up the frame. The chalk was $2.99 and the blanket square leftover from a previous project makes a great eraser.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo improvise for a travel tray, I got a cheap two-pack of cookie sheets at the dollar store. It’s great for magnetic play! I had picked up some magnetic sock monkey stickers at a teacher supply store on sale for $2.50 that proved quite entertaining!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of color sorting and counting going on! I used clothespins on hand to make “birds” and used small colorful pompoms on hand for beaks. The idea obviously is to match the bird to the pipe cleaner “worm”. My son just loved stretching out the worms and then watching me pick them up with the birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo many uses for pompoms. Who doesn’t love a pompom stuff? I love that this cup and the cup of “worms” above were both made from restaurant kids meal cups. No extra expense here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStickers are a must. Totally. Every day my kid could sit for hours sticking stickers to anything. I made this foam sticker album so he could more easily pull off stickers and put them on other pages to stretch out the fun. All stickers from dollar store. Pencil bag from dollar store.


Books are also crucial. I’m thankful my kid loves books! Above are some of our favorite titles. The slide and find+ alphabet book, really is amazing! We got ours at Sam’s Club. Lift the flap Usborne bug book, yea, totally perfect for my kid! Mouseton Abby? Ok, that caught Mama’s eye for obvious reasons (Not obvious? Ok, I’m a Downton fan.) But man, kid has fallen in love with hunting all the hidden treasures in the 60 flaps!!

I made the family photo album (ok, that’s obvious) full of relatives we were about to see first, then relatives who live far away but wanted him to remember. He points to everyone now and says their names without being prompted. It’s hard living so far away from grands and most of our cousins and aunts and uncles, but at least he’ll grow up knowing what they look like.

The hand made alphabet book was started for me at one of my baby showers. I finished it (finally) for this trip because even without color or all the letters having pictures, my son had really been loving this book. So, this is a busy bag tip and baby shower game tip! Take a cute photo  album, cut copy paper to size, before sticking the sheets into the protective pages, attach sticky letters, and then give guests each a letter at the shower to create baby’s first alphabet book! Make sure guests sign the pages! Such a sweet (and cheap!) memento! 🙂 Also… back tracking, the electronic book above is English and Spanish with a few interesting functions, not something I would normally have for my child (it was a gift from a beloved aunt back home), but a nice distraction in the car for sure!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I love that my hoarder ways are good in a pinch! I have tons of old binders and organizer tools leftover from high school, college, and so on. This is a great way to transport activities. There are tons of good busy-binder ideas out there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This accordion file-thing works well for storing extra stickers, thin books, any supplies that you’re not using for a given time, but want to re-stock in say the pencil bags and what have.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though we didn’t get to go on our big trip, these activities are still wonderful kept on hand! We keep a tote packed for church and we switch out activities before a new meeting time. I love having everything ready the night before so no matter what happens in the morning, at least I know everything is right by the door to grab as we dash out!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love that I had an extra one of these canvas organizers to store all the activities. This entire box went in our front seat when one of us sat in the back with our kid and we would keep switching out activities for him. I now keep it on a shelf in our master bedroom closet, out of reach and (mostly) sight of our son. This helps keep everything fresh, helps him anticipate the the activities since they’re not accessible like other toys and books. He gets excited about his “games”! I love that he’ll ask “Can we play game?” The Melissa and Doug latch board is tucked in the very back. We found it in new condition at a consignment sale! Kid loves that thing! The first day he ever had it, sat on the floor on a blanket for 30 minutes playing on his own!

We went on a short trip, just about an hour and a half away, and for a toddler, that can be a lot. I don’t want him glued to a screen all the time, so I’m glad to have things for him to keep his hands and mind occupied. I think my favorite feature of activities like this is that kids can learn unintentionally. They learn through their natural process of playing. You can talk about the colors in the activity, you can count together, practice hand-eye coordination, engaging your child through talking and encourage language development and social skills. JUST.BY.PLAYING! Fantastic! 🙂

So there you have it! I would love to know what ideas you come up with for your child(ren)!

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