I hadn’t heard of Busy Bags until a friend recommended them to me as a way to keep Quibble occupied when he had to wait; while I was cooking dinner or taking Squeak for her jabs. I look them up on Google and Pinterest and quickly realised that most people who were showing their Busy Bags had at their disposal a colour printer, a laminator and hours in which to put their educational and arty bags together. I have a printer that always seems to be out of ink, no time and I didn’t even know you could buy home laminators.
Still, the basic idea of preparing some activities in zip-locked bags to entertain and distract kids is a good one and I have been experimenting with what I can do using things I already have. Here’s the results – my top 10 easy Busy Bags:
- Pen and post-its – Any sort of pens (an ordinary blue biro is a winner in this house) with a third of a pack of sticky notes.
Quibble loves scribbling and then sticking his creation on the table, the door, on Squeak’s back…
- Coins or buttons – I came across the pot we’ve been keeping foreign coins in and emptied some into an envelope, while a pot of spare buttons from clothes I no longer own has been tipped into another bag. A friend of mine has done the same with a few different bottle tops.
Quibble loves pretending to buy things, looking for the numbers, sorting them by size or colour and counting them into pots.
- Duplo patterns – Two or three blocks each of four different colours is enough to make some different towers and if you have a colour printer, add in these printables to get them making specific patterns (I didn’t print them on card or laminate them).
Quibble loves working out the patterns for a few minutes, but then just building towers in different patterns.
- Small cars or motorbikes – I use the really little ones that come with magazines or in crackers, but anything small enough to go in a zip bag would work. You could also get a printable road map like this for them to go on.
Quibble loves running the cars over the arms of chairs, across his legs and over his sister…
- Magazines – ultimately lazy (and no, you don’t have to put it in a really big zip bag), but Quibble is immediately interested because everything is new. In reality, he wants our help with the stickers, activities and stories the first time, but after he’s heard them, he will just flick through them on his own.
Quibble loves playing with the free toys.
- Colouring books and colours – Just a small packet of pencil crayons (ours came free with a pub meal) and a little colouring book or a few colouring sheets, dot-to-dots or mazes (like these) printed out and folded into a bag.
Quibble loves ignoring the picture and scribbling wildly with every colour.
- Matching numbers or colours – We have a set of number fridge magnets, but no fridge door for them, so in they went to a bag with some different counters that came free with a magazine. If you had numbers on beads or tiles or just some dice they would work just as well. I’ve also seen it done with coloured card to match the colours of the counters.
Quibble loves well, okay, he doesn’t like matching the numbers to the piles of counters, but he has played an imaginative game of Power Rangers with this bag…
- Stickers – We have a great little pack of pirate stickers that came with its own pirate notebook to stick them in, but any stickers would do and a notebook means you don’t have to remove all the stickers from the chairs in a waiting room before you leave…
Quibble loves using every sticker on the sheet including the title and copyright.
- Cards – We have a couple of packs of themed cards for pairs games (including one that came free with a magazine – you may be noticing a theme here!) and they can be used for Snap, Pairs or grouping similar ones together.
Quibble loves spreading them all out to look at to find his favourite ones, who quite often talk to each other.
- Jigsaws – they pack up very small without the box and for even more challenge when the puzzles are very familiar you could put more than one in the bag.
Quibble loves sorting out all the pieces and then commentating on how he is putting them together (‘So you’ll know for next time, Mummy’).
Although she can’t have the zip locked bags, I haven’t forgotten Squeak. We put some toys and other objects (mini hairbrush, bangle, food clips, pastry brush, unwanted flyers, for example) into a little box, cloth or paper bag and her curiosity gets the better of her for at least a few minutes.
So spread the word. Busy Bags are useful and they can be easy too.