At various times during the day, it can be helpful for mama to pull out a little activity to help smooth over an otherwise crazy time (such as a more intensive homeschooling session with an older sibling, dinner prep time, or a quiet waiting time). Over the past couple months, I’ve been gradually putting together an assortment of “busy bags” as an option for little hands that need a “special activity.”
Although originally intended to just address our toddler’s needs (which I mentioned briefly in our homeschooling plans), I’ve also added some activities for our older daughter as well, so I have an assortment of bags available.
I keep the activities stored in gallon freezer bags or reusable plastic envelopes in our kitchen on a high shelf (where they’re easily accessible to Mama during a busy cooking time, but out of sight during our children’s usual playtime).
For our oldest daughter, who loves worksheets, I’ve printed off a selection of pages from books such as the Follow Directions…and Learn! series (I have the ebook versions on my computer) or Donna Young. She calls them “special activity pages,” and thinks it’s a special treat to get one (since we don’t usually use worksheets during her schooling).
Pom Pom Stuff-it-In
Our toddler enjoys the pom-pom stuffing activity, which I found from Crystal (our little boys are fairly close in age). I used an old plastic deli container (saved from a road trip lunch). I didn’t have access to any real pom poms, so I dyed some cotton balls with a bit of watered-down natural food coloring.
Inspired by one of the projects in the book 10-Minute Puppets, I made a couple cardboard puppets. I used a photo of each child as the “face,” and felt for the body/clothing, glued onto the cardboard background. (An attached popsicle stick or wooden stir stick works well as the handle.) I now have requests to add puppets resembling other members of the family…
DIY Watercolor Pages
Messy painting requires a bit more supervision than some of the other activities, so this is done at the kitchen counter while I’m working on a recipe or dishes. These DIY Watercolor Pages (remember those “just paint with water books?”) have been fabulous to have on hand for meeting their spontaneous creative desires, without giving my children free access to big tubes of paint. I keep a couple old jars and brushes for water available behind my sink.
Similar to this “Button-Up Snake,” I made an activity for our toddler to practice with buttons. Instead of square pieces of felt to make a snake, I cut the felt into seasonal-colored leaves like Elsie’s Garland (but didn’t sew them into a garland), and then cut a small slit in the middle of each leaf as the buttonhole. I used a wide grosgrain ribbon from Freecycle, and big wooden vintage buttons from a thrift store (one on each end of the ribbon).
Felt Play Board
Inspired by a felt set my mom made me when I was a child, I cut felt into random pieces (some recognizable, basic shapes, including nature items, clothing, weather, etc., as well as abstract shapes). Then I included one full piece of felt as the “background board.” The children create their own pictures on the background, using the small pieces of felt.
This one has surprised me in becoming a “group activity,” as both children enjoy working on the felt pictures together. (I had assumed it would be an “individual play” activity.) Chasing Cheerios has a mini version of a felt play board in her set of activity bags.
(I plan to continue adding a few more options to our activity selection, in preparation for the arrival of our newest baby this spring, when the older siblings often need some new amusements during that adjustment period. I’m saving some project ideas on Pinterest.)