We can all agree that venturing out with your kids can be a doozy! But with this parents guide to busy bags, it doesn’t have to be.
Getting out into the world with your child(ren) is no easy task. It feels like it can take an hour just to get out the door on time. And just when you do, you are still met with all kinds of tantrums, potty breaks, snacking, whining, and the list goes on…
All the toddler requests can be so hard to navigate. And let’s be honest, all they really are seeking is more attention and stimulation. But whether it’s a doctor’s appointment you’ve been waiting to get into, a necessary meal out as a family, or just plain parent burnout, you need something to keep your kids at bay (without their screens).
Well, I’ve got an answer! BUSY BAGS!
If you’ve never heard of busy bags, this blog post is for you! In this article, I will share the what, why, where, and how of why busy bags are such a great tool!
WHAT is a busy bag?
So what is a busy bag? Well, it’s a parent life hack, in my opinion. But busy bags are essentially ready-to-go activity bags that help keep your child stimulated, engaged, entertained, and, most of all BUSY!
Busy bags take a little bit of planning ahead on your part, but having these activities ready for any last-minute car ride, appointment, or restaurant outing will keep your kids happy, which means you get to BREATHE!
Most of all, busy bags encourage the Power of Play. When your kids are confident in their independent play, everyone is happier.
Activities on Demand
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WHY? Busy bags are a healthy alternative to screen-time
When was the last time you were at a restaurant or in the car, and you quickly resorted to handing over your phone or tablet to your child to keep them busy?
We’ve probably all done this and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. There is a time and a place for screens. They can come in handy when we need them, but making a conscious effort not to rely on them is important.
Years ago, I would hand my two-year-old my phone to help pass the time if we were out at a restaurant while we waited for food. But I noticed that he relied more on the phone than I had anticipated.
We had to stop cold turkey, which is never easy. I was challenged to find alternatives to entertain the time it took to wait on three cheeseburgers and a side of fries.
Experts have found that 48% of parents of children under the age of 5 use a tablet regularly, and 55% use smartphones.
Although screens can sometimes seem to be a quick and easy fix to keeping your kids entertained and quiet while you need a moment, there are unfortunate side effects that can come along with the regular overuse of screens.
- Increase in attention problems
- Less engaged in the real-world environment.
- Linked to childhood hyperactivity
- Poor communication
- Poor sleep
- Weakens social skills
We live in a society where quick solutions seem reliable, which is why technology is often the answer in these situations. BUT…if you plan ahead and travel prepared, you don’t have to rely on electronics. Enter: busy bags!
WHERE to take busy bags?
Busy bags for toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged kids are such a fantastic screen-free option to keep your kids busy. Whether you are planning your next big trip to Disney or have to run to a last-minute appointment, busy bags will be a lifesaver for all of those in-between moments for your kids when on the go.
You can most definitely rely on busy bags when it comes to:
- Day Trips
- Doctor appointments
- Long car rides
- Short car rides
HOW do you make a busy bag?
Busy bags are so easy to make!
- Schedule a time in your calendar to batch these out.
- Decide what activities you are going to put together.
- Gather your supplies (see supply list below).
- Organize the materials into individual bags.
- Store all the busy bags in an easy-to-access drawer or your diaper bag.
Busy bags usually consist of various crafting supplies and materials. If you have been following me for a while and have created any of my Breakfast Invitations, you probably already have many necessary supplies!
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We use these bags for games, puzzles, and on the go everywhere. This 12-pack will get your organizing party started!
- Shape Buttons
- Craft sticks
- Dot stickers
- Pipe cleaners
- Pony beads
- Sticky notes
- Twistable Crayons
Check out my Simple List of Supplies for Kids Activities for a full list of learning and activity supplies!
My top 3 favorite busy bag ideas
There are many easy, kid-friendly bags to put together with my parent’s guide to busy bags.
TIP: So many activities you and your child may already be familiar with can be easily repurposed to take on the go!
Here are my top 3 favorite kid activities that you probably already have the supplies for at home and can throw together in individual baggies for your next outing!
Have a child that loves transportation toys? Grab a roll of painter’s tape and toss it in your busy bag. Use on benches or tables on the go to entertain your toddler and preschooler.
Adding stickers to your magnetic tiles makes a fun puzzle for young children. You can also toss in a sticker sheet and some tiles for your child to make a magnetic sticker puzzle for you as you wait on your food.
Sticker match. You are such a gem. Here, we put a sheet of stickers, a marker & a mini notebook in the busy bag for toddlers to complete or create a sticker match challenge for siblings. Keep extra stickers in the bag for free choice. Stickers are an excellent way to improve fine motor strength!
No time for a busy bag? Toys for on-the-go!
Truthfully— My diaper bag was one giant busy bag. Some of my favorite toys are used at restaurants to pull out as we wait on three cheeseburgers.
Here are some of my favorite grab-and-go items that you can keep or throw into your diaper bag that are sure to keep your kids BUSY:
Pizza Party Game
This dice game is great for waiting on food to make it’s way to the table. Easy to store and to toss in your carry-on bag.
Plus Plus Big – Our most used toy on the go! This STEM puzzle and construction building set builds patterning and creativity. We LOVE these! (BIG size only)
Bristle Blocks – classic building blocks that develop and improve fine motor skills
Cubot – fun fidget puzzle toy, great for kids 6+
Dry Erase Boards – kids love drawing and erasing on these boards on repeat!
Hole Puncher – wait until you see how fascinated your kids are by a hole puncher; make sure you give them a plate or whatever is available to hole punch into!
Label Maker – a fun way to keep kids recognizing and learning their letters
Mini Sketch Pad – a blank canvas that can be coupled with crayons, stickers, or whatever is on hand
Sticker Seek and Find – fun matching activity that improves fine motor skills and develops patience.
Water Wow! – a reusable coloring book that works with a water-based brush.
Rubik’s Cube – remember these? I cannot get a full color, but my eight-year-old can. I better keep practicing!
Check out my favorite 25 Toys under $25 to add to your holiday and birthday lists!
Looking for more ideas to keep your kids busy at home too?
Need more on-the-go tips?
Busy bags to the rescue!
Getting out and about with kids can be challenging. Finding easy, creative, and stimulating ways to keep your kids busy is key to feeling like you can venture out and stay sane. Busy bags are a wonderful way to offer your child a simple activity to keep them occupied, learning, and feeling independent in their own play. Hopefully, this parent’s guide to busy bags has given you some creative ways to entertain your kids on the go by repurposing activities, you know! Try out some of these busy bag ideas for your child and share your favorites!
Busy bags are simple activities that are made using only a couple of craft supplies in a bag you can take on the go. If you have these activity bags prepped in advance, it will make any last-minute outing or planned road trip with your children so much easier for everyone.
What do I need to make a busy bag?
You will need a plastic (or reusable) bag to fill with individual activities. Most activities can be put together in just a few minutes with simple supplies you already have at home.
Dedicating a small amount of time to create simple activities for your toddler or preschooler is easy. Collect your supplies, organize your supplies and store your bags (either in a drawer or diaper bag) to have on hand for whenever your kids need a busy activity!