By Guest Blogger Sandy Harper
There is about nothing worse than a “bored” child on a car trip. Movies can be helpful but can get old and not necessarily our first pick for our kids. This is when busy bags come in handy.
Busy bags can be designed around your child’s age and interests. For the actual bags I purchased canvas zipper bags that fit in a three-ring binder, found at the Dollar Store. In a pinch you can simply use Ziploc baggies. (See picture below)
Next you will need a tray. You can buy snack and play trays that are made to attach to car seats. Though, I suggest getting a metal cookie sheet at the Dollar Store and painting it with chalk paint. It has multi-uses now. It makes a great table to play or eat at, it’s a chalk board, plus it’s magnetic. The one shown here was made by my sister-in-law. She even dressed it up by painting it green first. (See picture below)
Now let’s fill those bags. Here are a few ideas that I have implemented successfully on our car trips with my toddler. One of the best parts about this list is many of them can be found at the Dollar Store and easy to put together!
–Popsicle Velcro sticks building activity – This one took me no more than ten minutes to put together. At the Dollar Store I purchased jumbo Popsicle sticks and Velcro circles. You can also buy Velcro in strip form and cut them to size. I placed one of each side of the Velcro on both ends of the sticks. You can even add some to both sides of the Popsicle ends to give more building options. (See picture below)
–New book or coloring book
–Mini Magna-Doodle – Kmart sells the Fisher Price version for under $10. This also works great when waiting at restaurants.
–Paper dolls or magnetic dress-up sets (Melissa & Doug)
–Activity books – These are great for preschool age kids. To make this even more special, hand them a special new pen, pencil and/or eraser.
–Cars – I found a pack of four at the Dollar Store. They aren’t Hot Wheels but they were new and cool to my toddler. If you did bring a chalk board, you can draw streets and a city on it for your little one to drive his new cars along.
–Small figurines – Think dinosaurs, My Little Pony’s, plastic bugs, etc.
–Shape/color match game – You can buy premade cards for this or make your own. You can use construction paper or thin foam sheets. (See photo below)
–Sticker books/ reusable stickers (Melissa & Doug)
–Wikki Stix – These waxy little sticks can be used in so many creative ways by your child.
–Lace cards w/ lace or yarn – These are simple to make! You can cut shapes out of paper, cardboard, felt or foam and then punch a few holes in them. You can use string, shoe strings or yarn to lace through the holes on the card. Not only is this a quiet activity but it also helps with your little ones fine motor skills. I suggest checking out Pinterest if you want specific shapes or need stencils. I love these dinosaur lace card print outs that I found at Living Life and Learning.
–Magnets – This is great if you are using a metal tray. I purchased a pack of alphabet letter magnets but there are many other options here.
–Pompom activities – These can be used to sort by color or for counting games. For help with fine motor skills, you can punch holes in the top of a Tupperware container or old box. Then they can push the pompoms through the holes. I purchased a cheap tackle box style container, so it was easier for sorting games. (See picture below)
–Felt Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head – Unlike its larger plastic version, felt Potato Heads are easier to travel with. I found templates for this at Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows. (See photo below)
The key to keeping these bags interesting is to only bring them out at special times, like car/plane trips or out to dinner. Plus, I would give them only one bag at a time, so to not overwhelm them. Once they tire of one, they can switch it out for a different one. I keep mine in a three-ring binder but they also travel well in a tote bag. Please share with us your busy bag ideas for toddlers and older children. Happy busy bag making!