By April Tisher
Need to keep your little one busy while you shop or try to talk, without using your phone, tablet or other electronic device? These days, if your children are anything like mine, it probably seems that it is near impossible to do so. But with a little prep work, patience and a dose of Momma willpower, it can be done. The next time you’re heading out somewhere with the kiddos, don’t forget to pack your “busy bag.”
Called busy bags, these petite playrooms are small baggies with engaging and age appropriate activities that your child can play with independently. These should be simple, educational, fun and easily transported. Make them up ahead of time so you always have one in your purse or diaper bag when needed. To keep your kids interested, switch them up and create new ones every once in a while.
Drive Around Town
This simple, laminated road map paired with Hot Wheels cars can give hours of entertainment. Visit any mapping website, and print out your hometown, their grandparents’ hometown or favorite city. Before laminating, add little house drawings or stickers to keep them engaged. Bring some of their favorite cars from home and place in bag!
Beads and String
My daughter loves to string beads and make jewelry, so putting some of her favorite beads, string or cords in a bag to bring along is the perfect project to pass the time. Don’t just think of this as a “girl’s activity” though. Using brightly colored beads and leather string can make cool key chains, bracelets or necklaces for anybody! Another twist is to use pipe cleaners and beads. Take the age of your children and size of the beads into consideration. They can be a choking hazard!
This is another easy do-it-yourself one to make. You can create flash cards for just about anything. Make color-coded ones to teach colors, alphabet ones, ones for multiplication tables or even ones for learning family members. A twist on these can be matching ones, where your child finds the mate to each card.
I know you read LEGO® and cringe, but a small amount of preselected Legos or similar small building blocks can keep busy hands occupied for a while! Pick ones that you know can be used to make several different things. Include instructions or let your children use their imagination to build new creations. As long as you don’t bring a 200-piece set they will clean up easily back in the bag and keep your tactile kid happy as a clam!
You can make your own memory cards by printing duplicates of photos of family members, their stuffed animals, your family cars, etc. This is perfect for restaurant waiting time. Have your kiddo lay the cards out face down and flip them over until he or she matches up the pairs. Laminate for multiple uses.
Ready Made Options
If you aren’t the pre-planner type or don’t have time to come up with some creative ideas of your own, Disney’s Grab & Go Play Packs are one of the best things I’ve come across. You can pick them up near the checkout of dollar stores, Target, etc. for about a dollar. They are resealable bags that contain a small coloring book, a few crayons and some coordinating stickers. The best part is that they come in about every theme your child could imagine (think Princesses, Minions, Mickey Mouse, “Star Wars,” etc.) Other easy options are the Spot It! games. They come in many varieties, age ranges and themes. These are my go-to for my daughter when she has to spend hours at her brothers’ ball practices!