Almost a year ago, I discovered “busy bags” on…where else…Pinterest. (I know, I know…I really do need an intervention.) “Lauren, what’s a busy bag?” Oh I am so glad you asked! Busy bags are compact activities that are meant to be educational, quiet (generally they offer the ability to be played with in a quiet fashion), and are usually designed to be played with independently. Now, with that last part of the statement I’d like to interject a disclaimer: I love and cherish EVERY moment I spend with Buddy…at the same time, I recognize the importance (and sometimes the necessity) of fostering independent play in my budding little man. Not only is independent play developmentally appropriate, but it also gives me an opportunity to set him up with a quick activity rather that sticking him in front of the tv when it becomes necessary for me to get something done…like prepping dinner, going to the bathroom (yes, mommies tinkle too!), or running the vacuum if we have a play date on the way over. It is also worth mentioning that you (usually) can’t just hand your toddler a busy bag and expect them to know what to do with it. So while it is meant to be an independent activity, that doesn’t mean you won’t need to give them suggestions on how to play with said busy bag nor does it mean that you cannot join in on the fun as well!
Another thing I’ve found is that they are EXTREMELY handy to have on long car trips! Just last week we made the 11-12 hour trip to Gulf Shores, AL for a family vacation and busy bags (along with the DVD player…I’m didn’t say I NEVER park him in front of a show) proved to be quite valuable when Hubby and I were working on navigating through a few stretches and needed Buddy to be occupied without assistance from either of us. Paired with their compact nature (each of my activities fit neatly in their own gallon-sized ziploc bag), they were the perfect traveling items!
I have quite a few busy bags that I’ve either created myself or that I received from friends in a busy bag swap I organized last spring (more on that later) and I am so excited to share them with you so you and your kids can create and benefit from them too!
The first busy bag I want to share with you is one I made. I got the idea to make a felt pizza from Second Story Window (via Pinterest) and ran with it. I love the idea of felt activities, especially for the car, as the pieces stay in place (sorta) all on their own so there is minimal chasing of stray olives, pepperoni, and chunks of pineapple. Man, I hate it when a pineapple chunk goes missing. Anyway, all it takes is a large tan felt circle for the crust, a slightly smaller red felt circle for the sauce, and whatever toppings you want (cut from…you guessed it…felt!) I had a little fun with my toppings, mixing it up between traditional toppings (pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, olives, etc) and not quite as traditional toppings (pineapple). This was an easy busy bag to make duplicates of without spending a ton of extra money. I made 6 of these busy bags…1 for Buddy, 1 to put in a bundle of busy bags to give to a friend for her 2 sons, and 4 more to distribute at our exchange. I was able to make the toppings for all 6 from 1 or 2 pieces of felt for each topping and then just needed to buy enough tan and red for all the crusts and sauce. Then I plopped myself in front of a “Big Bang Theory” marathon and went to work cutting! Bazinga! A couple hours later I had 6 pizzas ready for delivery in gallon-sized ziploc bags. (If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you could hit up your local pizza delivery place to see if they will give you a small pizza box to use for pretend play…so cute!)
The best part about this busy bag is that it can really be used for a variety of ages. If your child is on the younger side, they will probably enjoy piling toppings on any way they please, and that’s TOTALLY FINE! As they get older, you can create some cute recipe cards to help develop your child’s ability to follow directions and foster number recognition. Another option is to laminate a card with each ingredient on it, give your child a dry erase marker, and let them take orders to create in their pizza kitchen…wherever it may be!
Here are a few shots of Buddy enjoying his own personal pizzeria on our recent vacation. Note the piles of toppings. We’re not quite ready for taking orders or reading recipe cards yet. 🙂
(We purchased the blue travel tray super cheap from One Step Ahead when it was one of their “one day deals.” Great find! Love that company!)
Don’t have the time to create your own felt pizza busy bag? Let etsy do the work for you! I found this listing for a darling felt pizza (among others) to share!