Monday, July 8, 2013

Busy Bags

Now that I have three kids 4 yrs. old and younger I decided that we needed some Busy Bags.

That could only mean one thing--time to raid the Dollar Store!  I gathered up my kids and invited my Bestie to go with me.

First, I bought 10 plastic bags.  (I would suggest getting fabric ones with nice zippers instead.  The bags I bought don't hold together too well.  Perhaps when the school supplies go on sale I will buy some new bags).  

After getting home and sorting everything out, here is what I came up with:

Addition and Subtraction - 

These were mostly for Princess.  She is already starting to do basic addition and subtraction, so I bought some flashcards (princess style of course) for her to use.

Beading - 

I think this bag is the household favorite.  My girls love creating different patterns and "necklaces."  All you need to make this bag are some pony beads, pipe cleaner, and a plastic container to put the beads in.

Colors and Shapes - 

In this bag we have flashcards, window stickers, and Popsicle sticks to help the kids create shapes.

I cut out some different colored shapes.  Then, I used matching Popsicle sticks and attached Velcro on the ends.  I wrote how many sticks it takes to make the shape and the name of the shape with Sharpie marker.  It's great fine motor practice for the kids.

I also keep these shapes nearby for the kids to create pictures with.  I didn't want to buy the expensive wooden kind, so I made my own out of foam.  (I plan on making some picture mats with specific pictures for them to create.)  

Counting, Clocks, and Money - 

The numbers and counting flashcards are for Goofy.  She is only just starting to recognize her numbers.  Behind the flashcards are some clock and money window stickers.  "Decorating" the house is one of my kids' favorite activities and this one of my favorite ways to let them decorate.  

Drawing -

My kids spend hours drawing.  I bought a big scratch pad and some large crayons.  I also have a chalk mat with chalk and an eraser that was given to me by Cassie of Crafted by Cassie.  (She has tons of great stuff like newborn hats and unpaper towels.  Check out her products.)

I-Spy Bag - 

My husband gave me a sewing machine our first year of marriage.  I don't really sew much, but I try to use it once a year for him.  I made this little I-Spy bag with felt, shower curtain material, beanbag filling, and different odds and ends I found around the house.  This is a nice, quiet toy for church (as long as your kids don't start arguing over who gets to use it first).

Lacing Cards - 

I made these cute lacing card with my Cricut machine.  I laminated them, made holes with a hole punch, and attached a sparkly shoe lace.  Both of my girls love these cards.  I used them with a Color Lesson while I taught preschool last year.  (Click on the link to see the lesson.)  

Letters and Words - 

Goofy and I have really been working on letter recognition.  We use the flashcards and window stickers in this bag all the time.  There are also compound word magnets for Princess to use on the refrigerator.

Nearby, I keep magnetic letters to use with the letters and words bag.  Princess loves to spell out words with them.

Pom-Pom Patterns - 

You may have seen this pom-pom pattern activity in an earlier post.  Click HERE to learn how to make it.  A free printable is available so you can make your own!

Pom-Pom Stuffing - 

Goofy and Bud love this activity.

I cut a hole in the lid of a plastic container that was just smaller than the pom-poms.  The kids enjoy stuffing the pom-poms back into the container!

Puzzles - 

I think this bag is pretty self-explanatory.  We bought some puzzles (24 piece and 100 piece) and put them in plastic bags.

I cut the picture off the box so we would still know what the puzzle looks like.  

Shadow Puppets - 

This bag has a flashlight for each of my children and shadow puppets in it.

Here's a better picture of the puppets for you.  I made them with my Cricut (I used the Create a Critter cartridge).  I cut out the silhouettes, laminated them, and taped them to some Popsicle sticks.  I keep a sheer white curtain near the busy bags for the kids to use as their shadow puppet theater.

Squishy Bags - 

This is a great sensory activity for kids.  I filled a couple of plastic bags with hair gel, small see-through beads, and some foam letters of the alphabet.  Once it was full enough, I closed the bag and sealed it with duct tape.  My husband is still skeptical about them popping, but so far we have had no incidents. (I haven't let Bud play with these yet.  He is only 11 months old and teething--a bad combination for these bags).  

I store all of my bags in a Tupperware container for now.  I plan on hanging the bags from a towel rod on the wall someday.  The busy bags fit in two boxes.  The first one has the 10 bags that I created.

The second box has the lacing cards, I-Spy Bag, magnetic letters, pom-pom stuffing activity, foam shapes, and a box of flashcards.

Here is my cute flashcard box.

And here is how it is organized.

The kids go and grab whatever bag they'd like from the toy room.  I love that they can use them while I am teaching piano lessons.

Check out these sites for more fabulous Busy Bag Ideas:
  1. The Princess and the Tot
  2. Second Story Window
  3. The Rigneys
  4. Paint on the Ceiling
  5. It's Only Just Begun
  6. Diary of a First Child
  7. Craft, Interrupted
  8. Mother's Niche
  9. The Daily Buzz
  10. Money Saving Mom
You might also like:
Where's Waldo Cardboard Box Tunnel
Movable Mouth Puppets - Video Tutorial

Bug Preschool Lesson


  1. When we move I NEED to come back and make a bunch of these.

    1. They sure are handy. Your kiddos would love them and I'll bet you'd put together some really fun ones because you're so clever.

  2. Hi Kristen,

    I sent you a message on Facebook about this a couple of weeks ago and just wanted to follow up. I'm an editorial assistant at Parents working on a story about DIY busy bags. Our editors loved the velcro craft sticks activity on your blog (, and I'm hoping you can give me some more information about it, so that we might be able to include it in the story. First, I'd like to make sure that this was your original idea. Second, we'd like to get your permission to recreate your idea for Parents magazine. If you agree and your idea is chosen for the piece, we will recreate the craft, photograph it in our NYC studio, and you and your blog will receive a credit on the page. If you're up for it, I will send you more information. I'd love to hear back from you as soon as possible.


    Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
    Editorial Assistant | Parents Magazine
    805 Third Avenue 24th Floor | NY, NY 10022
    Phone 212.499.2049 | Fax 212.499.2083

    1. Hi Rheanna,

      Thank you for thinking of me! I tried to email you back a few weeks ago, but it must not have sent correctly.

      I would love to share my busy bag idea in your magazine. Here are the answers to your questions:

      The idea to use Popsicle sticks wasn't mine, but putting the velcro on the ends and making the shapes for them to go around was mine. Also putting the numbers on the sticks was my idea.

      You have my permission to recreate the idea for the magazine. I look forward to reading it!

      I am truly humbled that your editors like my idea.

      Thank you for the opportunity!
      Kristen Dastrup

      Kristen C. Dastrup

    2. I love this idea and found it in Parents magazine and came to your blog for more great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

      Omaha, NE

    3. Thanks Kris! I hope you were able to find more ideas.

    4. I love this idea and I read it in a old Parents magazine at a Doctor's office. I am trying to make up a set for my son's preschool teacher. Would you be able to tell me how you did the octagon? I haven't been able to fit it on one sheet of paper. Thank you!

  3. Seriously the best stuff. This will help me and my daughter soooo much and saves so much frustration for the both of us