DIY Busy Box. How and Why?

Jun 16, 2012

A "Busy Box" is a great tool to pull out when you need your child to be entertained independently and you don't have a lot of time for preparation, setting up or cleaning up.

busy box for kids, keep kids busy, independent play for kids

The idea behind the Busy Box is to prepare it ahead of time so that you have it on the ready for when you need it. Another great thing about them is that if your child needs to be entertained when visiting or staying at someone else's house, it's easy to throw in the car and bring with you.

We find that our Busy Box works well because we don't pull it out at the drop of a hat. It is saved until we really need it and it always contains some things that they don't normally have free reign at. This is where the appeal lies and why it's an effective tool for us

So, what type of things would you put in a Busy Box?

My tips for what to put in.

1. Only put in things they can use independently without your assistance
2. Make it age appropriate. ie. No small fiddly bits for littlies etc
3. Less mess, less fuss. Leave out things that will make a mess your child can't clean.
4. Keeping materials etc in individual tubs/bags/boxes inside the Box will help keep it clean & easy
5. Include materials that are open-ended. ie.things that have more than one use
6. If you focus primarily on creativity you may find they are able to use it for longer

Contents of our current Busy Box for our 3 year-old

- Very special textas/markers that are never used any other time. They are scented and one side rolls patterns and the other for drawing.

 This little box inside the Busy Box contains
 -sheets of stickers -coloured popsicle sticks -Bingo Markers & -clear glue

There are little tubs and ziplock bags that contain
- foam farm animal stickers -mini pompoms -googly eyes & -shiny jewels

A small modelling clay kit 
(We have access to play dough all the time but this is something a little different & therefore special)

 Different types of papers: - coloured paper -white paper -drawing & writing notepads
-sheet of foam -long roll of plain paper

Independent Creativity
 Busy Box in Use

Madeline's independent creation from her Busy Box

Now that she is 4 years old, we've made a new box. Check out the contents of her "Quiet Box"

Other Ideas:

- Make smaller boxes with more specific themes like these ones by "Famiglia and Seoul" to use while travelling

Try using egg-cartons for little activities like "The Good Long Road" did and check out her ideas for a busy bag 

- Here are a few more activity ideas for busy bags from "Z is for Zel"

Handy Tips:

- If you plan on using the busy box frequently (ie- every night while dinner's being prepared) you will need to keep rotating items in there to keep it fresh and interesting, and/or make up a bunch of Busy Boxes for different days.

- There are so many other different things that you could include in your Busy Box. This time I didn't include things that we have access to all the time, like: play dough, books, sticky tape, pencils, toys, games, puzzles etc. but when I change around the contents I can always add a book she's never read before, a toy she's never played with before etc. Remember, the more enticing and interesting, the more likely it will hold their attention.

- Use ziplock bags as a handy alternative. Label each one and store all together in a plastic tub to be pulled out at random as needed.

- Think about your child's interests and what keeps them focused for the longest. Try and work out activities or materials that work with that theme. eg. if they love everything about trains, you could try and work in some train activities, stickers, train tracks etc.

- Re-evaluate. If it turns out there are things in your Busy Box that your child is asking for assistance with, change those items for things they can do independently. You'll learn through experience.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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  1. Great post Debs! I can't wait to start making busy boxes. Pinning this. It's full of great information and tips!

  2. Oh, I like all of the items that you put into your busy box! It looks like a lot of fn for the kids! Thanks for sharing our travel boxes, too! :)

    1. Perhaps because that's my paradise it's also my daughter's paradise. Free reign and complete control over fun and fabulous craft materials! haha. You're welcome. The travel boxes were a great idea and one I'll be doing too. Thanks :)

  3. This is a great idea. I'm going to pin it on my parent share board.

  4. Whatever would I do without busy boxes/bags?! I honestly think I should buy stock in those little fuzzy pom pom things. Great post Debs, and you offer some excellent tips about what to include in the boxes, and how to keep them new and interesting. Thanks for the inspiraton!

    1. haha, my daughter actually used every single pompom in the busy box on this turn. They are a popular item with kids, that's for sure. Thanks for your kind words. Happy to have inspired :)

  5. I love this idea. I do the activity basket for my kids but I will be putting some new things in it for summer time fun out on the deck.

    1. Thank you. The ideas for contents really are only limited by your access and imagination. I'll be sure to come over and check out what ideas you're using :)

  6. I love this!! Can't wait to try it!!

  7. This idea is similar to the way we do school, only having access to certain things during school time. Do you always let them have the box if they want it? My little guy always asks for the sensory bins, which usually allows me to lure him to the other lessons/activities.

    1. Hi Miss Courtney. No, I specifically don't let them have the box when they want it. It's kept like this so that I know when I need to use it, it will be sufficiently exciting enough to capture their attention for a given time. We do have access to a lot of other materials etc all the rest of the time and my daughter knows that if there is something she wants to do/create etc, she only has to ask. The idea of the busy box is to make it as special and exciting as possible so that they will always want to use it when you want them to :)

  8. This is SO very helpful! I've seen these before and always wondered what in the world I would put in one. Thanks for sharing! I found you via the Mom's Library link-up and am happy to be your newest follower! I'd love for you to visit me back at! :)

    1. Thanks Cassie. Glad I was able to give you a few ideas. I'll be sure to pop over at some time and check out what you're up to :)

  9. So creative! My daughter would love a busy box. Thanks for sharing from Mom's Library. Newest follower. Love for you to return the follow when you have a moment.

    1. Thankyou. They're a great tool to have to pull out when you need it! I'll be sure to pop over at some point and check out your blog :)

  10. I love the name of it. We have a big bin full of stuff. I need to get more bags to control the mess. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're welcome. Ahh, controlling mess... something I think I'll be working on forever, lol. Thanks for the comment :)

  11. Thanks for sharing! I was sick this past week and she watched a lot of TV which I was not to fond of.

  12. Just saw this! Love the suggestions. Thanks for including a link to our egg carton fun.

  13. We love love love our Busy Bags here! A busy box looks like fun too! :) Miss Daisy loves to get the 'everything craft box' down and just play/create with a whole lot of random craft items.... no glue, but it's got playdough in there which she uses to stick it all together! :)


Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love reading them all.