I had never heard of Busy Bags for toddlers until an invite to a local busy bag mom swap came across my Facebook feed. I clicked on it, saw the crafty things moms would be making and immediately loved the idea.
My general overview of busy bags is that these are homeschool like activities for pre-school aged children. They are meant to keep little ones busy home, taken on the go, to restaurants, waiting rooms, traveling, and so on. While they are not Montessori based (nor are they meant to be), I think a lot of the concepts borrow Montessori ideas as more parents seek out this learning method and ways practice it a home.
Therefore, I took the contents of my 17 busy bags from our swap and put them in trays, in a lesson format for our Montessori shelves. Even though my toddler is in full-time school now, one can never have enough things on hand to keep a toddler busy.
The small materials used to make the busy bags have a focus on hand eye coordination, sensorial objects and learning basic shapers, numbers and colors. All these things work perfectly for creating budget friendly, home-like Montessori lessons.
My older children (plus a friend) enjoyed checking out the new activities too. Because you know, they are new! It was a good thing, because they are good teachers for my toddler. Seeing some of the busy bags require reading the instructions and are not entirely designed to be independent work, as is traditional Montessori work. Or the kind of independent work moms need for kids when it comes time to cook dinner. You know what I mean? The mom who organized our swap put together a list of links including varying busy bags for for the participating moms to make. There were 17 moms who signed up to participate. Each mom signed up and chose one of the following items to make, and duplicate 17 times. Therefore we left the swap with 17 different busy bags. What an awesome concept! Right?
Shape Stretchies: Stretchable band with activity cards to make shapes. http://thismamamakesstuff.com/2010/07/making-stuff-shape-stretchies-for-creative-movement/
Felt Letter and Number Tiles: Include one alphabet set and one numbers set(1-20): http://unsolicitedadvice-n-such.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-cheap-collect-no-junk-letter-and.html
Foam Shape Matching Grids: Please include 3 grids per bag like in the link posted. http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/?p=298
Measure It: Measuring different sized ribbons and sorting them into their proper card. http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/?p=311
Butterfly Matching: File Folder game matching butterfly wings http://www.mamajennblogs.com/2009/09/butterfly-matching-file-folder-game.html
Color Matching/Nutrition: Placing the food on the matching color “plate”. Please include 6 color sets (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) per bag. http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/05/color-matching-nutrition-activity-for-kids.html
Lacing Cards: Please include at least 4 lacing cards, 1 plastic sewing needle, and yarn with each busy bag. http://totallytots.blogspot.com/2012/04/lacing-cards-simply-made.html
Paperclip Color Matching: Matching colors and using fine motor skills to place paperclips onto foam. http://totallytots.blogspot.com/2010/07/simply-made-paperclips-foam.html
Fabric Links: Strips of fabric with Velcro on each end to make links into chains(think paper chains from school). Your links do not have to be made into a page like in the link I posted. Please include 6-8 links in each busy bag. These can be made with felt if you do not sew. http://creating-sarah.blogspot.com/2011/09/quiet-book-fabric-chain.html
I-Spy Book: There is no tutorial link for this one but the idea is simple. Follow the link posted and print the images in the album(4×6) and put them into a small photo album. https://picasaweb.google.com/Pdyrland/ISpyBook?authkey=Gv1sRgCJCgjOfctqifdQ&feat=email
Felt Rainbow: Build a felt rainbow. Matching colors and color words. After clicking on the link you will have to scroll down a bit to get to the rainbow activity and template. http://www.playcreateexplore.com/p/busy-bags.html
Play dough Mats with Homemade Playdough: Laminated activity mats with homemade playdough. http://planetoftheapels.blogspot.ca/2011/09/busy-bag-swap-day-5-playdough-mats_05.html
Race car shapes: Roadway shape mats for shape identification. http://codyandchelseagroves.blogspot.com/2011/09/busy-bags-day-2-race-car-shapes.htm
Pool Noodle Lacing: Fine motor skills and pattern recognition. http://planetoftheapels.blogspot.com/2011/09/busy-bag-swap-day-2-pool-noodle-lacing_01.html
Magnetic Discovery Bottles: Exploring magnets! Scroll down to see the magnetic bottle. Instead of getting magnet wands you can make your own for much cheaper. Simply wrap magnetic tape around the end of pencils. If you pick this one and need more help, just ask! http://littlecrunchymama.blogspot.com/2012/04/more-discovery-bottles.html
Pom Pom Push: Pushing pom poms into their correct hole. The containers for this one can be found cheaply at the Dollar Tree, something like 4-5 in a pack for $1. http://brightlittlebuttons.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/craft-pom-pom-push/
Heads & Tails: Matching animals heads and tails. http://lapbooksbycarisa.homestead.com/Brown_Bear._heads_and_tails.pdf
I made the fabric links. Here was my basket of busy bags that I took to the swap. While I was sewing 170 fabric strips, I was thinking this busy bag swap should have been called busy mom bags. Because it was a lot of work! But it was worth it and I’ve already signed up to do it again this winter.