I am part of a pretty amazing playgroup in Canton. We meet weekly for play dates including trips to strawberry patches, picnics in the park, 3-D movie dates with giant tubs of popcorn and on and on. We help watch one another’s kids, exchange advice and concern about parenting dilemmas, and have monthly mom’s night outs—where we attempt to talk about stuff other than our kids.

One of the fellow moms, Tracy, suggested a busy bag exchange. I had never heard of busy bags before but they are pretty self-explanatory—each bag is filled with one activity. The idea is these self-contained bags can be thrown into a diaper bag, glove compartment of the car, or in a kitchen drawer. Pull out when kids are bored, you need to make an important phone call, dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. And instead of having to make eight different activities, our playgroup got together and eight different moms made one activity for eight kids. Then we got together and did a busy bag swap. So, at the end of the swap my daughter Willa (and by default her big brother Milo) had a whole slew of activities. And I only had to do minimal work (win win!).

You can go onto Pinterest or just google “busy bags” for a ton of ideas … we found a bunch at this site: moneysavingmom.com/tag/busy-bag-ideas. Here are some of the ones my playgroup did:

  1. Tweezers & Poms. Box of poms, paper clips and tweezers. I found these adorable pencil boxes at Target and put a letter sticker so each kid knew which was their box. The idea is for the child to work on hand eye coordination and lift the poms and paper clips out of the box with the tweezer. They can also group the poms and clips by size or color. So simple but so entertaining. (And yes, I styled my busy bags but no pressure, plastic bags are fine too!)
  2. Traceable Paper. Each kid got a laminated paper with their name, the alphabet and a dry-erase pen. Practice makes perfect and while practicing the alphabet is fun, learning to write your own name is even better!
  3. Cupcake Bag. Each bag contains lots of pieces that make up a cupcake—frosting, sprinkles, and liner. My daughter loved building the dessert and using a glue stick to make it all come together. We talked about shapes, colors and numbers (five sprinkles.) And anytime she is allowed to use a glue stick—well, that is an exciting day for her.
  4. Eggs In a Carton. Though my kids were slightly disappointed there was no candy inside (even Jewish kids know what should be inside a plastic egg) they loved—especially my five-year old—spinning the eggs to make words and mixing and matching to see if other words could be created.
  5. Pipe Cleaners and Beads. So much creativity. My kids had a great time mixing and matching colors, using hand eye coordination to slips the beads onto the pipe cleaners and putting the finished product (my daughter called them flowers, my son “art”) into the little vase.

This is just a small sampling. My kids also loved something called sink/float. The bag was filled with everything from cotton balls to plastic dinosaurs and had to guess before dropping them into a bowl of water whether they would, you guessed it, sink or float.

Our busy bags were such a success that we’re planning on doing another swap this spring. Can’t wait to see what my mom friends come up with next!

editor’s note: ever created a busy bag? share your ideas here by leaving a comment or join the conversation on our facebook page!