Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas October 2016: Busy Bags for Kids

Posted on October 25, 2016 By

How about something for the kids this month? Choosing from a wish list on Amazon is awfully easy, so I’m certainly happy when that’s an option. Sometimes, though, I like to give a small handmade gift, as well, to show that I’ve put a little more thought into the gift.

When my son was a toddler, I ran across the idea of busy bags**. These are little learning activities that young children can handle with little to no supervision- -a necessity if Mom wants to get dinner made. Some activities are portable enough to be used while waiting for dinner to be served in a restaurant.

For Christmas, I’d choose just one or two activities to add to a store-bought gift. A search for “busy bags” or “busy bags for toddlers (or preschoolers or kindergarteners)” on Pinterest or in a web browser will yield a ton of results. “Quiet bags” or “quiet books” are other keywords to use. Keeping the age and skillset of the child in mind, choose activities that focus on areas that need a little work. There are games that can help with color matching, counting, fine motor skills, and so on. As with any toy, good judgment should be used with regard to the readiness of your child for each activity.

One of my favorites is one that helps with fine motor skills and counting. Pipe cleaners are snipped to various lengths and bent a little to look like wiggly worms. The worms are spread out over a piece of green or brown felt (the grass or dirt). Then the child uses a clothespin (mama bird) to pick up worms and feed them to her babies in the nest (a plastic bowl). Clothespins take a lot more strength to open than you’d think, so they are good for building hand muscles, important for handwriting later on. Younger children can use fingers to pick up the worms. The child can also count how many worms there are in each color.

Mama bird hunting for worms

Mama bird hunting for worms

For older children you can trust to use Play-Doh without eating it (My son was about 4 when I first made this.), my old stand-by is a homemade Gak kit. Gak was a nickname for the green slime on the Double Dare game show on Nickelodeon and was later marketed as a toy for kids. The gooey slime is easy to make at home with just a few ingredients.

DIY Slime Kit

DIY Slime Kit


Homemade Gak
1 teaspoon borax powder
liquid food coloring
1.5 cups warm water, divided
1 4-oz. bottle Elmer’s glue, white or clear

In a measuring cup, dissolve borax and a few drops of food coloring in 1 cup warm water and set aside. Pour glue into a medium bowl. Measure an additional 4 oz. warm water in glue bottle and add to glue in bowl. Carefully stir glue and water until combined. Pour the borax solution into the glue/water mixture and watch as it seizes up. Stir for a few moments to combine. Begin working it into a blob with your hands, kneading it until most of the water is absorbed. Discard any excess water. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container.

To make this more giftable, I like to pre-dye the borax. Measure out the borax into a bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring and stir until the color is mixed throughout. Let the powder stand overnight to let it dry completely. Pour borax into a small plastic bag and include it with instructions, bottle of glue, and a 2.5-cup disposable food container.

Other ideas:

Balloon Ping Pong—Paper dessert plates stapled to large popsicle sticks plus a few balloons

Balloon Ping Pong—Paper dessert plates stapled to large popsicle sticks plus a few balloons


Build-a-Letter- -Popsicle sticks with Velcro dots on each end and on both sides; create a guide by taking photos of each letter and number made with the sticks.

Build-a-Letter- -Popsicle sticks with Velcro dots on each end and on both sides; create a guide by taking photos of each letter and number made with the sticks.


Pipe Cleaners and Pasta- -You can’t get much simpler than this! Bag up a few different dry pasta shapes and a bundle of pipe cleaners. Let the child practice stringing pasta either to make jewelry or just for fun.

Pipe Cleaners and Pasta- -You can’t get much simpler than this! Bag up a few different dry pasta shapes and a bundle of pipe cleaners. Let the child practice stringing pasta either to make jewelry or just for fun.


Popsicle Puzzles- -Glue a magazine photo to a series of popsicle sticks and cut apart. Make it more challenging by gluing a second photo to the other side. This is an easy one to toss into a purse for emergency entertainment.

**If you get a group of moms on board with the idea, you can organize a busy bag swap and come home with an assortment of busy bags. My friend Kristen did this with her moms’ group in Des Moines and let me join from afar. The swap is run like you would a cookie exchange. You choose one activity and make one for yourself and one for each mom in the swap. Rather than coming up with (and buying various supplies for) ten different busy bags for your own child, you make ten copies of the same activity and place each in a plastic bag. The result is ten unique games for your child to choose from.

By the way, Christmas is now just TWO months away! Seriously? I’m not sure how that happened.

Do you have any fun handmade Christmas ideas?

Bronwyn's Handmade Christmas     , ,


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