If you are a mother of very small children, and haven’t used busy bags to occupy their time yet, then let me evangelize and share the gospel of our sanity’s salvation to you!
I used to be the kind of unwitting single woman who would look at rowdy children in public places such as malls and restaurants and judge the parents inside my head. But then as the story goes, I got married and had a child, and my world went topsy-turvy! I profusely apologize to all those unknown parents I have judged a lifetime ago, back when I thought parenting was simple. That was me before I had a two-year-old screaming for chocolate in a busy restaurant, or crying bloody murder at the doctor’s office.
I knew the key was to keep our son busy so he will not throw his terrific tantrums. I scoured the internet for on-the-go activities to keep him occupied. That is how I found out what Busy Bags are (thank you, Pinterest!) and how to make them. It was an instant success! Here are the 5 observations that blew me away when we started doing Busy Bags when eating out or traveling. It became so successful, we even started using it at home!
It Makes Waiting Time Bearable
Waiting for our food at the restaurant. Waiting at the doctor’s offices. Waiting to board for a flight or a train ride. So much of our lives is spent waiting. As much as I would like to let my son roam free to explore and entertain himself, it is not always safe or polite to do so. But add a busy bag to the mix and I was surprised how my son will turn to focus on the work before him, making the time spent waiting much, much more tolerable.
It Encourages Creativity and Imagination
It’s a no-brainer: kids need very little to spark a little one’s imagination. A well-timed pack containing a few clothespins in an unusual setting such as a doctor’s office could work wonders. I just had to show my son how to clip it to stuff and he was suddenly alert with excitement, tagging objects with it (mostly magazine pages). Two small animal figurines become the primary actors of a tale about friendship and lost balloons. A couple of Legos turned into a car that can travel parallel to walls (and on Daddy’s back). The possibilities, as they say, are truly endless, and not just for my child --- for me too! Having a kid is a nice excuse to act silly and think of ridiculous stories!
It’s an Opportunity to Bond With My Child
A toddler still often needs support and directions while they play. It could be the few minutes I show him how to put the buttons through the slot in the box, or how to insert fuzzy wires into a punched can. It could be the half hour I spend telling him a story using finger puppets. It could be the whole hour I spend making art or teaching him how to use scissors and snip. Whatever it is I am doing with him, know that it is 100% valued by my child. There is nothing more priceless than how quickly he will look up to me after a successful attempt and look for validation for his triumph. He or she may not be able to verbalize his gratitude yet, but it’s the time spent with him that makes busy bags such a great opportunity to deepen my connection with my child.
It Supports his Early Childhood Learning
The manipulatives and toys I choose for his busy bags matters. There are so many resources on the internet about which one is right for your child’s age. Personally, I am proudest of my son’s ability to name a whole slew of animals and his love for scribbling and coloring. So I supported this by making sure each busy bag has something that will spark his interest. Then I add a few other pieces which will encourage other areas of development (i.e. safety scissors and some colored paper to snip). It took him a while to figure out how stickers work, but now his pincer grip beats a lobster’s! Offering the right toy at the right time is important --- not too early to frustrate him, not too late to bore him.
It Gives Me a Few Minutes of PEACE
Let's face it. Toddlers are exhausting. Science tells us their bodies are wired differently, they are able to bounce back faster than adults. Don't blame yourself if you can't keep up. There are other things to be done any given day at home -- load the washer, fold the clothes, cook a meal, wash the plates. You need time to do that too. And let's not forget, you need some mental space once in a while as well. A Busy Bag can give you that aside from the other benefits mentioned above. You don't have to do anything once your child gets the hang of it --- just lay back and enjoy the quiet without the fear or suspicion that your toddle is up to something naughty. It's healthy for your mental health as a parent!
Still unsure after my testament above? It's okay. I know what you are thinking ---- TIME. Who has time to make busy bags? Here's a confession --- my first few busy bags were store bought items put in a literal plastic bag together. Colors and coloring books. Fuzzy wires and pompoms. Wikistixx and Water Wow! and Etch-a-Sketch. It cost me a lot of money. Then after a while in I realized some of these busy bag items are soooo simple to do I would be ashamed if I try to buy it from anywhere else. I mean, c'mon, clothespin and a small basket? Surely you have that lying around? Discovery bottles are just Coke bottles filled with sand or rice and a bunch of stuff you found at the bottom of your handbag. Then when I started making my own manipulatives for my son, I realized I could level up little by little. Until I got confident enough to tackle even something like this:
I have proven that if you do something you love (or for someone you love) then you realize you will always have time for it. So do just try it out. Don't go too insane at first (like I did). And if you need help, do read my next post as I describe how I curate my son's busy bags.
Til then, smell ya later,