No matter what you want to call them, these are a must have for parents. You are going to have to wait with kids at some point or another, wether its at the doctors, restaurant, whilst out shopping, dentist or even family events like weddings.
My wife has been a pre school manager for over ten years and always plans things for us to take out with us for our daughter Megan. This can be as simple as some colouring sheets on a clipboard or a couple of toys. However what we have been doing in more recent years is taking a little zip lock bag with five small activities to keep her busy. So start off by reading my rules, then we’ll get on to the fun bits.
1. Aim for 6 items or less – This means it’s not as difficult to round up everything when you’re child is finished playing with it.
2. Try to go for Easily Replaceable – It’s likely that using these for travel and out and about will mean that you will probably loose pieces eventually. Therefore I like to use a lot of cheap/recycled goods so I am not so upset when things get lost.
3. Make them FUN – That’s a no-brainer, but it’s true. Try to make sure there’s something fun but at the same time will keep them relatively quiet and busy for a good few minutes
4. Try sticking to a theme – this way children can pick their favourite pack i.e I want the princess pack or I want the dinosaur pack etc.
5. Make more than one busy pack, trust me once you start seeing how useful these are you will want at least 5 different packs in stock at home.
6. Use the season – whether there is a holiday around the corner like Christmas or easter or even just something big going on in your family, take advantage of those moments. It makes it more exciting for kids and not as mundane.
Decide what you are going to use to house your busy pack, you can use an old kids lunch box, recycle a plastic food container or even use an old DVD case (more on this later). You can even use a pencil case or even just a clear zip lock food bag, anything will do.
To help you decide maybe it will good to think about what you may end up putting inside, So here is a list of things we have used in the past.
- Colouring sheets (lots of)
- Books (small ones)
- Various small toys
- Mini yo-yo
Adding cheap home made activities
One of the most attractive things about these busy packs is that the idea is they dont cost a fortune. They use a lot of re-used things you already have or very cheap things you can get your hands on. Here are some of my favourite ideas for you to use for FREE
Play Dough Mats
I have added three play dough mats to my activity centre, just click the buttons to see them and print them out. I normally laminate them as they last longer that way however you can use just a piece of paper which has the added bonus of being foldable so can fit in a small box. Just add a small tub of play dough or make your own if you’re feeling brave. My wife has assured me that its easy. I have included her favourite recipe here.
I hear you saying “Huh”, These are lollipop sticks with velcro spots stuck on them. You can buy both these components very cheap from most craft shops and I was shocked how popular they were with my four year old. I would guess that kids up to six years old would like these but the older children would just want to make what they want to make though. For younger ones try letters of the alphabet, you make a letter and they copy or simple shapes like a house. Give it a go, they will enjoy it.
Ice Cream Game
Make your own ice cream, who doesn't love ice cream. Print the free ice cream design I made and cut out the pieces, add it to your pack and you have another winner on your hands.
Yep, drinking straws can be great fun.
1. Straw Tug of War
For this game, each player sits at a table as though they are about to play tug of war. Place a straw in the center of the tables so it is running horizontally. Each player takes their own straw and on the count of go, tries to blow the table straw towards the other player. The person who is able to blow the straw across the table and into the other player wins.
2. Straw whistles
Take a pair of scissors and cut the end of your straw into a point, or a V. Try blowing into the straw. A whistle sound should come out. Try cutting straws at different lengths and then complete them with a V tip. The various lengths should create different pitched sounds. This works especially well with paper straws.
3. Straw water race.
For this game, each team is given two glasses. One glass is full of water while the other is empty. Teams must place the straw in the cup with water and pinch the end so the straw retains some liquid. They then must transfer the liquid to the empty cup. The first team to get all of their water from one cup to the other wins.
4. Straw words.
Cut straws into smaller segments to write out words and phrases. You can even play hangman or fill in the missing letter games using the straws to create the letters. Straws can also be used to practice tracing letters in sandboxes.
Now if your child has a favourite toy that fits inside your box/case then thats a no brainer. But otherwise, what else is good to go in? Here are some of my favourites.
- Small Puzzles
- Small Dress up Items (Necklace, rings, hair clips, loom bands, ben10 watch etc)
- Finger Puppets
- Travel Games (travel versions of board games like connect 4 etc)
- Plush Animals
- Mini Card Games like Uno or Top Trumps
- Mini YoYO
On that last toy, Lego. It's one of my all time favourite toys for both boys and girls so here is a little game you could play.
Lego Mystery Game
This is a great little game to keep kids amused for a while. If you are going to put some Lego in your busy pack then get your son/daughter to grab a handful of lego to put in the pack. You do the same too. Now when you are out tell them they have to make something, anything using ALL the lego’s you brought. Name the item and take a picture.
Thats it for this activity pack, I hope you have found this one informative as its a little different to the other activity packs I have put together because its more aimed at the parents but I think these are a great idea. A little prep time is involved but I think the pay off, of keeping your little ones amused at crucial times is worth it and saves a lot of unnecessary stress.
As always take a picture of your family using your busy packs and post it to my Facebook Fan Page, the best most creative pics win prizes!