How hard is it to keep a toddler occupied at a restaurant while waiting for the meal to arrive? Ask any parent and I’m certain most will answer, “Very hard!” For my husband and I, we try to limit the amount of screen time our 3-year-old son is viewing. But inevitably, in a restaurant, our son would get bored and become restless and we would end up giving him our tablet with one of his favorite shows playing.
That was before I learned about ‘busy bags’! These are bags that you fill with small toys, puzzles, or anything that will hold the interest of your child. The bags can then be pulled out for your child to explore and play with the contents of the bag. For us, we have used busy bags in restaurants, at church, and while traveling. They are such a great alternative to screen time.
When I decided to make my son a busy bag, I started with finding the right bag. For me, the Ziparoos extra-large sandwich bag is the perfect size for a busy bag. You want the bag big enough to hold some simple items, yet small enough to fit in your purse or your child’s carry bag. The cute design on the bag also helps with the stimulation of the activity. My son become excited when he sees me grab that bag and throw it in my purse. He knows there will be new surprises waiting for him when it’s time to play with his busy bag.
Once you have your Ziparoos bag, you are now ready to fill it. You can fill it with some of your child’s small toys. Some of the allure of the busy bag is that there is an element of surprise every time he or she opens it. In addition to a couple small existing toys, I have found the best place to fill up a busy bag is at the dollar store. These items don’t have to be expensive. Just the newness of an item often holds my son’s attention.
Here is an example of the contents of a busy bag that we used just this week at a restaurant. The bag had a Matchbox car and my husband’s broken glasses (lenses removed). These were the only two items that I packed that I hadn’t bought from the dollar store. The bag also included play money, colored beaded necklaces, a toy dinosaur, stick-on tattoos, crayons and coloring paper, a glow stick, and sponge pets that grow when placed in water.
My son quickly grabbed and wore the glasses as he explored the bag. He removed the contents of the bag (expect this every time) and wanted to grow the sponge pets. After getting our waitress to bring a glass of water, we started to “grow” the pets. While we were waiting for the sponges, he colored for a few minutes and then played with the glow stick. After about 5 minutes, the sponge had become a snail and he was thrilled! He played with that until our food arrived. Yea to the busy bag!
It’s important to change the contents of the bag for each trip. Even if it’s a small change. Part of the allure is that there is a new surprise each time your child opens it. Even if the surprise is one of his or her existing toys.
Busy bags are a great way to keep toddlers engaged. And it is so nice to give them a non-screen activity. Shop Now for a Ziparoos Extra-Large Sandwich bag (our most versatile bag) and have fun making up a toddler busy bag.