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More Toddler/Preschool Busy Bags

Updated on May 13, 2015

How to make busy bags to keep your toddlers and preschoolers occupied and happy

Let's face it. Having a toddler can keep you hopping. Toddlers and preschoolers are not the most patient creatures. I know. I have a 2-year old and a 3-year old. And five more kids on top of them. And I homeschool. Now how do I keep my littles from coloring all over the walls and emptying out all the drawers while I am trying to teach my 10th grader Chemistry? Well, I have a creative solution. Busy Bags! Activity Bags! Easy, simple things my toddlers and preschoolers can do all by themselves while I am trying to cook dinner or teach geometry. I call them "jobs." My littles ask me for jobs. They sit happily and occupy themselves for 20 minute stretches so I can teach the others, or go to the bathroom (all by myself), or breathe. I already shared the first few of my Toddler/Preschooler Busy Bags. Here are more ideas that have worked well for our busy bags.

In this picture, my 2 year old son is playing with the Lauri Toys Busy Bag that I made from the Lauri Toys Toddler Tote. (I keep a tray under the activities so that the pieces do not get scattered.)

(all pictures are original shots that I have taken, please do not copy them)

The Lauri Toys Toddler Tote is perfect for an activity bag! - Great for ages 2-5 (and beyond)

This is the activity my little guy is doing in the intro module. He loves the texture of the puzzles and he LOVES the stacking pegs!

Lauri Toddler Tote
Lauri Toddler Tote

I used the Lauri Toddler Tote to make a fun activity bag for my little ones. This versatile toy tote includes 4 small one-piece shape puzzles, 3 larger one-piece animal puzzles, a three-piece shape puzzle (diamond, circle and triangle), and 7 stacking pegs that fit into two different bases. Lauri puzzles have a great texture. You can teach colors, shapes, sorting, matching, and hand-eye coordination with this great toy! My little guy loves the stacking pegs and my youngest daughter loves the puzzles. I give them a tray to work on so that the pieces don't get scattered. I highly recommend the Lauri Toys Toddler Tote!


What is a busy bag?

It is a zip top bag with a simple activity or game to keep toddlers and preschoolers occupied and busy!

Beans in a Bottle

This activity bag is so simple and yet my little ones love to do it. Beans in a bottle is a portable busy bag activity that you can throw in your purse or diaper bag. It's simple to make and simple to play. I used dried lima beans (since they are a bit bigger than other types of beans) and an empty water bottle. My son drops beans into the bottle one by one. This keeps him occupied and happy, and he is building hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills while he plays. This is a great busy bag to take with you when you have to spend time waiting--like at a restaurant waiting for your order or in a doctor's office waiting room.

Do you use Busy Bags?

Do you have a toddler? A preschooler? Do you use busy bags?

Do you use busy bags?

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Pipe Cleaner Colors

This activity builds fine motor skills and color recognition. It is simply a plastic bottle with holes punched in the lid and a handful of colored pipe cleaners. After I punched holes in the plastic lid, I covered each hole with a colored reinforcer. I used pipe cleaners that matched the colors for each hole. I cut the pipe cleaners in half, so the kids had two of every color. To play, the kids put the correct colored pipe cleaner in the matching colored hole. At first, my 2-year old did not put the pipe cleaners in according to the colors, he was happy to just get them into the holes. As he played and with the help of his 3-year old sister, he was able to distinguish the colors and match the pipe cleaners to the colored holes. I used a Gerber puffs bottle for this activity, but you could also use a Pringles potato chip can. They really enjoyed this!

Lego Patterns - These use Duplo Blocks!

For this busy bag, I used Duplo Legos. The bag contains a sheet showing Duplo "towers" using different colors and a lot of Duplo blocks. The kids match the patterns and build a Duplo tower using the same colors. My 2 year old could name the colors and he could match one or two blocks, but he cannot yet recreate the patterns. He did better with the 2 color pattern than the 3 or 4 color patterns. Of course he had a great time building "towers" and putting on the "hats" as he called the blocks. My 3 year old could match all of the patterns on the sheet. You can make several different sheets with varied patterns for your preschooler to copy. I simply drew the Duplo block patterns on paper then colored them. You can also find printable Lego pattern sheets and more ideas to use Legos for busy bags here:

Math Centers

Get some Lego Duplos

These are perfect for busy bags and building motor skills. Legos are so versatile and long lasting!

LEGO DUPLO Bricks & More Deluxe Brick Box 5507
LEGO DUPLO Bricks & More Deluxe Brick Box 5507

Duplos are great for preschooler and toddlers! Even my elementary kids still like to play with the Duplos.


Play dough Fun! - Add cookie cutters or letters and numbers to copy

I use homemade play dough for this activity bag. I have included my simple, quick, frugal play dough recipe below. I keep a few colors of homemade play dough, a parchment paper mat, some cookie cutters, plastic knives and some laminated sheets with the abc's or numbers and the kids' names to copy. You can also use drawings such as birthday cakes (the kids add play dough candles) or trees (the kids add play dough apples). I keep the parchment paper or wax paper in the bag to cover the play surface so I don't have a mess on my table when they are done. Who doesn't love play dough?

Here's a sample of some of the play dough mats I use - They are so simple to make!

The kids make play dough "snakes" and cover the letters and numbers. They are learning how to form the letters and numbers and how to spell and recognize their names while they are having a great time. I can draw whatever I would like them to practice, then slip the page inside a plastic page protector.

We go through a lot of play dough. Toddlers and preschoolers aren't the greatest at putting the lids back on tightly. So instead of spending a fortune on playdoh, I make my own with this simple recipe. You only need corn starch, water, baking soda and food coloring. You can make a batch in about 5 minutes.

Cook Time

Prep Time: about 5 minutes

Total Time: about 5 minutes

Serves: the whole family


  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • food coloring


  1. Mix the water, corn starch, and baking soda together in a pan. Stir constantly and heat over medium heat until mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes (about 4-5 minutes). Remove from heat and dump on waxed paper. Allow to cool slightly and separate into several portions. Add food coloring to each portion. Store in airtight containers. (I use Ball plastic freezer jars to store my play dough.)
Cast your vote for Easy (frugal) homemade play dough

Cupcake Builder

This activity bag contains felt pieces to build cupcakes and decorate cupcakes. The kids build a base cupcake with a cupcake piece, a frosting piece, and a cupcake liner piece. Then they decorate their cupcake with "sprinkles" (circles, hearts and rectangles) cut from more felt. They can rearrange the colors and sprinkles as many times as they like. You can extend this activity by asking them to put a certain number of circle sprinkles or a certain color. I simply used scrap felt that I had around the house for this bag. You can find complete instructions and patterns to print here:

Free Cupcake Busy Bag instructions and pattern (Scroll down to find the downloadable patterns.)

Clothesline and Clothes

This activity bag contains miniature clothes, clothespins, and a clothesline. Simply tie the clothesline between two chairs and have the kids pin the mini clothes on the line. You can extend this activity as they grow older by having them pin the clothes in a certain pattern or color. In warmer weather, you could actually add a bucket of soapy water, and have the kids "wash" the clothing before hanging it on the line. I just used scraps of material that I had leftover in my sewing bag, but you could also use felt for the miniature clothes. You can find instructions and printable patterns here:

Clothesline busy bag printable

Where will you use your busy bags?

The busy bags shown in the photo are found on my Preschool/Toddler Busy Activity Bags lens.

Where will you use your activity bags?

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Leave me note to let me know you were here! - Or tell me what busy bags do you use?

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      This is a really special, thorough lens for Moms - great ideas here.

    • techmom profile image


      5 years ago

      I love all these ideas! We usually just use toys that are reserved for school time. I do have the duplos though so I'll have to try the pattern building.

    • DelightfulDanie profile image


      5 years ago

      What great ideas! We need to make some of these. Loved the lens :)


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