I have about three or four busy boxes that keep active toddlers and preschoolers occupied. I fit several different activities into each box, sorting them by age as I see fit. The trick is to keep them special. Put them away where they can’t be seen, and pull one out when you need a child to be occupied for a short period of time. Make sure that your activity matches the age of the child so that there are no safety issues, and then let them go. Busy boxes can be so special that the kids who used to play with them still find joy in some of the special items they hold.
Truthfully, my mom had several things like this that I still like to handle and “play” with just for nostalgic purposes, of course. (Yes, I’m in my 40’s.) Do you know what it feels like to run your fingers through a box of buttons? They slip and slide through the fingers, all shiny and smooth. I had a button box, a magnetic chalkboard on which I played with magnet letters and chalk, and play-doh with a pastry mat to contain the mess. Those were some good times.
Here are some ideas for your busy boxes.
- Locks of all kinds: with keys, with number codes or letter codes, combination, padlock.
- PVC fittings
- Beans for sorting with a scale, jars, and funnels
- Sand: kinetic or regular
- Wooden shapes
- Felt board and pieces
- Small notepad and pens
- Play-Doh with a pastry mat
- Buttons of all shapes and sizes
- Beanbags with a small bucket
- Sponges, a large paintbrush, and a small bucket to fill with water on an outside day: they can paint or clean the driveway or sidewalk
- Magnetic alphabet letters and magnet board
- Rubber bands and Geoboard (rubber band board)
- Practice drum pad and drum sticks
- Chalk and small chalkboards
- Abacus: real or kid-friendly
- Seamstress tape measure, both regular and retractable
Once you put them together, a plastic shoebox with a couple of these things in it will keep a small child (or, ahem, me) entertained for a short time. If you have several of these stashed in your closet for a rainy day or a busy moment when you need a quiet preschooler, you’ll be set to hand them a contained special project.