Going into summer, a lot of kids miss the stimulation of school. And many get stuck inside during scorching hot days. Let's use iron-on vinyl and some fun accessories to make busy bags that keep them engaged!
My favorite busy bags are ones that are mindful in contributing to kids' mental health and well-being. If they're going to be spending quite time immersed in an activity, it makes sense to make those activities ones that will help them reflect, right? All of the busy bags below have amazing growth skills packed in to help kids learn self-confidence, express their creativity and feel more connected to the world around them.
What are Busy Bags?
Also known as “busy boxes” because people sometimes use boxes, busy bags include small items and kids activities for toddlers and preschoolers all the way up through high school and beyond! Heck, I even make busy bags to keep myself entertained on the occasional road trip. Powerful mothering includes leading my example, dontcha know.
Kids will love the quiet time activities that increase fine motor skills, giving young children the nuts and bolts they need to navigate the world! When my boys were really little, we practiced counting with items in busy bags. We had fun figurines, flashcards, dice, dominoes and more.
As much as busy bags can keep preschoolers learning, they're also a truly incredible tool for keeping elementary school kids occupied for a bit. We have one kiddo in particular who tends to be sensory-seeking. He has trouble sitting still, and ALWAYS wants to engage with things around him to keep his brain busy. I adore his curiosity and we engage together for hours on end, but I also need to put my mind towards work and making dinner on occasion. That's when I tell him it's time for a busy bag activity!
Customizing Bags with Cricut
You may recall that we made grocery tote bags with Cricut awhile back. Those were made with Cricut's own special Infusible ink bags. These busy bags, on the other hand, use generic plastic-lined waterproof canvas totes with Smart Iron On Vinyl that I cut with my Cricut Joy. I love love love Cricut's Infusible Ink and blanks, but they unfortunately don't make one sized quite right for this task. I needed something in between their adorable cosmetic bag, and their medium tote.
All told, the supplies you need include:
Get the template for these busy bags over in Cricut Design Space!
When cutting the design, DON'T FORGET TO MIRROR the image, and place the shiny side down.
When pressing the image onto the design, the shiny side goes up. With these bags, the protective mat needs to go INSIDE while you press, to keep the plasticy interior from melting together. Heat your press to 280 degrees, briefly hold it onto the bag to preheat for 5 seconds, then press with gentle pressure for 30 seconds. Remove the liner while it is warm. If your iron on vinyl bubbles or pulls at all, press back down firmly and try again.
Voila! Your bags are good to go.
What to Put in Busy Bags
I like to give my busy bags a specific theme. There are enough of each item for each of my kids to play with the same thing at the same time, and they know that they are required to put one bag back away before they get a new one out. The themes I made are glow, play, craft and splash!
- Glow slime
- Glow-in-the-dark mini-copters
- Light-up squishy pals
- Glow sticks
- Light up foam putty
These items will help kids develop spatial awareness, and communication skills as they navigate the darkness. They're also a fantastic idea for kids who get overstimulated by too many bright lights! If your child gets overwhelmed by the darkness, these will all work in just a slightly-dimmed space.
- Build-yourself construction trucks
- Silly putty
- Toy cars
Kids will feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment when they see simply boards turn into a truck that they can navigate. For a really fun idea, get some newspaper and show them how the putty lifts the words up! This is a great way to encourage struggling readers, as they can get really up close and personal with the art of letters. Toy cars encourage independent exploration, and bubbles help them learn more about the world through reflection, mindfulness, and cause and effect.
- Activity pad
- Rub boards
There's nothing quite like some positive self-expression to boost any kid's mood. For more ideas on craft stuff, check out our kids craft essentials post!
- Grow creatures
- Squirt guns
- Bath Play Doh with shapemakers
Many children find water to be deeply soothing – even in small buckets – so these can be a good way to help children soothe their minds if they're feeling overwhelmed. And squirt guns? Well, those are just a good time all-around!
To find inspiration for more busy bag ideas, check out our posts about non-candy Easter ideas and jumbo Easter egg fillers. A TON of those ideas can fit into bags like this. We also have quite a few free printables that would be a perfect fit for laminating and slipping into a themed busy bag!
Have you ever made busy bags before?