Busy bags are a great way for a little extra structure while still having fun. Here are 7 busy bag ideas to engage your 12-18 month old. | IntentionalByGrace.com
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7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

Busy bags are a great way for a little extra structure while still having fun! Here are 7 busy bag ideas to engage your 12-18 month old.

Samuel, who is just shy of sixteen months old, loves to learn. He’s always busy discovering, playing, and exploring. He’s not one to play all day in the corner with his toys. He likes to be engaged and given a task to complete. Therefore, along with coming up with fun indoor activities for my toddler, I started putting together little busy bags for him.

I found clear plastic zipper bags at the Dollar Tree in the bath and body section! I literally squealed in the middle of the aisle they were so perfect! All of the items for each bag fit perfectly inside, and once zipped the fact that it’s clear makes it easy to tell what is inside.

We keep all of our busy bags in a basket on a shelf. Samuel uses his sign language to request busy bags during the day when he wants to play with them.

7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

1. Pom-Pom Stuff It In – This is as easy as up-cycling a plastic container, making a couple of slits in the top, and grabbing some pom-poms. This is great for working on fine motor skills. Samuel loves pushing the pom-poms through.

7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

2. Pom-Pom Freedom – I give him a couple of bowls and sticks. He creates and plays with his imagination. I have found that he loves to transfer, dump, and stir. Oh, and repeat.

7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

3. Magna Doodle – He loves his magna doodle. I use this for car rides. He’s learning cause and effect. It’s cute. Bonus? I got it for less than a quarter at our local thrift store!

4. Mini Ring Toss – This is by far Sam’s favorite busy bag. Eventually, it will be a great way to teach colors. For now, we’re working on our fine motor skills. He’s really super at getting the ring on the pawn. I found these at the Dollar Tree in the party favors section.

Busy Bags for Your Toddler

5. Magic Ribbon Pull – I sewed several strands of ribbon together that I had lying around the house. Then, I stuffed them in an empty diaper wipes container. We used them on our recent plane ride, and Samuel loved it. It’s like having a tissue box, but less messy.

Update [6/6/2014]: We’ve since added a second little boy to our family. The magic ribbon is my 9 month olds favorite thing to play with.


Busy Bags for Your Toddler {12-18 months}


7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

6. Manly Paper Dolls. I was thinking about how girls get paper dolls, but boys get the short end of the stick. Of course, from my womanly opinion that is.

Since we don’t live near either of our families, I’m trying to find creative ways to work pictures into Samuel’s play. My brother is in the U.S. Army. I found several pictures of my brother, along with some magazine cut outs, and laminated the pieces. I stuck magnets on the back, and now, Samuel has a portable G.I. Joe set.

7 Busy Bags to Engage Your Toddler {12-18 months}

7. For the love of buttons. This stage of learning is all about button pushing. Samuel loves to flip switches, press buttons, and turn things on and off. We gathered items from around the house that we thought he would enjoy and put them in his bag. These every day items are a huge hit.

Busy Bags to Engage Your 12-18 month old

Busy bags are a great way for a little extra structure while still having fun. The added bonus, it helps Mama get a few things done during the day.

We pop a few in the diaper bag for church, long car rides, and even the grocery store on occasion. However, the best time to use busy bags is during dinner preparation!

As I prepared my 20 Minute Meals: Giving Weary Chefs Grace While Keeping Families Healthy eBook, I found busy bags to be a life saver. Generally, one or two busy bags will keep Samuel occupied for at least 20 minutes! The key is putting him in his high chair so he stays focused longer.

For more busy bag ideas, follow me on Pinterest! 

What busy bags have you used for occupying your little ones?

Other posts you might be interested in:

Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum for Toddlers!

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  1. This is SO awesome! Where were these bags 19-24 years ago when I needed them?? Oh well, I shall preemptively save these ideas for future grandbabies….

    1. No idea. Probably didn’t need them. But us over-acheivers, ya know? πŸ˜‰ I love having them around. Samuel is great playing by himself, and I like open-ended play toys (not the ones that talk to him). These are great for us!

  2. Love all these ideas…guess I’ll be making a trip to the dollar store! Thanks, Leigh Ann!

    1. The party favors section and the school supply section are my favorite spots. It really is amazing what I’ve come up with in that little store! WalMart craft section is great too!

    1. I loved mine growing up. I’m a little sad though. He’s worn this worn out! I guess I’ll have to find another at our local thrift store. πŸ˜›

  3. These ideas are all so great!! I LOVE your homemade GI Joe’s! What a smart idea to give him something to play with and reminds him of his uncle! What sweet and cheap ideas!! πŸ™‚

  4. Such cute ideas! We use many of these things…but they aren’t in such good order πŸ™‚ I noticed the alphabet train in the back ground. That is one of our favorites…

  5. Such fun ideas! I just had to pass this along to my friend with toddlers (mine are all teens now! *sniff!*)

  6. These. Are. Awesome. I’ve done busy bags for my 3 year old with great results. I’m not sure why I never thought of doing it for my 13 month old!

    I came over from your 20 minute meals ebook, which I love, by the way. I’ve been slowly cooking through it from cover to cover. So far the Taquitos have been the biggest hit! Thanks for writing!


    1. Wonderful! So glad you’re enjoying 20 Minute Meals! I will have to put Taquitos on my meal plan. I haven’t had those in a while! Thanks for the reminder. πŸ™‚

  7. Does your son put everything in his mouth? My daughter is 16mo too and still puts EVERYTHING in her mouth. It makes doing fun, independent type learning activities stressful cause I have to constantly monitor to see if she’s eaten the pom-pom, beans, etc. If he doesn’t, do you have any tips to help her learn to play with objects instead of eat them?

    1. I would just continue to reinforce, “not in mouth” like you’re probably doing. Both of my boys are well past this stage now (it goes fast!), and I remember being consistent to just take whatever it was they would continue to put in their mouth away. Eventually they caught on that if they wanted to play, then they better not put it in their mouths. πŸ™‚ So I think just consistency in teaching and then removing the play thing if she continues to put the objects in her mouth. Hope that helps! She’ll grow out of it eventually, but I know it can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of it.

  8. These are great ideas!! Thank you! I wanted to comment as a child passenger safety advocate that the car seat chest clip is very low in the picture of your sweet little guy in the car seat. This clip keeps children in place in an accident. Also, the coat should not have ‘bulk’ under the straps which could compress in a collision. Not being critical AT ALL but just had to share. I’m truly thankful for all of your amazing ideas and hope you’re not offended by my observations. Best wishes!!