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How to Make Busy Boxes for Your Toddlers

Create busy boxes for your toddler to enhance learning, inspire creativity, and provide the opportunity for independent play. Learn how to make your own busy boxes for your toddlers in just a few simple steps. 
 

Why I Made a Busy Box

My 18 month old LOVES to “do work” together.  When his big sister was younger, I created tot trays that rotated out weekly.  However, despite my greatest efforts, my toddler just tears the trays apart, leaving all sorts of pieces in his wake. So, I needed something more compact but still compartmentalized.  That’s where the toddler busy box comes in.
 
How to Make Toddler Busy Boxes

 

What is a Busy Box?

Busy boxes are similar to busy bags, but they stay at home and are usually larger or have more pieces than a busy bag. They are a great way to provide quiet time for a busy mom or as a special activity to work together on with your toddler.

Successful busy boxes usually include activities and materials that are not always available. This keeps your child excited about using them. 

How to Make Busy Boxes

First, I bought ten plastic shoeboxes from Target ($0.97 each). I like that they are clear and come with lids so I can stack them and my toddler can see what’s inside.  Then, to get started I set them out on our kitchen counter. Then, the fun part came: filling them!

Busy Box Ideas

 
Ideas for Toddler Busy Boxes

Clockwise from top left:

Wooden Story Pieces

These are inexpensive at the craft store and we pick up a couple every time we are there and they are on sale. Your toddler will surprise you with what they do with these pieces. Line them up, stack them, sort them, or create a story with them. I like that this is an open ended activity that can be used in different ways.

Pill Box with Tiny Animals

The pill box is from the dollar store. Opening and closing this box is great for fine motor skills. If you don’t have tiny animals, you can include gems, buttons, or pom poms. Watch your toddler with these small objects.

Peg Dolls

I painted these peg dolls (affiliate link) and the cups that they fit into. If you’re not feeling crafty, these peg dolls come already painted. Your child will spend hours in imaginative play with these. When your child seems to be bored with exploring the peg dolls by themselves, add other objects like blocks, craft sticks, or large buttons. It will inspire the play to continue in a different way. 

Button Drop

Cut a slit in the top of an old Puffs can or Pringles can. Your toddler will love to drop the large buttons into the container and dump them out over and over again.

 
Toddler Busy Boxes
 
Ice Cube Tray and Pom Poms
There is something about an ice cube tray that toddlers love. Putting each of the pom poms into a slot in the tray is something they love to do. Add a spoon or tongs for an extra fine motor skills challenge. 
 
Magnet Wands
These magnet wands are our favorite and you can put different things in the box to experiment with. Magnetic bingo chips, pipe cleaner pieces, and paper clips paired with non-magnetic toys is a great way to start. 
 
Playdoh
A couple of containers of playdoh and a few tiny objects to hide inside or to make sculptures with will be a big hit. 
 
Styrofoam, Golf Tees, and a Hammer
Dollar Tree has styrofoam. Golf tees are the perfect size for tiny hands to pick up and push into the foam. A toy hammer adds some extra excitement. 
 
Toddler Busy Boxes
 
We store them where HE can reach them, but I ALWAYS sit with him while he works (especially because many of the busy boxes include small pieces).
 
He LOVES his boxes and I rotate the activities out based on how much he’s played with a particular one.  We will welcome a new baby in February and I think these will be great, ready-to-go learning activities for G!  Even older kids have so much fun using them.
 

Some other favorite busy box activities we’ve tried:

  • Stamps, stamp pad, paper
  • Crayons and paper
  • Sugar shaker and toothpicks
  • Chunky beads and string or pipe cleaners
  • Pouring with two small plastic pitchers and pinto beans
  • Sensory bin with dyed pasta
  • Muffin tin and blocks
  • Popsicle Sticks and Container to Drop them Into
  • Magnetic Letters
  • Slices of Pool Noodle
  • Hot Wheels Car and Paper Roads or Painters Tape to Make Roads
  • Farm Animals and Matching Pictures of the Animals

Need MORE Busy Box Ideas?

Use these ideas to rotate your busy boxes:

January Busy Boxes

February Busy Boxes

March Busy Boxes

April Busy Boxes

May Busy Boxes

June Busy Boxes

July Busy Boxes

November Busy Boxes

December Busy Boxes

We hope these fun ideas make it easier for you to make your own busy boxes (or busy bins). They will provide hours of entertainment and are an easy boredom buster.

These boxes are also a fun way for an older sibling to play with their younger sibling and give you a moment of free time.

  

Written by Jill

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8 Comments

  • Reply Shonda

    I really want and need to do this for my daughter.

    December 20, 2012 at 5:36 am
  • Reply Katie

    This is a great way to have a variety of meaningful activities ready to go! I especially love the pill box with animals idea! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    January 15, 2013 at 4:20 am
  • Reply Katie

    This is a great way to have a variety of meaningful activities ready to go! I especially love the pill box with animals idea! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    January 15, 2013 at 4:21 am
  • Reply Katie

    This is a great way to have a variety of meaningful activities ready to go! I especially love the pill box with animals idea! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    January 15, 2013 at 4:21 am
  • Reply Poornima Kulkarni

    I loved this idea. I am going to try it with my daughter. She loves to scrunge through small, different things in boxes and especially zipped / sealed bags :))
    Thanks.

    January 22, 2013 at 11:15 am
  • Reply jessica hall

    I love this I am excited to see what you will do for may

    April 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm
  • Reply Jessie

    Where did you get the magnet stick?

    June 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm
    • Reply Nicole

      You can find them on Amazon or Teacher Stores

      July 3, 2016 at 2:30 am

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