Thursday, May 29, 2014

Busy Bags for Kindergartners / Boredom Busters

Busy bags have long been the rage. I've known about them for years but never actually had an opportunity to put a single one together. You see, my youngest, now 3 1/2, still naps for 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon (yay!) and my oldest and I cherish this time together to do some school work and read his favorite books (lately...mostly reference books about gemstones and volcanoes).

This summer though, the school work load will probably be drastically diminished, leaving me with a gap of "quiet time" to fill in (we always try to keep the house relatively quiet during naptimes). Sure my Kindergartner can keep himself "entertained" for a while but not for "2 hours" every day and I could always use a few minutes to...say...plan future school units, cook meals, work out, shower, schedule appointments, pay bills... you know, the usual stuff! :) With these thoughts in mind, I decided to give the busy bags/boxes a try.  But exactly just what are busy bags and boxes?

A busy bag is a tote (often a bag or small box) into which a person will find all that is needed to accomplish one activity with no help. These activities are usually geared towards the toddlers-kindergartners (2-5) age group and are often designed to be done quietly and are also usually educational. The activities found in the bags have also usually been deemed age appropriate for the person they are intended for, therefore annihilating any possible frustrations on the behalf of the recipient as they are expected to work on the bags by themselves.  

Many people choose to limit the amount of time the person spends on each bag and instead provides several bags for rotation. A common scheme is the daily bag replacement (new bag everyday of the week but same bags week after week). Others prefer to replace the bag after a week has elapsed to really give the chance to an older child to finish a project for example (some simply hand the bag to the child whenever and take it whenever as well.). For my part, I chose to go the daily way, providing a new bin (each labeled "Monday" through "Friday") containing a few self-contained bags for each day and allowing my son access to a bin of his choice on the week-ends.

Inside his bins, I am aiming to provide a minimum of three bags (thus providing a choice of three activities daily), each filled with an autonomous project (after initial presentation of course). These bags and bins will, needless to say, be changed every so often. Projects will be completed after a certain amount of time, others won't grab any attention and so on, but for now, here is what I have gathered for my near 6 year old (he is currently 5, turning 6 in the summer):

Busy Bag Elements Spread Out

-Melissa & Doug Reusable Habitats Sticker Pad
-A few "I Spy..." Books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
-Lincoln Log Horseshoe Hill Station
-Snap Circuits Music Box
-Tangoes Classic
-Geoboard by Learning Resources
-Dinosaur Puzzle by Crocodile Creek
-Alex Toys: Simply Needlepoint Butterfly
-Sticky Mosaics Hidden Pictures : Wild Animals by Orb Factory

-Not pictured but to be included are:
-Legos with a project book (Legos are always available but if I add a booklet filled with projects to build, they'll be attractive)
-Montessori Insets with a booklet of drawings (my son will first have to figure out which insets were used to make that drawing and then do his own and personalized it)
-Wood blocks (aka floating foam) projects with booklet (assembly of birdhouse and such with the Durafoam according to instructions) (blocks and projects come from Step2's Real Project Workshop)
-Lite Brite (project sheets came with the flatscreen)
-Cutting Projects (homemade. My son loves cutting different materials and shapes so I'll prepare some projects for him to cut and piece together)
-My Little Sandbox - Dino Land by Be Good Company (indoor sandbox/sensory bin with dinos)
-Matching Cards Sets

Of course, these choices are based on my son's needs and interests (for example...I know he could use some extra fine motor work so needlepoint was my pick...not his but the dinosaur puzzle...that will probably be a high interest activity for him; something he'd have picked himself!). I'll also add that building these bins wasn't cheap considering my choice of projects but I think they will go a long way each day and week as they will be out during a limited time only (aka little sister's naptime on weekdays only...and only during our summer break). It was important to me to make each activity a little bit a of treat and a challenge too. Sure I could have put a play dough can in a bag and called it a day but play dough is always available in our pantry and the interest would not have been very grand. By the way...Bags and bins for the younger crowds are mostly homemade and usually built pretty inexpensively.  I'm starting to think of some for my when my little one stops napping in case you're interested so I may post about hers at a later time.

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