Do your kids go crazy in the waiting room of the doctor’s office? Do they freak out if they have to spend more than 10 seconds in the shopping cart at Target? Do you dread taking them to restaurants? If they are anything like my kids, you are nodding your head in agreement right now. It can be really frustrating when our kids are not being the perfect angels we want them to be, especially out in public. But I am going to let you in on the secret to getting your kids to settle down and behave. The simple truth is that kids tend to act out, especially those who don’t normally misbehave, when they are bored. I totally understand. Waiting rooms are absolutely boring. This is why I always bring a book, or find myself grabbing for the nearest magazine available–even if that happens to be Car & Driver. It stems to reason that kids would need the same sort of amusement.
The idea came to me four years ago, when out at lunch with a good friend. As we sat down, looking over the menu, our boys began to get restless. It was then that my friend placed a mini backpack on the table. Inside were a few toys for the boys to share. Being best friends, they did really well with the sharing and managed to behave until our food arrived. It was then that I had my a-ha moment, and the concept of our busy box was born. Over the years I have had to adapt to his changing interests and skill level, but it always serves the same purpose—to appropriately stimulate and keep my son busy. This way he won’t have any idea he is bored, and we can all enjoy a tantrum free experience.
Now that I have two kids, I feel the need for a box like this more than ever. Being a Stay at Home Mom, I am usually running solo with both kids wherever I have to go. It’s difficult to keep them both occupied when I’m the only parent/adult, so having these busy boxes has been a big help. I try to keep them in a convenient place, either in the car, or in an area near the front door, so we can grab them on our way out. The key to success is to keep your busy boxes stocked with relevant and up to date items in which your child is interested in playing. For example, this is what I currently have in my children’s busy boxes.
For my son, who is 5 years old, I included: a mini Lego board with some mini logos, an I spy bag, Cars notebook and crayons, memory game, little book of word searches, mini dinosaur figurines, a mini board book, and some Matchbox cars. For my daughter, who is 2.5 years old, I included: an I spy bag, mini paper doll dress up kit, Hello Kitty notebook and crayons, mini self inking stamps, mini purse filled with her collection of tick tocks, Tinker Bell cell phone, small My little Pony figurines, and a pop-up hairbrush with mirror. I am currently working on making her a memory game, just like I did for my son, to add to the box. As their interests change, and their skills develop, I take items out and put new ones in. The goal is to keep them actively engaged, and also to help develop their skills. Hence, why I added a board book for my son to practice his reading, and the paper doll kit for my daughter to further improve her fine motor skills.
To put your own busy box together, first you will need to find some sort of container to carry everything in. This could be a small backpack, a Tupperware container, Ziplock bag or, like I chose for my children, a small tin lunchbox featuring their favorite character. As I mentioned above, I chose items that fit my children’s interests and encourage you to do the same. In addition to the items I put in my children’s busy boxes, here is a list of other suggested items you could include:
|Mini container of play dough (even make your own)||Color Wonder on the go set (color pad and markers)|
|Small Puzzle||Mini clipboard chalkboard and chalk|
|Stickers||Mini alphabet blocks|
|Scratch pads||Finger puppets|
|Flashcards||Small doodle pro (magna doodle)|
|Mini yo-yo||Small plush animals|
|Coloring books||Activity books|
|Small dress up items (necklaces, rings, bracelets, hairclips, etc.)||Lacing cards|
|Travel Games (connect 4, checkers, etc.)||Mini card games (crazy 8’s, go fish, uno, etc.)|
I have found that some great places for inspiration, and finding cheap items, are: the dollar bins at Target, your local party store, your local dollar store, the toys from kids meals, and your local craft store dollar bins. I also encourage you to get creative and make some of the items yourself. It makes it more meaningful for your child and includes them in the process. Therefore, increasing your success that the busy box will be filled with items your child wants to play with–allowing you to have a stress free wait at the doctor’s office, dinner out, or long trip in the car.
Stay tuned for how to make your own custom memory game and I spy bag in parts 2 and 3 of How to make your own busy box.