Down Time? Road Trip during Spring Break? Well. . . Busy Bags!

Mar 6, 2018

As the spring break season approaches, the Together Team and I were discussing long drivesclassroom holiday parties, and generally keeping small hands busy during times of transition or – boredom!!! Kendra, our amazing Director of Operations, let us in on her top trick: Busy Bags. Now keep in mind I am still recovering from a 6-plus hour road trip to a family wedding and an upcoming cross-country flight later this month, so I was ALL EARS.

Definition: Busy Bags are simple, fun portable activities to keep the kids “busy!”

Kendra’s goal was “to create grab-and-go bags with simple but entertaining activities for longer car trips, when we go out to a restaurant, or even to use in the house when we need a few minutes of quiet.” Kendra has an active toddler and a smart kindergartener. My kids are a bit older, but I think the idea still translates. Brilliant. In fact, where is the adult version?

I had a few questions for Kendra so I can incorporate this idea for early finishers during my Girl Scout troop meetings, on our upcoming lonnnnng plane trip, and even for my early morning-riser pre-schooler!

Maia: How did you decide which Busy Bags to make?

Kendra: I picked a mix of games, matching and sorting activities, drawing prompts, and fine motor skills practice.  I was especially interested in anything that BOTH kids could use, even if they’d use them in different ways based on their ages.  Full list posted below!*

Maia: How long did it take you to create the Busy Bags?

Kendra: The most time-consuming part was looking up the ideas (SO MANY FUN IDEAS!) and compiling the supplies.  After that, they all came together pretty quickly (5-15 minutes), except for the ones I made up myself which took longer.  The bag ideas I picked were mostly made with paper, a printer, craft sticks, Velcro dots, felt, and random dollar bin items.  I did buy pencil pouches to hold the activities, mostly because my kids would tear up a Ziploc pretty quickly and I want these to last.  And I can switch out the contents whenever the kids age out or get bored with this set.

Buy durable pencil pouches in bulk to save money and to swap out activities!

The simplest Busy Bags just required printing what another awesome person had already created and shared.  I added the step of laminating, but this is because my little guy chews on everything and my big kid is a spiller.  With older kids this could probably be skipped, but again, I want to be able to reuse.

Maia: My kids fight over supplies all the time! What if your kids wanted to use the same stuff?

Kendra: I added enough supplies in each bag so that they could both work on the same activity at one time.  For example, the “drawing” bag has multiple drawing prompts and a full pack of dry erase markers, and the craft sticks matching games have enough for both kids.

Maia: Any other Together Tips for our readers?

Kendra: I know we will lose some bits and pieces as the bags are used.  So, I saved all of the Busy Bag printables, supply lists, and original website links in one spot on Dropbox. This way I can easily refresh the bags as needed, and get inspiration for future activities.  I also have a Pinterest board with other ideas I’ve seen since I made these.  I may even make some Busy Bags to give away! Having everything in one spot makes this a super easy gift idea for my craft-appreciative family and friends with kids.

To keep her kids interested in them, Kendra makes sure these bags are tucked away and ONLY brought out for special occasions. I am SO making these for our upcoming trip. I also bought a few of these and these for more quick travel fun.


*Kendra’s Full List of Busy Bags

  • Color & Pattern Matching Game with Craft Sticks
    • Super easy – just needed craft sticks, paper, printer (laminator optional)
  • Color Puzzles
    • Super easy – paper, printer (laminator optional)
  • Letter matching game
    • Pretty easy – bought a pack of wooden letters, and I made a chart with the letters using a font that was similar
  • 4, 5 and 6-piece puzzles
    • Super easy – bought a 3-pack of simple puzzles, added a letter on the back of each piece of the puzzle with a stamp for easier sorting (“A” on all the pieces of the first puzzle, “B” for the second and so on)
  • Crazy Straw Fine Motor Skills
    • Super easy – picked up crazy straws from Party City and cut up some felt we had laying around from another project
  • Button Snake
    • Pretty easy – I made two so I had to sew on the buttons; a teeny bit more time consuming compared to the others, but not bad
  • Alphabet Matching Puzzles
    • Pretty easy – paper, printer, laminator optional, but did require a lot of cutting so it was a tiny bit more time consuming
  • Cookie Cutter stacking (and matching game)
    • Super easy – just buy cookie cutters
    • Super ridiculous and time consuming – I also made a corresponding matching game with the different shapes
  • Shape Silhouette Match Up
    • Pretty easy – paper, printer, laminator optional, but did require a lot of cutting so it was a tiny bit more time consuming
  • Story Circles
    • Pretty easy – paper, printer, laminator optional, but did require a lot of cutting so it was a tiny bit more time consuming
  • Velcro Building Sticks
    • Pretty easy – took a little time to attach the Velcro dots, but no biggie
  • Drawing Bag – dry erase (just did a Google search for faces, scenes to fill in, etc.)
    • Pretty easy – paper, printer, laminator optional
  • Drawing Bag – traditional
    • Super easy – 2 mini-composition notebooks, pack of markers, done!
  • (not pictured) Mixed Bag of Games (Travel Bingo, I Spy sheets, Travel Scavenger Hunt, Tic-Tac-Toe, License Plate Game, Dot to Dot)
    • Super easy – paper, printer, laminator optional