Monday, November 26, 2012

Busy Bags Revisited

We are gearing up for another long car ride. We're driving 12ish hours down to New Orleans and then back. I dug out the busy bags yesterday. The busy bags were a mess after using them several months ago and needed to be sorted and refreshed.

I made a few new ones to replace some that didn't work well for my children.

Key Match

Go to a home improvement store and politely ask the key guy if you can dig through his discard bin. Choose as many keys as you can that have differently shaped heads. Gently place the keys on a photocopier and made a copy. Now you have a key matching activity. (You might want to wash the keys. They'll be pretty dirty.)

Lego Patterns

Make some towers out of basic lego bricks. Form a pattern with the colors. Then draw pattern cards leaving the bottom block blank with a question mark inside. Take your towers back apart and toss the individual bricks and pattern cards into a bag.

Dry Erase Tracing Cards

I printed some alphabet cards and some tracing activities and slid them into card protectors held together by rings (bought at Wal-mart). I stuck the set of dry erase tracing cards into a bag with some dry erase markers and a piece of felt for erasing.

Cutting and Drawing

A pair of scissors, crayons, and some cutting and drawing activities from a book of reproducibles went into this new bag. They will just sort through the pile of activities until they find one they like and then go to it.


Once all the bags were refreshed and ready to go I just "filed" them in appropriately sized boxes. (To see detailed descriptions of the contents of the rest of the bags, click busy bags.) I pull one from the front and when they're finished with the bag I move it to the back of the box. I keep one box at my feet so I can easily pull out another bag whenever one is requested.

I also made some lap trays lined with felt. Lots of the bags have multiple parts (beads, legos, keys, etc.) and they just open the bag and dump it into their tray. The felt keeps the small pieces from sliding around too much. This gives them some working/play space when they're buckled into their carseats. When they're done, they have to return all the parts to the bag before they can give it back.

The trays are also useful when feeding the kids in the car because they minimize crumbs and spills everywhere. I just pull out the felt during the meal and shake the crumbs out of the box and return the felt to the bottom after the meal.

If you like these activities, you may be interested in more.


  1. Where did you get the trays you lined with felt? I like those so much better than the usual dollar store cookie sheets!

    1. I got those at Target. They are in the storage section and are designed to fit into their ITSO storage system. Because they are translucent, I also use them on top of my homemade light boxes for messy activities. (

  2. My mom was great at having activities for the car back when we were little (in the 70's) and I have carried on that tradition... mostly by having a storage tub full of fun (new) markers, crayons, coloring books, paper, etc that I have put away just for our trip and part of the fun of the tub is that they have no idea what is in it- this is sooooo wonderful to add to my travel fun! Thank you for sharing all of these!

  3. i love so many of these ideas! we take a 17 hour car trip to michigan every summer and this time i'm going to prepare some of these super fun ideas for my girls to do. i was wondering though, how long ago did you get the itso containers? do they still have them at target? also, how big are the zippered pouches that you put the activities in? where did you get those? thanks for all the ideas and thank you for sharing!!

    1. The zippered pouches appear to be the pencil pouches you can get at Target, Walmart, etc. If you want to pick some up in "bulk", check Amazon. type in pencil bag and you will see them

  4. You are absolutely amazing. Thank you for the ideas.

  5. These ideas are brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. These are amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  7. to get the keys do you go somewhere like Lowes or home depot?

  8. Great ideas..... will be using a few in my K and 1st grade ESOL class.


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