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Being a mom can get overwhelming, so I love having busy boxes (also called quiet bins) to entertain my kids in the baby or toddler stages so I can get a few minutes of peace every once in a while.
A nice variety of boxes with open-ended play items keeps my kids entertained while I take care of dinner, take a potty break, or even let them play quietly in their room during rest time.
Putting in a little bit of time upfront to create quiet boxes has rewarded me with so much more free time and directed play that the initial time input was totally worth it.
Check out these examples of my toddler’s busy boxes!
Fitting the Busy Boxes Into Our Nursery
Back when we first decorated baby girl’s nursery before she was born, her DIY bookshelf was so perfect and cute. See?
Then she became mobile, so having a cute bookshelf came second to having a safe and baby-proofed bookshelf. And, her bookshelf was no longer perfect, clean, and cute but rather functional and organized.
To organize, I used these Sterilite bins to contain separate activities for my daughter’s busy boxes. (Also, when she was around 9 months old we started sorting toys organized in baskets in every room for toy rotation.)
Now, I’m the type of person who can’t stand to have a messy house, so my daughter knows the rule that she must clean up a bin before she is allowed to open another one or leave the room.
However, every once in a while, I’ll open a few bins to allow for variety and for her to play between them. BUT, she must always clean up before leaving the room!
Current Toddler Busy Boxes
Here’s what I currently have stored in quiet boxes in her bedroom.
1. Popsicle Stick Busy Bin
Her favorite busy box hands down right now is the popsicle stick bin.
I wrote a little bit about how she loves to play with it using a Lil’ Crunchies container in a separate post.
Since then, she has learned her colors with the popsicle sticks, learned how to sort by color, learned how to count to 10, and improved her fine motor skills by spending time working with these popsicle sticks!
She also loves to stick the popsicle sticks into the M&M Minis containers and work on closing and opening the top.
Seriously, this bin has provided hours of entertainment.
And, most of the items were either repurposed or from Dollar Tree, so it was a financial win as well!
2. Assorted Cards Box
Her next favorite bin is her assorted cards bin.
In here, we have a deck of cards as well as a whole ton of those kid’s meal cards we’ve gotten from Chick-fil-a.
We also have a Shutterfly family “memory game” card set that she loves to play with.
She likes to stick the cards on her head, put them in her shorts, hide them, match them, etc.
She can be creative with her play, or we can direct her play such as encouraging matching numbers, colors, theme, etc.
3. Miscellaneous Office Supplies Quiet Box
Another of her favorite bins is what I call her office supplies/miscellaneous bin.
In here are all sorts of goodies for her to touch and manipulate such as:
- A pad of paper and pen to draw with
- A calculator with lots of buttons
- A toilet paper roll holder
- A very old cell phone with a QWERTY keypad
- A CD and case that she can take the CD in and out of
- Light switch that’s actually battery-powered
- Touch on and off light
- Old TV remote
- Big mirror and pocket mirrors
She especially loves the heart light she can turn on and off and the graphing calculator she can press all the buttons on.
My engineer self loves how she is fascinated by the calculator already! S
everal of these items we already had around the house, and the rest came from Dollar Tree.
On the bottom of every piece of this bin, I also put a little Velcro dot and then stuck a lot of Velcro dots on a styrofoam board that I let stand up in her room.
She likes to put the items on the board and take them off, kind of like a busy board.
4. Stacking Blocks Quiet Box
This is her stacking blocks bin.
Every once in a while, she gets the urge to stack things.
This keeps all her cubes in one easy place rather than having one cube in every messy room of the house…She also likes to stick other things inside the cubes that open up.
5. Coordinated Toys for Stacking and Snapping
This is another bin of sets of items.
There are the stacking cups, which I highly recommend, as well as a few more cubes that go in a set for a slightly more complicated stacking game.
There are also links that come apart and attach to each other.
6. Balls, Pool Noodles, and Other Fun Shapes
This is our ball and pool noodle bin.
She loves to throw and kick balls, and she likes to feel her sensory balls.
I also cut up a pool noodle to make little circles, which are fun to stack and fun to put in the tennis ball holder.
There are some finger paint containers also, which she enjoys stacking and playing with–we do finger paint sometimes too when we get out this box!
7. Fitting Small Items Into Holes
This is another box centered around Lil’ Crunchies containers!
We have leftover Keurigs that she can put in several different types of canisters as well as toilet paper roll circles that fit in a slit.
My fine motor toddler activities post will explain this busy box to you in much more detail!
8. Stuffed Animals Box
This is her beanie baby bin.
I kept all my childhood beanie babies and made her a beanie baby crib mobile when she was little.
Now, these beanie babies are for her to play with!
She is just now getting into pretend play, so we like to put them to sleep, give them baths, etc.
She also has learned most of the names of the animals as well as the sounds they make.
9. Mr. Potato Head Bin
This is our Mr. Potato Head quiet box.
While we have Spider Spud and Darth Tater from my teenage years, I think having any type of Mr. Potato Head and his parts makes a good play activity.
My daughter loves to try on the shoes and glasses also…It’s just too cute! And having all the parts in one box…much better than scattered all over the house.
10. The Random Bin
This is just a random bin that has DIY musical instruments in it as well as a collection of stackable ice cream cone tops.
The musical instruments are simply made from mini water bottles that have been filled with popcorn kernels, granola, and noodles. (Read: how to make DIY shakers!)
Each makes a different sound, and my daughter loves to shake them!
11. Plastic Toys Quiet Box
Here is another bin of toys from my childhood. Most of them came from fast food kid’s meals!
However, they make good toys for play.
We pretend play with them, and she loves to watch them spin, sing, etc.
Occasionally they also take baths with us!
12. Photo Box Keeper
This is our photo box.
I got one of those snazzy photo boxes from Michael’s and printed out a whole ton of photos of her first year or so of life.
She LOVES to look at pictures of herself as well as pictures of her relatives and friends!
It’s helped her to learn the names of friends and family members.
It’s also fun for her to take the pictures out of the box one by one and then use her fine motor skills to replace them all orderly.
And there we have it–our current toddler busy boxes.
We have lots of other activities in different places of the house, but these are just the ones we keep in her bedroom for her to play with.
What do you think?