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10 Simple Busy Box Ideas that Kids Will Love

Every parent needs a trick up their sleeve for entertaining their kids that doesn't involve screens. Enter busy boxes, DIY kits that are guaranteed to delight your kids and give some minutes of peace. (These are appropriate for kids 3-years old and up.)

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Pom-pom sorting

Perfect for toddlers who are learning their colors, this busy box is easy to put together and can be stocked with a visit to the dollar store. All you need is a muffin tin and a bag of brightly colored pom-poms. Show your toddler how to sort by color or size and then let them take over, so you can get a few things done while they play.

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Button bracelets

Create a busy box that will help your toddler develop his fine motor skills using two items you can easily pick up at any craft store: yarn and buttons. Cut brightly colored yarn into long strands so your child can make bracelets by string buttons onto the yarn. Make sure you pick up large, colorful buttons so they are easy for your toddler to handle. Here are more games to improve your toddler’s fine motor skills.

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Paperclip color game

This busy box is another great way to teach your toddler colors and develop her fine motor skills while giving her something she can do independently while you do housework, respond to emails, or take care of a new baby. Fill a small container with brightly colored card stock and paperclips that match the paper. Teach her to attach the paperclips to the matching card stock. You may have to help her learn how to attach the paperclips, but eventually she’ll be able to entertain herself. Check out these rainy day activities for kids.

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The bean box

This silly busy box is perfect for developing fine motor skills like grasping and pouring and can even double as a sensory activity. Fill a large tub with dry beans and small, colorful toys like plastic dinosaurs or farm animals. Add a smaller container, like a muffin tin, and scooping tools like measuring cups and large spoons. Instruct your child to fish for his toys using the scooping tools and dump the beans into the muffin tin. When he gets tired of this task, encourage him to ditch his scooping tools and feel around in the cool beans with his fingers for his toys.

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Pipe cleaner and straw threading

Throw a bag of straws and a handful of pipe cleaners in a box and set aside for a trip to the doctor’s office or restaurant. When your toddlers need a little entertainment, show her how to thread the pipe cleaners through the straws. For an added challenge, encourage her to match the pipe cleaners with a similarly colored straw.

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Playing card matching game

This busy box might work better as a busy bag. Simply pick up a pack of cards from the dollar store and cut them right down the middle. Show your child how to match up the cards once or twice and then set them free for some independent play while you enjoy a few minutes of quiet time.

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Word building

Early readers will have a blast, and learn a lot, from this word-building busy box. Fill a metal cookie tin with magnetic letters, which can be found at most dollar stores. Grade-school kids can entertain themselves building new words on the lid of the metal tin.

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For older children, put together STEM bins. These bins contain engineering manipulatives for grade school kids to play with during their free time. Introduced by Teach Outside the Box, these boxes are a great way for kids to practice building complex structures and creative thinking. There are a lot of different items you can use to fill a STEM bin, like legos, pipe cleaners, or base ten blocks.

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Counting money

The blogger at Views From a Step Stool shares this busy box for teaching older kids the basics of counting money and making change with a money themed busy box: Attach paper “coins” to clothespins. Using a magic marker, label Popsicle sticks with varying dollar amounts. Instruct your grade-school aged child to secure the coin-labeled clothespins to Popsicle sticks until she reaches the amount written. Find out hacks to keep your kids busy when you’re too tired to move.

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Write a story

Finding a way to keep a kid busy and away from screens isn’t easy, but it can be done! Create a busy box with index cards of writing prompts, a small notebook, and a pin. Writing a story is a great creative outlet and the perfect way to develop writing skills in teens. Writing prompts can include everything from writing a dramatic scene about an old black and white photograph to writing a story about their proudest moment.