About a month ago, a friend of mine invited me to a Busy Bag Exchange Party. I’ve heard of Busy Bags, I’ve made road trip busy bags for my own kids but this was something new to me, you swap busy bags at end up with a great stash for your kids! I had such a great time, I can’t wait until we do it again — the group decided to meet every 2-3 months with new projects!
Busy Bags are (sometimes not even bags) kits or activities that mom (and dad) can grab on the go that will keep toddlers and preschoolers busy while they are waiting for something — doctors appointments, sports practices, siblings music lessons, meetings, or for us, on road trips. We’ll even be giving a couple of them a try during a wedding in church this weekend!
At an exchange party, the participant list is solidified about a month in advance to give enough time for preparation. Attendees share what they will be putting together so as to not have duplicates and then each person puts together one busy bag for each person attending, each bag is the very same. At the event, the moms take turns sharing what they made and how it can be used and then distributing their bags. The party I attended had 11 participants so in addition to my own project, I took home 10 other busy bags that were all very different and will be great for my kids!
Tips for throwing an exchange*:
1. Invite parents who have children that are about the same age as yours so that the activities will match your child’s age too.
2. Set a reasonable limit on the number of participants. I’ve been told that 10 or fewer is best.
3. The event itself shouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes. Parents can stay and socialize afterwards but the shorter the event is, the more likely people are to be able to participate now and again in the future.
4. Facebook is a great place to share in a group or event page which projects you’ll be making so that others know and can plan something different.
5. Allowing participants to bring their kids really helps free up moms (or dads) to attend.
6. Busy Bags don’t have to cost very much. The average bag in most cases is about $1-2 in supplies and priceless in love and time. Set an estimated budget with everyone beforehand because they can end up costing a lot more than a few dollars if you want to spend that much.
I made a dozen “I Spy” plastic jars. I purchased plastic containers with screw on lids for about $1.70 each. I filled them ⅓ of the way with un-popped popcorn kernels. Uncooked rice would work well too. My daughters (age 2,4) helped me put in one of each little miniature item we found in the miniatures aisle at Michael’s. I spent about $2-3 each jar on miniature items and then tossed in some beads with letters and in various colors. I also added some different colored bells and a hair barrette into each one. The important thing is to make sure you write down what you put in. After all items are added, pour in more popcorn kernels so that the container is mostly full but you can still move it around to find items. I added glitter to make it prettier but I learned quickly that this was a bad idea. The glitter clings to the plastic container and makes it difficult to see the items inside.
Finally, seal the lid on with glue or just screw the lid on. My children are younger so I glued it shut so they don’t eat the small things. I typed up a list of what was inside, covered it front and back with packing tape to reinforce and protect it, punched a hole and tied it around the neck of the jar.