Busy Bag Swap

11_lacing_card_busy_bagsBusy Bags are not something that would be on your radar unless you have a toddler or preschooler in your care. If you do have a child in that age range you’ll definitely want to know all about these self-contained, educational activities that are designed to keep your kid busy. These activities are great for distraction when you need to get dinner together, have a quick phone conversation, or maybe even go to the bathroom by yourself. Unlike turning on the tv, there is no guilt with busy bags because they are entertaining and educational. I should mention that they are also ideal for long car or plane trips with the kids. Best of all, you can have them made up ahead of time so they are ready to go when you need that spare 5 minutes of peace and quiet.

So, you ask, who has time to search the internet for ideas, buy supplies, and make 20 different mini-activities to have ready at the drop of a dime? Not me, that’s for sure! The perfect solution is a Busy Bag Swap (or Exchange). If you belong to any sort of play group, chances are that you know a group of moms that would be just as interested in this busy bag idea as you are. If you each find one brilliant busy bag idea to make for each other, your workload and costs are cut down significantly. In my group we had 20 moms that wanted to participate. That means that I found an activity that I liked (lacing cards), bought the supplies, and made up 20 bags of lacing cards. I brought my bags to the exchange to give out and left with 20 different busy bags (well, 19 different bags plus the one I brought). As far as my 3 year old is concerned, we have twenty new toys to explore, learn, and play with. Well worth the time it took me (along with my Grandma, Aunt, and cousin) to create 20 lacing card busy bags for the kids.


Our gracious Busy Bag Swap host chose to organize our exchange as a Mom’s Night Out (MNO)… brilliant if you ask me! This way it’s for the kids, but it’s also for the moms. We got the bag swap out of the way as soon as everyone arrived and then broke out the tea, wine, and desserts and had some grownup fun. I know a MNO is not always practical though. In that case a play date swap with the kids would work just as well. I just imagine it would be slightly more chaotic and there wouldn’t be wine. See some of my tips for hosting a Busy Bag Swap below:

– If your group is large and the idea of making 20 (or 25, 30, etc.) busy bags is daunting, then set the required number lower. So if 20 guests each make 10 bags, they will each get to leave with 10 different bags. Not everyone will get one of each activity, but it does lessen your workload.

– If all participants can’t be present for the swap, ask them to drop off their busy bags before the event. You can coordinate a time with them to pick up the swapped bags after the exchange.

– To avoid confusion and duplicate busy bags, have one person collect the ideas from each participant. Our host used a Pinterest board to pin each busy bag idea to and tagged it with the person responsible for making it.

– Set up bags or boxes for each participant in one area of your swap location. The container should be big enough to hold the number of bags you are expecting your participants to bring. Then you can ask everyone to deposit the busy bags they brought into each container when they arrive. Voila! Your bag swap is complete.

– Have an activity to keep your guests entertained and to get everyone talking and mingling. Our host planned her family’s version of a Yankee Swap to keep us busy. It was so much fun and I went home with a bottle of champagne that I won along with my busy bag loot. Not bad for a night’s work.

– Wine! There should be wine! Unless you are having a weekday morning play date swap. In that case, wine might be frowned upon.

If you need a place to start for ideas, I’ve created a Busy Bag Swap board on Pinterest. Twelve of the bags that I left our swap with are pictured above. You might notice that this post could have also been titled 101 Ways to Use Popsicle Sticks. The name and resource (if I have it) of each item pictured are listed from left to right:

  1. Uppercase and Lowercase Matching
  2. Spelling- My Small Potatoes
  3. Color Matching- See Vanessa Craft
  4. Felt Chain- Testy Yet Trying
  5. Button Snake- The Activity Mom
  6. Stringing Beads
  7. Popsicle Stick Puzzle- Motherhood on a Dime
  8. Shape Building- Mama Papa Bubba
  9. Pattern Puzzles –Learny McLearnerton (Free Printable!)
  10. Popsicle Matching Game- See Vanessa Craft
  11. Paperclip Color Sorting- Motherhood on a Dime
  12. Felt Board- Sun Scholar

You can also find the details of the lacing card busy bags that I put together for our swap (plus a free printable label) on this post.