Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Busy Boxes (Part 1)

The past few months many people have asked us how our transition from a family of three to a family of four has been. Of course the real answer is that we're still transitioning. In fact, I think we'll always be in a state of readjusting as both boys enter new stages and other family changes occur. It's just one of the many balancing acts of parenthood, how to stay consistent while also remaining flexible.

But, beyond that there are several things we did both ahead of and during the midst of the transition that have made some parts easier. One of these things was creating "busy boxes." During my pregnancy I noticed the term busy boxes on Pinterest and blogs. Busy boxes (also sometimes called "busy bags") are small boxes of activities, materials, projects, and kits which are meant to engage kids independently (and usually quietly.) They can be made from a variety of materials and individualized to fit a child's interests and developmental level.

I decided to create some for Big Brother to use when Little Brother arrived. I envisioned we would use them during nursing times. But I have found they are great for lots of different times: when we're inside for quiet nap times, when Little Brother needs my focused attention for bathing or going down for a rest, while I'm making dinner, sick days, and rainy days. Due to my maternity leave and the arrival of Little Brother in general we're spending more time home than we used to, so these can help break up the day. I keep them in a closet Big Brother does not use so he doesn't have steady access to them like other toys. They go back to the closet when the time period we need them for is over and we don't use them every day. Therefore they stay special.

Below are photographs of some I created for Big Brother and for a young relative who was also expecting a new sibling. Some great places for finding materials include the dollar store, craft stores, your junk drawer, and yard sales. When you're creating, think about your own kiddo. What tends to hold their interest? (Art, trucks, science, etc.) Developmentally what are they doing? (For example, if they still put a lot of things in their mouths than several of the ones below would not be recommended.) Is there a new skill or subject area they're interested in? (Bugs, counting, etc.) I find they work really well in small, plastic boxes with latch lids.

I'm calling this "Part 1" because I have several other ideas of busy boxes I'd like to create and as these lose their novelty I plan to introduce the new ideas.

 Busy Box Ideas
Beading Box: Large wooden beads and pipe cleaners. (Can also be used for color matching.)

Number Box: Large flat marbles, index cards with circles 1-6, and number counting cards for matching, counting, or other kid directed ideas. 

Funny fingers: Small ink pads, paper, and finger tips from office supply store (with raised dots for gripping.) 

Pattern box: Two sets within one box. Set A) Laminated pattern cards with small colored dots. More stickers or pompoms for recreating patterns. Set B) Laminated pattern strips with small foam blocks for recreating patterns.

Dino World: Floral rocks, small dinosaurs, and fake flowers. (Could also use fake insects or small zoo animals.) 

Construction Site: Floral rocks and construction vehicles. (Actually the same box as the dinosaurs, I just swapped in vehicles instead.)

Magnet Box: Magnet wand with magnet balls, cut pipe cleaners, paperclips, and random magnetic and non-magnetic materials. (Big Brother's favorite these days.) 

Sticker and Punches: Small punches, glue stick, scrap card stock and project papers, and stickers. (Big Brother loves to create bookmarks for the adults.)

Flower Fairy Garden: Aquarium rocks, small terra cotta pots, small buckets, foam stickers, and fake flowers. Fairies created from clothespins, felt, ribbon, and fake flowers.