busy bags wooden blocks

How Busy Bags Can Save Your Sanity – The Top Tools You Need to Survive Traveling with Toddlers

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Have you ever been on a plane with a screaming toddler? Or have you been the unfortunate mom traveling with the said screamer? If so, you know the particular noise a blood-curdling shriek makes when confined to an airplane or other small space. In almost 100% of cases, toddlers choose to act out or misbehave at the most inopportune times or locations. While this is fun for no one, it is particularly stressful on mamma.

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Enter the busy bags

What is a busy bag, you might ask? I had the same question when I first heard the term. Once I figured out what they were, I was hooked. Busy bags are just small, quiet activities you can put in a bag, box, or container. They are novel activities to entertain your littles. We use them when traveling, and even more recently during a long synagogue service. The key to a successful busy bag is that its new. You can’t take your child’s favorite toy from the toy box, slap it in a bag, and assume the busy bag will work. These are special activities reserved for travel, public outings, or rainy days when mamma is going to pull her hair out.

Ok, so describe what’s in busy bags

The good news is that there are literally hundreds of different options you can choose from when building your busy bags. I’m going to outline a few different options to get you started. Really the sky is the limit. If you head to the dollar store you’ll be able to put together 10-15 of these bad boys with very minimal investment.

Here are a few specific busy bags you can very easily make:


Wooden, stackable, and “soft” which are just sponges cut up. Having multiple sets of blocks is fun depending on the mood, or where you are. If you’re in a quiet location, the “soft” blocks could be your best friend. If you’re somewhere with a table, the noisier blocks are definitely entertaining for the littles to bang around.

busy bags wooden blocks

Sorting Station

(plastic pill box with foam stickers or poms to sort by shape or color) helps with dexterity to open the compartments, can be used to sort shapes or colors, or just to hold stickers that are fun to put on paper!

busy bags sorting station

Pom Tube Drop 

it’s just what it sounds like. A tube (for us that’s a toilet paper roll, but it could be a paper towel roll if you don’t have space constraints) and a bag of poms. You can sort them by color or just pick them all up and drop them in the tube. When you move the tube they all fall out again!

indoor toddler activities pom drop


“Reusable” Stickers 

I haven’t yet met a toddler that didn’t love stickers. The worst thing about stickers is that they don’t work once your child has pulled them on and off about 10 times in three minutes. Bringing a reusable sticker book is a really fun way to let them play with stickers again and again.

Popsicle Sticks 

Colorful popsicle sticks can be used for matching, learning colors, or for simply moving around. It sounds strange, but our lady loves just taking them out of the bag, handing them to daddy, and putting them back in. She did this three times in a row on our last flight and still gets excited to “play with mommy’s sticks.”

Pipe Cleaner 

Pipe cleaner is fun if your toddler is a little older and can use their imagination to make things. If you’re adventurous and don’t mind picking things up off the floor, you can put in some bigger beads that aren’t a choking hazard for them to string and make necklaces.

busy bags pipe cleaner

Coloring Set 

While this isn’t really novel, if you have a new set of crayons and small coloring book, this can be a very useful way to distract a toddler for a few extra minutes. Again, as long as it isn’t her favorite coloring book from home, you’re golden.

Ok, I’m sold – what should I do?

Like I mention above, the most economical way to get a bunch of these made for cheap is to go to the dollar store. However, as a busy mamma myself, I know that we don’t all live next to a dollar store and sometimes can’t even find time to leave the house. The good news is, all you need is this post, your clicking finger, and a credit card to get started. Head over to Amazon and you can find everything you need from this post in one spot. 

Although taking your kids to a quiet location, or needing to entertain them while traveling can seem like a daunting task, busy bags make life a lot less stressful. I’m not going to lie, my daughter runs through them VERY quickly, but she likes to go back to each one multiple times per use. They’ve definitely helped keep us sane and quiet.

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Busy bags can save your sanity when traveling with toddlers or when you just need to keep them quiet for a little while. Click through for our number one way to survive traveling with toddlers. Bonus: they're SUPER easy to put together.

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