things are about to get busy up in here.

toddler busy bag

Last summer I visited my friend Lesley shortly after her second baby Owen was born. We sat on her couch chit-chatting about life and motherhood, when he started to cry. As she got ready to nurse him, her toddler Anna promptly asked for the “nursing bag”. Lesley nodded in approval and minutes later Anna reappeared with a special bag full of toys and books that she only had access to while Lesley was breastfeeding. And then she sat on the floor, quietly, while Lesley nursed and we continued to talk.


Likewise, we have a special bin of toys in Everett’s closet that he is only allowed to play with during independent play time. And let me tell you: there is something magical about toys that are only available some of the time. Every morning when I pull that bin out, Everett’s face lights up like he’s never seen those toys before. He picks a few handfuls to dump into his crib, and plays for 30-45 minutes in his room by himself.

Magic I tell you.

Now that we’re 12 weeks out from adding another baby to our clan (!!!), I’m starting to get our ducks in a row. We’ve got a nursery to decorate, a toddler bed to transition into, and a nursing bag to create.

Here’s what I have planned for ours so far:

1. Drawstring backpack ($5.60) – Simple, multi-functional, classic. And you can’t beat the price.

2. Finger puppets ($4.99) – These are just plain cute. Great for encouraging imaginative play.

3. Shape puzzle ($10) – Everett is obsessed with puzzles, and I love that this one teaches shapes and colors. Plus, it’s the perfect size for our little bag. Use promo code wmHEARTr for 10% off and check out Becky’s blog here

4. Wooden tow truck ($40) – If there is one thing we can never have enough of, it’s toy cars and trucks. This little set comes with a tow truck, car, and two little “passengers” to add to the fun. Best of all? They’re handcrafted in the good ole USA. Use promo code SUMMER10 for 10% off any purchase through the end of August. 

5. Touch and feel flashcards ($8.99) – We have the “first words” version of these flashcards and Everett still loves them one year later. Another set would be a guaranteed win.

6. String-a-farm ($12.99) – Encourages fine motor skills and manual dexterity, plus you can just play with the animals individually. Cute, cute.

7. Classic ball and cup game ($6) – I’m not sure if Everett would be able to do this, but his athletic ability and hand/eye coordination never ceases to amaze me. At any rate, he’d have a blast trying. Handcrafted in the USA and available in multiple colors (from all natural dyes). Use promo code GADD10 for 10% your purchase. 

8. Wooden balancing game ($18) – Helps build intuition about weight, balance, and motion. You pick your own animals and wood (so many options!). Handcrafted in USA from American hardwood. Use promo code “Ashlee” for 10% off through the end of August. 

9. Latches board ($21.08) – Everyone I know who has one of these, raves about it. Plus it’s the #1 bestseller in “pegged puzzles” on Amazon so I’m sold.

Any other ideas for a busy bag? Do tell. 

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14 Responses to things are about to get busy up in here.

  1. Holly says:

    I always kept some sort of sticker book in my son’s busy bag. He loved peeling off stickers and putting them on new pages in the book or on blank paper or even on the couch while I was feeding the baby 🙂
    Holly´s last blog post ..Lipstick and Dinosaurs

  2. Angie says:

    Love this idea! How do you plan on transitioning to a big boy bed would love any tips you have!

  3. Amanda says:

    This IS a genius idea!
    Amanda´s last blog post song of summer 2014.

  4. This is an awesome idea. I think I’ll have to share it with my friend who has a toddler and young baby. She encourages reading during this time but the books are always there for the toddler to pick up. Only bringing them out during this time could help a lot!

  5. Susannah says:

    What a perfect idea! I’ll have to remember this for when Caleb’s a little older! 🙂
    Susannah´s last blog post ..Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

  6. Teri says:

    Just curious … when did you start independent playtime and where does it fall in your daily routine? My son is 14 months, and I’m wondering when to introduce it.

    • Nancy says:

      I am wondering the same thing! I love the busy bag idea for when we try for #2….it will be a while as #1 is only 4 months 🙂

    • Ashlee says:

      We started independent play when he dropped his morning nap, around 13 months. I do it in the morning, usually around 8:30 or 9 because I use that time to shower. We started at 15 minutes, then 20, then 25, and worked our way up from there. The first few times he cried the whole time, so be prepared for that. Eventually he only cried the first minute or two, and then stopped crying altogether. Everett has gone through phases with independent play time….sometimes he’s not into it, but I stay firm in keeping it part of our morning routine. This is when I shower, get dressed, and put myself together for the day. It has honestly been essential for my sanity, and I think it’s good to teach kids how to play alone for short periods of time. I talk about this a little bit in two other posts:

      Hope that helps!

  7. sarah r says:

    Ashlee, how did this go once Carson was actually here?? Did Everett like it as much as you anticipated/did it WORK?? (i’m due in 3 weeks! eek!!!)

    • Ashlee says:

      EEEK! I didn’t use it as much as I thought it would, but I am still dragging it out of the closet a few times a week. I guess moreso I was surprised that I really didn’t need to “entertain” Everett while I was nursing Carson. He just mostly hangs out and plays by himself….he knows sometimes he needs to wait for me to finish feeding his brother before I can help him/make a snack for him/etc.

      • sarah r says:

        thanks so much for responding! i’m so nervous about how my girl is going to do with our transition in a few weeks. love hearing your stories about your boys.

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