I thought I would share a recent gift I prepared for my one year old niece. I called it her “Busy Box” and included some homemade activities that she can enjoy both now and over the next few months. She is the third child so her house is already overflowing with store-bought toys and they really need little more. So I thought a little creativity was in order. Afterall, toddlers LOVE to play with anything that isn’t technically a toy anyway! Many of these activities were J’s favorites at the same age (the ones with stars) and I threw in a few extra…
The box itself was a simple photo box. I wanted it to be small enough to hide away (some activities will need adult supervision) and cute enough to be displayed if wanted. This also meant activities needed to fit inside the box itself. I finally decided on…
1. Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle **
All toddlers love a good game of In and Out. This is just one more way to get some practice! I used an old container of Puffs from J’s baby days, decorated the outside and punched holes in the lid. I filled the bottle with colorful pipe cleaners. It’s also a good idea to fold and twist the pipe cleaners in half to make them sturdier. As a pretoddler it will be easiest to simply remove the lid completely and let her take the pipe cleaners in and out but as she gets older, simply add the lid and the activity becomes more advanced. If I could’ve found my colorful Sharpies/reinforcement stickers, I would’ve given each hole a specific color. This allows one more difficulty by trying to match the colored pipe cleaners to the corresponding colored hole in the lid.
Another option is to use colorful straws, but I chose pipe cleaners since they’re so versatile. She could also use them to make shapes, letters, jewelry,… Oh and this makes a GREAT plane activity.
2. Colorful Flowers
Again and In and Out game, or just a way to focus on colors. I used colorful foam to make the flowers and added a tin flower pot.
3. You’ve Got Mail
I cut out envelopes, stamped and addressed each one with recognizable family names. I intended to create my old mailbox with a box, but decided to go with this cute store-bought mailbox instead. She can learn to open and close the mailbox, of course play the In and Out game with the mail (do you see a trend?), and when she gets old enough for name recognition she can play mailman and pass out the mail to the intended recipient.
4. Clothespin Drop
I bought some of the old clothespins (without the spring) and gave each one a different colored tip. She can play the In and Out game (yes, again!), try to drop the clothespins in the tin flower pot and hear the nice clangy sound they make, and when she’s much older can fit the clothespins around the tin edge since they fit perfectly.
5. Half-Dozen Eggs **
I mentioned this activity in an earlier post. It was such a winner when J was younger, that it had to win a spot in E’s Busy Box. It takes literally no work, just an egg carton and some plastic eggs. ** I also meant to add puff balls inside each egg, but of course forgot.
6. Cupcake Magnetic Puzzle
This was made completely out of the colorful foam. The muffin tins and cherries are glued down but the cupcakes themselves can be removed, rearranged and replaced (because of the magnetic backing). Since she is so young, cupcakes work great. Any color cupcake will fit on any muffin tin.
This is an activity where a parent needs to be nearby since it includes magnets.
7. Photo cards **
I printed and laminated family photos. This is a great way for her to learn each family member (they’ve recently moved away from home) and I’ve never known a toddler that didn’t enjoy playing with pictures!
7. Colorful Dice
I threw this in last minute since J has a set and enjoys them. I found these at Michaels. For now, it’s just something to toss around (they are rubber so they bounce), but eventually it’s a way to practice counting.