Busy Bags | Importance of Creative Play in Education


At the beginning of February, I spent one Saturday morning creating an entire bin of “busy bags” for the five year old. In the bags, I placed several items that I found around the house and stapled each bag shut. I really didn’t put much thought into them because that was her job–the whole purpose of the bag is for her to open it and then figure out what to make or do with the items.

The busy bags served several purposes: they added additional “work” for Ella’s homeschool, but they also provided something for her to do when I need to take a business call during homeschooling time or if she was bored. Thank goodness I spent time making them because shortly after I was sick and out of commission for about three weeks. Those bags allowed her to continue her learning process while I was down and out.

One of the great things about a busy bag is that it fosters imagination and creativity–very important things when learning and growing. A school district in New York wrote, “Research proves that kids who are encouraged to play in unstructured settings are more expressive, empathetic, and socially adept than those who aren’t, and their creativity may continue into adulthood.”

Plus, creating stuff is just … fun. Don’t you think?

Using Busy Bags for Learning

Creating Busy Bags for Learning

You’ll need brown lunch bags, a stapler and various items from around the house and/or the discount store. Remember, it’s not your job to figure out what the kid is going to make from the stuff, so don’t feel unusual about putting random, unrelated items in the bag. I usually put two to four different items in the bag and staple it shut.

Be sure you make the contents age appropriate!

ALSO ON LITTLE COOKS READING BOOKS : Why Cooking Is Important for Your Curriculum


Busy Bag Content Ideas

Mix and match several of the items to create your busy bags. I keep my eye out for unusual clearance things in different stores, too.

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Coffee filters
  • Marbles
  • Scraps of colored paper
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Dice
  • Plastic forks and spoons
  • Finger paints
  • Envelopes
  • Old Christmas/holiday/birthday cards
  • Ribbons
  • Yarn
  • Drinking straws
  • Stickers
  • Sticky notes
  • Coloring pages
  • Puzzles
  • Worksheets
  • Tubes of colored sand
  • Playing cards
  • Magazine pictures
  • Cookie cutters and Playdough
  • Make up brushes (dollar store)
  • Cut up sponges
  • Colored paper clips
  • Cotton balls
  • Magnets
  • Blocks/Legos
  • Cars
  • Small plastic animals/dinosaurs/bugs
  • Plastic cups
  • Napkins
  • Paint brushes (different sizes)
  • Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
  • Plastic eggs
  • Cut up egg carton

TIP: I made a rule that my daughter had to finish one busy bag before she opened another. Again, this forces her to use imagination and creativity. Even if she’s not that excited about the contents she still has to put some thought into it.

About Author

Jacqueline Wilson is Ella's mom and a homeschooler. She loves cooking and creating with her daughter. She is the co-author of 50 Shades of Frayed: Three Moms Talk About What Happens When "I Do" Becomes "Not Tonight". You can follow her on her personal Twitter account, WritRams and on Facebook as WritRams and Little Cooks Reading Books.

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