Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Fun Toddler Gift For MOM.

No, that's not a typo.  This is a fun toddler gift.  It's also a gift for mom!  She's going to love it as much as said toddler.  Why?  Because it's guaranteed to keep toddler happy and busy, it's portable, and it's cute.

It's a:

You've probably seen quiet books before.  You've probably also seen busy bags before.  This is a combination of the two!  It's super easy and inexpensive to do, too.  (and wouldn't you know it, anytime you think you've come up with something so very GENIUS, you do a quick search and find a million other moms who've come up with the same thing...)  BUT.  I've got free printables!

Ok.  So.  Here's what we're making:

Except yours will very likely not be for Zo-Zo.  I've got some printable covers at the end of the post you can use, or you can create your own with the gift recipient's name.

And here's what you'll need:
1. A HUGETASTIC binder... I don't know how big that one is, because I had it in my stash - something my mom gave me forever ago.
2. Binder pouches.  I got mine at Walmart for around 85 cents each.  You'll need one pouch per activity you create.
3. Busy Bag Activities!  

Now.  A few notes about GIFTING busy bag activities:
You want them to be age appropriate, so keep your recipient in mind as you decide.
You want them to be engaging, but NOT expensive.  I mean, the most expensive part of this present should be that giant binder.
You want to personalize the gift, so think about what the kid likes to do - interests, favorite colors, favorite characters, whatever.

I'm going to show you the activities I decided to put in my book for my daughter (though, truth be told, I think my son will play with it just as much).  I will own up to something right now:  Ready?  I did not make all of these activities.  I (like many of you, probably) went to a busy bag swap.  It was organized by a mom I go to church with and I didn't know most of the people there, except for the friends from church that came, so I can't really credit a lot of these activities by name or anything, but where I could, I've listed links to tutorials and such for you.

This was created by my friend who organized the swap.  It's all the animals from "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" printed on cardstock, cut in half and laminated -  as seen on Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails.  For any child that loves to read and is familiar with the book, this will be a fun treat - they may even start quoting the book, like my kids did.

I didn't know the person who made this fun kit, but it's just felt cupcake shapes - cupcake, paper wrapper, frosting and extras - in different colors.  You can find this on Alphamom.  The kids put the cupcakes together however they want to.  Bug likes to pretend that big red piece is licorice.  Think of the variations!  Mini loves cupcakes, so it's perfect for her, but if your child likes snowmen, or a specific animal or ice cream cones you can easily personalize this one!

This one was also made by the mom who organized the swap.  I cannot send you to the link where she got this, because I can't find it.  Sorry.  It would be easy to make, though.  You have three picture "mats" - one with a caterpillar (the longest), one with a fish (medium) and one with a dog (short) - that you print on card stock, cut out and laminate.  Then you also print out three "rulers" with the same pictures and a bold mark across the top for measuring against (laminate that too).  Finally, you cut different things - yarn, ribbon, pipe cleaners, fabric, felt - to the three different lengths.  The kids hold the items up to the ruler and then place them on the appropriate mat.  While bug got a little bored with this game, mini loved it.

A church friend brought this one, and I thought the numbers were adorable.  You know how to play memory, right?  This game is just numbers printed on cardstock and laminated.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where she got these printables.  BUT, there are a million DIY memory game ideas out there.  I like this one.  And this one.  And this one, too.  mini was so excited every time she found a pair.

Also made by the organizer.  You sew felt popsicle shapes in different colors, then use markers to color the tips of popsicle sticks.  The kids match the sticks to the popsicle.  Found on Planet of the Apels.

I love this idea.  Each puzzle is a 4x6 photo, spread with glue, with popsicle sticks stuck on the back, then cut apart.  The girl who made this used generic photos of toys, but if you know the kid you're making these for, you can use photos of family members or favorite animals or the like.  Both bug and mini love these.  Also, she put them in tiny snack-sized ziploc bags, which were the PERFECT size.  You can see a full tutorial for this at Empowering Mommy.

This was one of my contributions.  You can find the full tutorial at Craftiness is Not Optional.  This was a really inexpensive idea since I already had clothespins (you can get them at the dollar store, though!) and the paint chips are free.  You need two matching paint chips for each color strip you want to make.  Again, you can customize this according to favorite color!

This isn't something I made for the swap, but something my kids and I did together.  We made family stick puppets.  Given mini's love of small dolls and creatures, I thought she'd like these a lot.  Unfortunately, the "Zoe" puppet has gone missing already.  These are so easy to make - just draw the recipient's family with crayons and cut around, OR take pictures of the individual family members (full body, not close-ups).  Make sure to make them out of sturdy card stock.  You can laminate them, too.  Then we just used strong tape to secure them to the popsicle sticks - sticks.  The kids love playing with their own little mini puppets.

Again, I didn't make this for the swap, but for a little "home school" I was doing with my own kids.  I created the two charts (one is a picnic blanket with the numbers across the top and the other are fishing boats with poles out the back).  The kids place the correct number of ants or sea creatures along the chart next to the numbers.  I got the little plastic ants online here.  I got the plastic sea creatures at the dollar store.  We use them for other games I've made up, too.
Here are the printables for the picnic/ant counting and for the fish counting:

A while ago, online, I saw a felt busy book with a car page that had a figure 8 racetrack on it with an accompanying car.  I don't know where.  Sorry.  BUT.  I thought to myself, what a fun way to have kids start "tracing" their numbers.  mini needs some practice with that, anyway.  I couldn't find any large numbers that looked like roads or tracks, so I made my own.  I printed them out on cardstock and placed them front and back in page protectors.  There are numbers 0-9.  I included small cars in bright colors to drive around the numbers and dry erase crayons (not markers!) in matching colors to the cars so they can write on the numbers and erase them.
Here are the printable number roads for you, so you don't have to make your own (I won't lie, it was a pain):

Phew!  That's a lot of ideas!  The best part about the activities I included, is that you really don't need anything expensive or super special to create them.  Mostly you need felt, card stock/computer/printer, contact paper OR access to a laminator, popsicle sticks and a few odds and ends like clothespins and scrap ribbon.  No biggie!  

So, let's put our busy bee book together so you can give it away!  
All you have to do is put each activity in its own binder pouch, then slip them in the binder.  Here's the order I put it all in the book, though it's up to you.

Basically, I put all the activities first, then the ants and fish, the cars and dry erase crayons, a few normal crayons, the ant chart, the fishing chart, the number roads, and then blank paper in the back so they could color with the normal crayons.

As you can tell from the photos, I needed the kids to try it out for me so I could write this, otherwise, this would totally have been a birthday present.  I'm definitely planning versions for my nieces and nephews for Christmas though.

Now, all you need are the cover pages I promised!  So here you go!

And here are about a billion more ideas for busy bag/book/box activities:
My Small Potatoes - Busy Bag Round Up
Second Story Window - Preschool Busy Bag Activities
Second Story Window - Toddler Busy Bag Activities
The Princess and the Tot - Busy Bag Ideas
Josh, Laura, Brynlee and Mya - Busy Book Felt Page Ideas

And if you want a million more search "busy bags" on pinterest.  Whoa.

And now, the longest post in the history of the world is done.  I swear.  Over.  Finished.  Oh, wait.

Now it is.  But there will be another one tomorrow.

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