Busy Boxes for Toddlers

What is a Busy Box, you ask? It’s a medium-sized plastic box (preferably with a lid) that contains all manner of items to keep toddlers and preschoolers occupied during homeschool hours or while parents work in the same room.

You can require that the Busy Box be played with on a blanket or in a certain spot. Some parents even use a small plastic swimming pool to contain the mess and add to the fun.

Another option is to schedule an older child to assist and supervise in 30-minute increments.

We usually use Busy Boxes during Morning Time, when we get together for reading and memorization. Here are some ideas to set up your own Busy Boxes:

  • box of rice (or lentils) with scoops and cups (definitely do this one on a blanket!)
  • stickers and paper
  • fake fruit and baskets (we found lots at the thrift store)
  • play money and post-it notes for price tags to play store
  • washable markers or fresh colored pencils and paper
  • mini marker boards and dry erase markers
  • puzzles
  • blanket thrown over a card table (technically not a Busy Box, but same idea)
  • muffin tin and something to sort (size of the objects to sort depends on age of the child–different varieties of cereal, large beads, coins, etc.)
  • large wooden beads with string
  • miniature animals and wooden blocks to build corrals (Jenga blocks are a nice size)
  • small plastic boats and a tub of water (on a plastic tablecloth–or inside a mini kiddie pool)
  • play dishes and a tub of soapy water (or chair at the sink)

The key is to have a set, special time to use the Busy Box so that the contents don’t get scattered or feel commonplace. If your child can play with a Busy Box any time they want to, the aura of mystery is lost. Set a rule that they can only get one box out at a time. If they want to switch, they have to put away the first one they got out.

Toddlers and preschoolers are busy little people who benefit from planned activities to stimulate their minds and motor skills. Preparing a Busy Box ahead of time saves the parent frustration and effort in providing fun, safe activities for their child. Busy parents can use Busy Boxes to keep busy children occupied!


  1. Mbockelman says:

    This is awesome! I am printing this out and heading to the store! Thanks!

  2. Charlotte,

    This is brilliant. I’ve forwarded this link to my daughter. She has four kids under the age of 6! She home schools too and can use all the help she can get. I’m encouraging her to subscribe to your newsletter, too. You are awesome, keep the incredible tips coming.


  3. Great ideas, Charlotte! And I love that you can use things you already have – or could easily pick up at a consignment or thrift shop. Sending to my friends with toddlers 🙂

  4. Nora Hofmans says:

    making a list for busy boxes right now. Thanks for the tip.

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