As the river started to run through the middle of the table at a local restaurant, onlookers started to whisper and stare at the two idiots who thought it was a great idea to go out for a peaceful dinner with their cranky baby and clumsy toddler. This was the moment when I remembered my secret weapon. Dashing to the minivan, I snagged my treasure from a play date earlier that day.
My incredibly considerate friend, Megan, made a Busy Bag for her little love and an extra for my little dude. I surely can’t promise it will solve all of your in-public-with-your-toddler issues or resolve any rivers from forming in the middle of your dinner table; however, the Busy Bag has definitely aided in several successful outings with our little guy.
The Low Down
Once you settle on a general direction, make a quick list of some must-haves and go to the local “stuff for really cheap” store. Load up on supplies, and don’t be afraid to venture from your plan. Get inspired by what you see around you. It really doesn’t matter which things you end up with. The idea is just to keep them busy, and my little dude usually plays by the rules at first, and then he invents some new way, usually one I hadn’t thought of, to use the items from the bags.
Our Busy Bag
- Go Together Game – puzzles or flash cards cut in half
- Velcro Sticks – create shapes or letters (some even include a shape chart for them to use as a guide)
- Magnetic Sticks – use paper clips and practice picking up different amounts that match each numbered stick
- All Laced Up – those traditional lace up cards with a picture on the front
- Fuzzy Sticks – use pipe cleaners to thread beads
- Button Sort – colors and shapes sort (practicing classifications)
- Pick ‘Em Ups – use tongs to sort or pick up fuzzy balls and place in cups or anything else on the table
The possibilities are endless and there are complete organizational systems to build skills etc. Get busy and protect that crucial dinner table time with friends, family, or both!
Words of Wisdom
Don’t make the mistake of taking the Busy Bag out of the vehicle or diaper bag and not putting it back in. You will want to have this secret weapon at hand whenever you need it.
For instance, two weeks ago my half pint was not interested in staying in the toddler room during church. Since my hubs is the pastor, I was dreading the thought of our shortie completely losing it in the middle of everything. So… I ran (yes ran) to the swag wagon and swiped the Busy Bag. I was so close to taking it out the night before. What a terrible idea! Never. Ever. Ever. Let this thing get out of your sight. Mr. Short Stuff trotted right into the service with his Busy Bag in tow. He was able to entertain himself, and I could actually pay attention to what was happening as well. Success!
I know there are other ideas out there to keep your little loves busy. What are some tactics you use to entertain your toddlers when in public?