Creative Toddler Busy Box for Families on the Go

Do you try and take your toddler to a restaurant but just end up frustrated? Instead of just staying home, keep your toddler occupied and entertained with a toddler busy box. 

Creative Toddler Busy Box for Families on the Go | Houston Moms Blog

Toddlers are naturally curious and want to see what’s happening in the world around them. They are active and will test their limits…like ALL THE TIME. Their attention spans are short, and getting them to sit at a restaurant is almost impossible. I love my two-year old so much, but the little monster that she warps into in public is scary and sometimes deters me from wanting to go anywhere. It almost always goes like this:: long wait for restaurant, get seated, she sits for 5 minutes {if we are lucky} and will want to get out of her chair, one of us is chasing her around outside, one parent eats really fast and takes toddler back out while the other eats alone and waits for the check.  Yep, anyone out there experiencing this too or is it just me? Luckily I’ve found a solution that will at least prevent these toddler shenanigans long enough for my husband and I to enjoy a meal together.

This summer, I’ve prepared a little toddler busy box of knick knacks to keep my two-year-old preoccupied while we are out at restaurants, on the plane, in the hotel room while on vacation, or just about anywhere I need to keep my toddler distracted. I’m sure that lots of parents are already doing some form of this idea, but it’s something that slowly evolved for me. What’s in this box, you ask? It’s merely a school box with her name on the outside that we take wherever we go!  The box is full of surprises, and its contents provide lots of playtime. It’s been a hit with other kids too when we are out with friends. My daughter loves to share the items in her box and it seems like there is more fun when you get to share with your friends.    

Items for the Toddler Busy Box

Creative Toddler Busy Box for Families on the Go | Houston Moms Blog

I collect items as I go when I see them on sale or find stuff around the house. I store them in a gallon zip bag or box that is easily accessible to grab stuff from as I’m heading out the door. Plus, anything that I buy and end up not using makes for great party favors later!

  • Party favor sized play dough or homemade play dough in small resealable containers
  • A little rolling pin or a shortened plastic cake dowel
  • Miniature cookie cutters
  • Miniature figurines or animals 
  • Small notepad for doodling with fun twistable crayons, stamps and stickers
  • Fruit snacks and individual sized treats
  • Colored dry pasta or fruit loops, a piece of yarn with a toothpick taped to one end for necklace making or a pipe cleaner to make a bracelet
  • Mini puzzle sets
  • Memory card games {I usually pick out 3 sets and we play with those 6 cards only} or any age appropriate card games
  • Blind bag/mystery pack collectables 
  • Miniature tea set or any miniature kitchen play set
  • Pre-made craft kits from the craft store
  • Pipe cleaners of all shapes, sizes and colors
  • Variety of fun googly eyes in case they may want to create play dough monsters
  • Little tasting cups or empty plastic eggs with variety of sorting items like buttons, candies, cereals, pom poms 

Guidelines for the Toddler Busy Box

  • Always have at least two colored play dough and a rolling pin.  I usually switch out the cutters to make it feel new to her.
  • Have at least one snack item.
  • One craft activity.
  • Every now and then I include a mystery/blind bag toy as a surprise. She loves opening the bag or box to see what it is. She loves everything miniature so this is a lot of fun for her. 

Let your child be creative! It’s okay if they stick pipe cleaners into the play dough or use pom poms in a way you didn’t intend for them to use it. As long as they aren’t eating it and it keeps them preoccupied, let them explore!

I don’t always switch the toddler busy box out every time we go out. It can be the same box for a few outings. Many times it’s random stuff with no rhyme or reason but my toddler gets creative with it. Once there were 4 pom poms left in her box and we were at a restaurant. She used a spoon to pick up one pom pom at a time to drop into her bowl.  Not only was she working on her fine motor skills but she was being imaginative and it made me so happy to see that! If we are on vacation I just throw some stuff in a gallon sized zip bag and throw it in my suitcase. I would change out the contents every couple of nights and it will feel like a brand new box in the morning to her.

My only regret was not doing this for my first four kids when they were younger. We didn’t go out as much then as we do with our toddler now. When we did, I would give them an iPad or my phone to play with to keep them preoccupied. I love this toddler busy box idea because it doesn’t require either of those items and it encourages her to think outside of the box {no pun intended!}.  I hope that this box idea helps out a lot of families with keeping their toddlers preoccupied when they are out and about. I would love to hear some feedback if you make your own toddler busy box. Did you include something that wasn’t on my list? 


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