Busy Boxes

Busy Boxes for Early Elementary | Our Journey Westward
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Have you ever heard of Preschool Activities in a Bag?  Basically, they are learning activities stored in large ziplock bags which can be given to preschoolers to keep them busily learning while Mom works with other children. I love the idea, but don’t have a preschooler right now.

Early Elementary

There are times, however, when I need to keep Caleb (1st grade) busy when he finishes school before Mahayla.  So, using the same concept, I put together some “Busy Boxes” for him.  They’ve been a hit, so I thought I’d share the idea.

Getting Started {Simply}:

I bought several (12, I think)  plastic shoeboxes at WalMart.  Then, I went through my school room, kitchen, office, art supply box, and card & game shelf.  I gathered things that were:

1.  small enough to fit in the boxes.

2.  easy enough for him to do without explanation or help.

3.  fun, yet educational.

Then I put several different activities in each of the boxes.

All the boxes contain activities in several subject areas – math, language, science/history/geography, art….  For example, one box might contain addition flashcards, rubber stamps & ink, magnetic letters and a bird memory game.  Another box might contain plastic coins, word tiles, a fabric map and stickers.

When he’s finished with his work, but I’m not quite ready to “set him free”, I’ll ask him to choose a busy box.  He pulls one off the shelf and decides what activities he’d like to do from the box.  My only rule is:  ONLY ONE BOX.  When one comes off the shelf, that’s the one he works with.  Otherwise, he’d pull every one of them down looking for “just the right activity.  He’d spend so long looking, that no activities would actually be done!

What can you put in a busy box?

  • little craft packages like you might get from Oriental Trading or the Dollar Store
  • playdough

Please feel free to add your busy box ideas to the comment section!


  1. I love this idea! I was just trying to get some things together for my 2 year old to do while my Kindergartener is working. Any suggestions for “bitty” busy boxes?

  2. Hi
    Ivebeen devouring this post for a few days now. Can you give me more info as to what he does with them – is it play, do you direct him ? Ie. the toy money, and the rice and scales etc? My 7 year oldies just beginning to read so not sure how to implement them fully without me being there. Is it just reinforcing with manipulatives ?

  3. Good question, Di. Before something goes into a busy box, I have used it in a guided lesson at least once. In other words, he knows what to do with the materials on his own and requires no help from me. Well, in theory anyway! LOL

  4. I love this idea. I got hold of some big cardboard boxes from work for this purpose. Then I made a list of things to put in the boxes. In it I have a worksheet, pens, paper, fake money, plastic shapes, magnetic letters, recycled magazines, etc. I also have a map and science worksheets too. I found some good stuff at a garden centre today particularly books on art and history.

  5. Your boxes sound great, Leah!

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