I looked around online for some general ideas on how to host one and these are the guidelines I came up with. I think if you're part of a large group, or just have a big network of friends, to limit the number of players in your swap. We did a quiet book page exchange last fall with over 20 people. It was way too much work. I limited ours to 10.
What's a busy bag?
A busy bag is a ziploc bag containing an activity for your child to enjoy either with you or on their own. It is a form of creative occupation. It may be educational or may not. These can be great for keeping little hands and bodies occupied at the restaurant, in church, on road trips, when you need 10 minutes to get dinner prepped... ;) There's endless ideas for a busy bag activity, Pinterest & Google will be your best source of inspiration.
What's a busy bag swap?
It's 10 mamas creating 10 busy bags of the same kind, compiling them all together, and each receiving 10 different busy bags for their kids.
The success of this swap depends on the success of each member. The end goal of 10 different activities for each kid is only possible so long as each mom creates 10 bags of the same activities.
The RSVP's were locked 3 weeks in advance. This ensured that everyone was given enough time to complete their bags. We also asked that plenty of notice was given if you needed to cancel (however, we understand emergencies do happen - if you weren't able to come on the meet up day, we can still arrange to swap your bags. Preferably this should be done prior to the swap day so that those attending the event can leave with the bags they're expecting.)
Each activity needs to fit within 1 gallon sized zip top bag, should be clearly labeled on the outside of the bag with the activity name and any instructions for completing the activity need to be included within. For simplicity let's keep all activities on the preschool (or easier) level. The goal is for the kids to be able to do the activity with minimal parental help.
For my activity, I opted to do an alphabet match. I created my board by cutting cardstock to 9x9 and drew a grid (spacing 1.75" on one side and 1.5" inches on the other, to make my grid 5x6 - bottom row just contains the Z) and wrote the letters in with Sharpie. Then I took a single sided DIY laminating sheet and laminated the front side. Inside each bag, I included a full set of magnet letters (purchased at Walmart for 97 cents each) and an index card with the following instructions:
- Match the letters - either randomly or searching to put them in alphabetical order (for older kids)
- By groups - by colors (all the yellow letters, then green, etc); by vowels; by consonants, etc
- Spell simple words: childs name, 3 letter words like cat, dog, hit, zig, etc.
For more fun, you can put the grid & letters on a cookie sheet - this will help the letters from sliding off the grid as they're placed.
Our exchange was a great success! Here are the bags I ended up with:
- Pom pom sorting into a spice jar: sensory exploration for younger kids, task by color for older kids
- Popsicle stick puzzles: arrange popsicle sticks to reveal the completed puzzle (numbered for smaller kids)
- Cardboard rubbings: designs with hot glue on cardboard, used with a piece of paper & a crayon to create a scene on paper
- Felt Shapes: cut outs provided with blank "canvas" felt sheet for children to create different pictures
- color matching: paint chips & clothes pins (match the colored clothes pin with the correct colored paint chip - chip divided in half with English & Spanish color names)
- bead stringing: beads & pipe cleaners (sensory exploration & fine motor skill building for younger kids, match beads to correct pipe cleaner by color for older kids)
- lacing cards: craft foam cut into shapes with holes punched around the edges. this mama also included a lacing card of each child's first initial.
- Mosaic tile board - shapes drawn onto card stock with corresponding craft foam shapes. use the shapes to create the puzzle on the board.
- Stickers, pen & notebook: a super simple activity that has (so far) been my 3 year old's favorite.
I've shown Ben 4 so far - mine when it was done, the lacing cards, the mosaic tile boards & the stickers with notebook. He did mine start to finish and was done with in 5 minutes. He said the mosaic puzzle was too hard and didn't want to play with it. He was super into the lacing cards, but had done a similar activity at preschool and so it didn't take him long to complete the task. He LOVED the stickers, pen & notebook. He sat right down and played with that for a good 15-20 minutes: choosing the stickers to go in his book, making pictures with his pen & crayons, etc.