3 New Busy Bags from Small Potatoes!

title“It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants.  The question is: What are we busy about?  ~Henry Thoreau

Remember last year when we brought you THIS round-up of busy bags? Well, that article still remains our most popular post on Small Potatoes. And today, we are adding to that list with 3 new busy bag ideas that we’ve created for the smalls. And I say “we” because my big kids helped in the developing process.


colourhuntTITLEThis busy bag is almost free of cost. We used things we already had in the house or we recycled. The only thing I purchased was the tongs…they were $1 at the Dollar Tree. I used empty food trays and cut the paint sample cards to fit. I labelled them with the written word for each colour. Our busy bags are bilingual when possible, so both the French and the English colour word is written on each paint card.  I glued the paint card down inside each plastic tray…constructionCOLOURAnd my children gathered little coloured “bits” for sorting into the trays.  They found pompoms, beads, bugs, jacks, and jewels. The only requirement I had for these “bits” was that they not be so tiny that the tongs could not pick them up.

The Game:

1. Pour the contents of the bag out on a mat, place mat, or smooth surface. (Carpets tend to swallow up the bits.)

2.  Line up the colour-labelled containers.

3. Have the child use the tongs to pick up items and sort them into the container that matches the item.

*This game is great for small motor practice, eye-hand coordination, and colour and word recognition. You can add a verbal quality to the game by having the child say the colour out loud as they place it in the tray.playing


The second game we’ve created is designed for my school-aged children. However, this game could be modified for younger children by using numbers, alphabets, or simple sight words instead of pronouns…fishingTITLEI used the bottom half of an empty fruit container and I painted it blue and glued some blue cellophane bits to the bottom to create the pond. You do not need to paint or glue…you can simply use and empty container or bowl of your choice. I drew a simple fish on a piece of paper and my kids traced and cut out the rest…constructionFISHOn one side of the fish is the French word, on the other side is the English. I built the fishing rod with string tied to a stick and a magnet tied to the other end. I put paper clips on each fish so the kids could “fish” them out of the pond.

The Game:

1. Place all you fish in the pond.

2. Have the children fish for words, numbers, or ABC’s.

3.  When they catch a fish, help them read or have them sound out the word or number on their own.

4. You can also have the children use the word in a sentence.

*This game is great for eye-hand coordination, letter and word recognition, and small motor practice. You could also use the names of all the children in your group on the fish to help them learn name recognition.packedup3*For the tutorial on making cloth, planet and child safe busy bags, click HERE.


Our third game for today is our favouritesmellmatchTITLEThe teenagers even like this game! I used doTerra essential oils to soak the cotton and I put them in little travel shampoo bottles from the dollar store. It is important that the bottles you use have a tight lid or the scent of the oils will dissipate and the game will no longer work.

Put about 6-8 drops of oil on each cotton ball. I used 2 cotton balls per bottle. Label your bottles. Close them up.constructionSCENTNow you get to make little flashcards for the scents you have put in your bottles.scentcards1I hand drew them on the back of old cards and cut the front off. My kids coloured them for me. Feel free to look up some clip art illustrations to help yourself draw them, or print the clip art on your printer and use those! I had no idea what eucalyptus really looked like, so we copied from a clip art design…eucalyptusDon’t forget to add a container of coffee beans for cleansing the nose between each scent. I used a toothpick container because the beans wouldn’t spill out, but we could still smell them. The coffee beans will cleanse the nose so the children don’t get confused with the scents one after the other.

The Game:

1. Let all the players smell each bottle, familiarizing themselves with all the scents. You can tell them which scents are which while they are smelling them.

2.  Put all the cards out on the table or floor.

3. One player, the “smeller” covers their eyes while the other player pops the lid of a scent jar open for him to smell. If the bottle is flexible, that player can squeeze it a few times to release a stronger scent.

4. The “smeller” guesses which scent it is by placing the bottle on the matching card. Sometimes having a visual cue makes it easier to match the scent. Remember to have the “smeller” take a whiff of the coffee beans between each bottle.

4. Once all the scents are guessed, the players switch roles.smellingallmatched*This game is an excellent sensory workout. It took a few rounds before some of my kids could recognize all the scents.

We sure hope you enjoy these three new additions to our busy bag collection!hangingup

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


15 thoughts on “3 New Busy Bags from Small Potatoes!

  1. Love that color sort!! Just pinned it. We did a similar activity for a busy bag exchange but I actually like what you came up with better. The addition of the tongs adds in fine motor practice and I think it’s so fun! My daughter would love this.

  2. Pingback: » Educating the Senses: Smelling Bottles

  3. Pingback: Smelling Bottles | The Only Way of Coming Downstairs

  4. I used old empty school glue bottles for the scent bottles…They hold up to squeezing and have a twist cap that you can smell through.

  5. Pingback: Educating the Senses: Smelling Bottles - Playful Learning

  6. Pingback: Essential Oils Activities with Kids

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