We are just at that point where Annabel (3 ½) both wants and needs to be doing some organised learning time during the day. We’re soon to be officially start on Sonlight’s P3/4 package (it helps this Mum to have a set start date – I need to prepare in my head for it :)). But along with this, we’re going to use our Quiet Time Bags so I can have one-on-one time with my 7 year old, while also taking care of the little guy who is 1.
So after googling ‘quiet time bins’ (also known as ‘busy bins’ or ‘busy bags’, amongst other things) I set to it and found lots of ideas on Pinterest and homeschool blogs. We already have plenty of things to put in them, plus I’ve printed colouring pages off the internet and turned them into books. It’s amazing just how many things we do have that can be recycled and made new again. Annabel is enjoying the attention as I assemble these, and I know that she will anticipate the joy of opening her bin each morning when they are ready-to-go.
Here are some things I’ve put into them (plus a few extra ideas):
- Board books
- Colouring books with crayons
- Activity pages (eg. mazes)
- Counting items
- Lacing cards
- Small photo album with pics of family
- Sorting and stacking activities
- Memory games
- Large lacing beads
- Felt scene creations
- Magnetic dolls
- Pipe cleaners
- Clothesline (pegs with mini clothes and string) (see here)
- I spy bottles (fill with dry rice and things inside)
- Paper clips and popsicle sticks
- Mr Potato Head
- Ice cube trays with beads (or dried pasta)
- Duplo with cards
- Old wallpaper sample books (take out some pages and roll into a bundle)
- Shells/stones with blu-tack or playdough
- Sensory mix and match cards (see here)
I found a neat site called Small Potatoes that does a step-by-step tutorial on how to create fabric bags. I love the idea of using fabric bags as we can simply recycle what would normally just be thrown away, and I also have the added security of not having tons of little plastic bags around my little guy.
I don’t know how to sew but figured it couldn’t be that hard to sew in a straight line to create them myself. I used some unused fabric scraps that my husband bought home from work (leftover from upholstering chairs) and some soft plastic pouches that a bank was throwing away. You could also use a soft plastic table cloth from somewhere like Spotlight or CraftMart. I would personally avoid using stiffer clear plastic – especially when using a friend’s sewing machine.
I think my attempt turned out fairly well, although the stretchy fabric I used was a little trickier for this ‘first-time’ sewer (unless you count the placemat I made during Home Economics about 20 years ago). I would imagine that some nice bright cotton fabric would be a great choice. And having more than 4 pins from a travel sewing kit would also have greatly benefited me! So if I can manage making these, then anyone can. Truly. And the experience might have awakened the sewer within. Although please don’t look at my handiwork up close! Ha ha!
Here are some further ideas for assembling your bags or bins:
- 5 containers filled with your bags in each, and labelled with the weekdays, Monday to Friday.
- Hanging your bags from coat hangers (with clips already attached) – or using foldback clips from the stationary store.
- Using old suspended files and taking out the metal part, then sewing in the top of each bag as an alternative way of storing them. Hang inside an old filing cabinet.
- If you are a super sewer, you might like to add zips. I considered using Velcro dots to keep mine closed, as there’s no sewing involved. But because they’re a little larger than is practical to stick on multiple Velco dots, I’m just going to use foldback clips for mine.
- Think about how many activity bags you want to put in each (if you’re doing a bin for each day of the week). I would think that about 6 different activities per day would be ample.
It’s amazing how much you can come up with simply by using the things you have, and by finding all kinds of free things that others are no longer using. Ask in shops for old displays or old wallpaper sample books. Or collect shells from the beach or interesting stones. You could even ask at the bank for unused bits and pieces, such as window display magnets, cardboard, money boxes, and stickers.
I have mine stored in picnic hampers from the op shop, but haven’t managed to find anymore like this just yet. But two baskets plus the two ‘bigger’ activities will be enough to get us started.
Rather than labelling days of the week, Annabel can just pick out which one she feels like playing with on any given day.
Here are some sites that might give you some further ideas:
- Pinterest – for tons of ideas
- My Delicious Ambiguity blog
- My Small Potatoes blog – for how to sew the bags.
- Second Story Window blog
Please share some other ideas for what you might like to put in yours!