This past school year, my preschooler was in school four mornings a week for about three hours each day.
There were a lot of good things about that: he got scheduled time to play with his peers, he learned a ton, and I got three hours to work at my home business. As the school year came to an end, I realized that I’d suddenly lose those precious three hours each day and needed a new plan for how to still get my work done. Our routine is still a work in progress and the baby tends to throw me a curve ball at least once a day, but one activity that’s been working fairly well are these Busy Bags I created for MJ. He no longer naps consistently in the afternoons, so after lunch, when C goes down for her nap, MJ has quiet time while I attempt to get some work done. It usually goes something like me working for 30 seconds, MJ interrupting me, me getting him settled again for another 30-second interval!
Until I made these Busy Bags!
First, I collected five small to medium sized canvas tote bags.
I had a few kicking around the house, and I asked my family if they had any extras. You could also use totes, or drawers, or reusable grocery bags, but you want a container for each day of the week and I like the idea of being able to hang them. (Although they are currently piled in the corner of the living room.)
Then I brainstormed 3- 5 different activities that MJ could basically do himself or with little to no help from me.
I came up with coloring, letter recognition or learning activities, interesting books to look at, stickers, and small games or puzzles. These are things that most preschoolers are able to work on independently. Then I went about collecting 5 different things- one from each of those categories. I purchased some new things, but mostly just collected things from around the house. Since MJ only gets each bag once a week there is less chance he’ll get bored. I’m thinking that I’ll add new things every other week, if possible.
Next, I sorted the materials into five separate piles for each day of the week and stuffed it all into a bag! And tada!
A different Busy Bag for each day of the week. My “home office” is usually the floor, but I’m learning to make it work.
Since MJ was an only child for 3.5 years, he’s gotten used to me entertaining him. As he gets older and can do more things, it’s gotten easier for him to stay engaged in independent play activities. He also likes it when I bury things in his moon sand and he has to uncover them. Sensory table activities, a roll of tape and some cardboard or free art play also buys me some time! Even though I’m using these for the summer, they’d be good all year long! Especially on those cold Vermont winter days. As for my “to do” list, I am learning to focus on one item at a time and call that a win!!