Nursing Busy Bags: What are they?
These little packages are put together in hopes of entertaining my 16 month old while nursing a newborn. In brainstorming creative ways to engage with my not-so-old oldest, I focused on things that he seems naturally attracted to. He lives for Mama’s full attention but he also craves independent play opportunities during the day.
Each of these trays has been bagged up in 1 gallon bags and put into a larger ‘nursing box’ with a stack of Dollar Tree plastic trays, so that I can grab a bag and a tray at a moment’s notice.
In theory, we will try to plan pumping and nursing schedules around Canyon’s meal times and other daily routines, pulling out a one of these bags as necessary, re-filling and rotating at the end of the week based on what were ‘hits’ and what were ‘misses’.
I hope to teach him that the items stay in a somewhat confined area such as the living room, for example. Caretakers or parents might limit the play area to a small roll-out rug that the child can prepare themselves – I am happy to have him within eye-shot for now!
At the end of the nursing session, all items must be returned to the baggie and put out of reach (I expect some tears, but it will be worth it to have something to look forward to).
First on the list is an oldie but a goody; sensory cards made from corrugated cardboard and textured items. We used these a lot when Baby C was a newborn, letting him explore the different materials (supervised play due to the small buttons and beads). It’s fun to pull them out now that he’s a bit older. He can even begin to differentiate between two cards when asked “show me [color]?” Older kids can be asked to go find something else in the room that matches and ‘bring it to me / put it in the basket’ etc.
Pom Pom Drop
If you ask Canyon, the best part of this activity is taking the lid on and off this recycled yogurt container. If you ask me, the best part is that he is entertained for two minutes!
Older children can use a set of miniature tongs or plastic tweezers and an ice cube tray for more variety.
Felt Routine Book and Sea Creatures
There are a few items we keep for sensory/educational learning such as our Toobs – themed sets of miniature plastic figures (including landmarks, mammals, insects, habitats, etc.) best suited for the 3+ age set. Having ‘special’ toys that don’t come out during free play time makes them extra fun and inviting!
This felt book from the Target Dollar Spot can be played with independently…or read together if he is feeling like being close to me.
Color Sorting Task
Canyon loves filling and dumping and stacking, even if the ‘color sorting’ concept is still a bit beyond him right now. This set is something he can grow into, giving him an opportunity to play independently for a moment (or I can simply name the colors for him and ask him to repeat). We are practicing basic Spanish and ASL, so any opportunities for language development is great!
For now, we will have fun with these IKEA cups and some linking plastic things found at the Goodwill (someone let me know what they are?!).
Wooden Train Set and Felt Memory Cards
After gifting away our large train table, we decided to keep the quality trains and a few of the track sections; I created a large roll-out felt play mat complete with felt trees and a beach area for a variety of play options (also works well for travel).
The felt memory game comes from the Target Dollar Spot. Canyon likes to show me “which one is the ___” among 2-3 cards. We won’t master the memory game for some time, but I love any opportunity to discuss images outside of books and flash cards – he will be hard pressed to destroy these thick felt squares!
Dinosaurs and Felt Letters
Part of another ‘special toy’ set, these dinosaurs are always received with joy when they make an appearance for sensory tubs or bath times.
The oversize felt letters may be of no interest to him right now, but I am hopeful! It is a good opportunity to practice phonetic sounds. Older children can find something in the room or in a prepared tub that begins with “buh” or “kuh”, etc.
Don’t worry – I have a dinosaur sticker book in the bin as backup! 😉
Wooden Magnetic Animal Puzzle Book
This book has been a hit from day one, around 14 months or so. It’s technically for the 3+ older crowd, but the full size magnetic backings make it safe(r) for younger kids to play with.
I also have a cookie sheet that he can use to create his own scenes after removing all the pieces from the book (we are still working on getting them back in properly)!
Pom Pom Box and Baby Doll Kit
Baby Canyon loves to do whatever I am doing, whether it be vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, or watering the plants – he needs to be all up in my business these days! Part of his toy rotation includes a small baby doll that he loves to carry around with him (but he has yet to see these accessories). I wonder if he will be interested in helping Mama “check” on baby sister, and take care of his own baby?
The pom pom box will help with fine motor development and serve as a free play experience.
Flash cards and Felt Numbers
Have you noticed my obsession with felt, yet? First of all, it’s quiet. Second of all, it’s silent!
Still, the joke is on me: both of these tasks are interactive, which means I won’t enjoy the stillness in the air until he is a little older to do independent reading/number work.
I try to laminate flash cards I plan on using for independent or school activities, but not every set is worth the effort/cost. My stack of Dollar Tree flash cards will come in handy for a short time.
Reusable Water Painting Book
I really wanted to put some art supplies into the nursing busy bag rotation, but was hard pressed to find items that wouldn’t require set up and clean up. Then I saw these sturdy re-usable painting boards by Water Wow. It requires some water in the pen, which I have already prepped and replaced into the built-in holder on the front of the book.
A few farm animals thrown into the bag to buy me another 2.5 seconds of free time.
Felt Fishing Game
Yep – more felt! This easy game was created with a couple scraps of felt and a popsicle stick with a small press-on Velcro dot.
The fish can be tucked away inside the felt pocket or fished from the bowl. The Velcro really catches, and it’s fun to try to ‘flick’ a fish off of the sticky dot once you have them hooked!
Play Dough, Cookie Cutters and Special Book
Following the theory that it’s nice to have toys that only make an occasional appearance, select books can be a once-in-awhile treat, too! I try not to limit books he seems interested in (so he doesn’t outgrow them while they are stored away) but I also don’t want to chose books he has no interest in. Then my ‘aha!’ moment came: Library/Seasonal books!
The play dough idea is a risk. I might end up yelling, “Ah! Not in the mouth!” from across the room while stuck under a nursing baby. Let’s give it a whirl, anyhow. I also created laminated play mats to use with this activity.
Leaf Raking Activity
If his sheer joy in pushing around a broom is any indicator, I think he will enjoy this raking activity as well.
We will see who does the dumping and who ends up doing the cleaning, after all is said and done. If he does enjoy it, I plan to expand the activity with a basket of fake foliage and let him go to town!
(Eyes rolling at the thought of the day he will want a dollar reward for helping.)
Figurines and blocks
The Duplo blocks come in their own little sets, which will be pulled out alongside a basket of figurines (Haba, Hape, Playmobil and Playschool are our favorites).
I have yet to purchase them but have included a few similar blocks here just for the visual reference of what they look like (Duplos are toddler friendly as little as 1 1/2 years old)!
Magnetix and Dollar Tree Puzzle
This kid loves to tinker! This kit includes a small wooden puzzle with Velcro dots added ($2 from Dollar Tree) and a small Magnetix starter kit ($17).
It’s becoming apparent that my days of shopping for toys at the Dollar Tree are numbered. My wallet is screaming – but my kid is pretty excited! I’ll take the good with the bad. I’ll admit, it was fun to take a trip through the store and watch his eyes light up. He’s getting so big!
Pom Pom Scoop and Transfer
Pom Poms in Boxes.
Pom Poms in Sand.
Pom Poms in Water.
Pom Poms on Land.
Giant Poms and a scoop? No clean up? YES PLEASE! An empty Tupperware container makes scooping A BREEZE!
(Have your child practice throwing poms at a target, if you need to get a little energy out. Or YOU throw the poms for your kid – voila! A game of fetch!)
Do you have any tips for entertaining a toddler while nursing a newborn?
If you are getting ready for the experience – GODSPEED and GOOD LUCK!