Learn how to make a busy box for toddlers. These boxes are easy to customize and perfect for keeping toddlers occupied at a restaurant, on a plane, while mom is nursing and more!
I wanted to kick off the week today by sharing a fun little project I put together over the weekend! A few months ago while my parents were visiting, they took Squish out to lunch at a local restaurant and when they sat down, the waitress gave him a metal lunchbox. Inside was an assortment of toy cars and dinosaurs that proceeded to keep him occupied and in his seat for over an hour. If you have a two-year-old of your own, I’m sure you have no trouble relating to the fact that this is no easy feat.
After my parents told me about their experience, I immediately added it to my mental checklist to make Squish a box of his own. Clearly it wasn’t at the top of the checklist since I just now got around to doing it…but nonetheless, it’s done now and I’m super excited with how it turned out.
How To Make A Busy Box For Toddlers
We typically eat out at least twice a week and Squish is, for the most part, pretty well behaved. However, for a while now we’ve been relying pretty heavily on him watching a couple shows on the PBS app on my phone. While I don’t have a problem with that, I’ve noticed that lately tv shows aren’t holding his attention like they used to and he’s usually more interested in the random collection of cars, trains and playdough that I have in my purse.
So, I figured it would be the perfect time to make a few of these boxes. I made two so that hubby and I can each keep one in our respective cars.
On Friday night, we headed to Target. While hubby supervised Squish as he ran up and down the aisles of the toy section like a madman, baby girl and I headed over to the dollar section. I grabbed an assortment of small items including crayons, stamps, magnetic letters and alphabet cards. Then we headed to the toy section where I added some $1 hot wheels, playdough and PJ Masks figurines to the cart as well. When I got home, I added a few other things from around the house including stickers, dinosaurs, trains, etc.
Hubby hopped on Amazon and ordered two metal lunchboxes. We chose this one and this one (aff links) but there were tons of fun options for $10-$12. I grabbed duplicates of most of the $1 items and ended up spending about $20 total on each box. (Maybe a little more because we splurged on a couple PJ Masks figurines that weren’t in the dollar section.)
The thing I love about these boxes is that they’re easy to customize. The ones I made are clearly geared towards things Squish is currently loving like cars, dinosaurs and PJ Masks but you could easily choose things your own child enjoys more. We’ll be using ours mostly for restaurants but they’d also be great for plane rides, doctors appointments, etc. And if you have a pregnant mama friend with a toddler, put one together to help her keep them busy while she’s constantly feeding a new baby!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Need to keep an active toddler entertained? Build a busy box for restaurants, flights, etc!” quote=”Need to keep an active toddler entertained? Build a busy box for restaurants, flights, etc!”]
If you make your own busy box, I’d love to see a picture of it and hear what you included! I’m planning to keep my eyes peeled for more stuff and rotate things in and out to keep it fresh and exciting!
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Deanna Segrave-Daly says
I love this! Since Mia was about that age, we’ve always bought a bag of books, crayons, paper, stickers, etc. with us to restaurants – it got nicknamed her “bag of tricks” years ago. Now at 10, she still brings it when we go out to eat or anywhere we might be waiting (doctor’s office, traveling, etc.) and we’ve added games like Uno, Spot It and cards, too.
I love these! We have metal lunch boxes with magnetic letters and words they can work on spelling for later NFC car rides. But I love that you have a bunch of options in there. May I ask what restaurant prompted this idea?
*long car rides
Local roots in Powell!
This is very cool. We keep zippered pouches full of goodies on hand to bring into restaurants because we are firm on no screens at a table, home or away. It was so tempting sometimes, but this helped us keep to our plan and the kids are 4 and 6. Hoping to keep the restaurant success going!
Kelli @ Hungry Hobby says
Love this! I want to send this to my nephew/SIL
This is such a great idea! I’ve started doing this to – hadn’t thought about the magnetized alphabet letters and metallic lunchbox…genius!
We started having a random assortment of stuff every since we went to the Whitney House and saw that they pass out a little tin filled with tiny toys. So much fun! And no screen time needed to occupy the little ones.
What a great idea! My son who just turned 2 hates to sit still in restaurants. I’m going to try this and hope it helps keep his little mind busy.
hope it helps!
Thanks for the idea! We needed something for church since our church is small and has no nursery. Since a metal lunchbox might be a tad loud at church I got a small plastic tool box from the dollar store and put everything in it. All in all it cost me $14 for everything! I’ll keep it in my car and I know it’ll come in handy for restaurants too when he gets tired of the iPad! I didn’t know if I could post a pic to comments but I do have a pic if you’re interested. Thanks again for this great idea!
That’s awesome! I’d love to see it!
This is wonderful! And the lunch boxes to put it all in are adorable! My toddler is into everything and always needs to have something to keep his hands busy, pinning this to make one of our own soon! Thanks for sharing!
I’ll have to make one of these for my LO. SO bought him a set of 4 Paw Patrol puzzles ($5) at the dollar store that came in a tin box for Christmas. We can use that. We get a lot of $1 items at the dollar store including little board books and those repositional sticker scenes and little pots of play dough! He loves magnets so I can get him some new ones now. Walmart has set of 6 that are like puzzles for $6 rotate a new one each week
My kids are now 31 and 32 (2 girls). When they were toddlers we always had “the restaurant” bag, just a zippered tote with playing cards, paper, crayons, flash cards, pen/pencils,travel connect four and coloring books. This was before all the technology now available to toddlers. Even though technology is available my girls will continue the
“restaurant bag” tradition.
awww i love it!
Great idea for Grandmas!! I always have something interesting up my sleeve for the kiddos when we go someplace. I recently traveled on a plane with one of them and the 4 hour layover was a breeze with “grandmas” bag!
This is amazing! I’ll definitely be making up a frenzy of these busy boxes for my 2 boys. What a simple and fantastic idea!
yay! hope they’re a hit!
More like a death box of choking hazards for toddlers.
Hi there! Thanks for your comment. I do certainly encourage people to only include age-appropriate toys and objects in the box they make for their own kiddos. These will definitely vary depending on age. The items I chose to include were all safe and appropriate for my son at the time I created the box. If I were creating one for my 15-month-old, I would certainly choose to include different things that didn’t pose a choking hazard for her at that age.
Was lookng for ideas to keep my 21mth little girl occupied at her big brothers basketball game seen your busy box and i love it so ive started putting together her owe busy box…. Thank you for the great idea
awesome! so glad it was helpful!
You can step this up with chalkboard/whiteboard contact paper glued to the inside lid or outside bottom of the box. Then you always have a coloring surface available. They have dry erase crayons now.
Wow, what a great idea. We try to think of alternative ways to entertain our daughter when we are out and about, other than just hand her a tablet or phone to play with. This uses their imagination, and I guess you could out ‘new’ things in the box every time you go somewhere so it’s exciting to open it! Thanks for this – pinned!
I have just started mine for my daughter who is almost 3 – play doh, crayons, wooden cars, mini colouring book, sticker pot, number flash cards, and working on other bits!
Prity agrawal says
Lovely idea. Will try to implement
This is such a cool idea. I have travel plans that include two 8 hour flights and a 3 hour flight back to back! I am dreading it but this will be such a helpful little box to keep my 3 year old busy! Thank you.