When we went on our first trip as a family, I gathered a bunch of quiet activities for Arlo with HIGH entertainment value and put them in to one of our clutches. It was the easiest thing to pull out of my bag and he loved being able to go through it and pick whatever caught his eye at that very moment. I called it his “busy clutch” and to this day, we still use it on every outing. Now I’m finally here to teach you the formula for how to make a busy clutch for the babies and toddlers in YOUR life too! I’ve broken it down into five categories and tried to include a couple ideas that span a few age ranges for each, though so many of the items can span a huge range!
Picking the Right Bag For Your Busy Clutch
Any sort of small bag, makeup bag or clutch is a great option for the busy clutch. That said, I’ve found I really prefer using clear clutches for Arlo’s busy clutch because he can immediately see what’s in there, and it’s also easier for me to take count of everything being back in there at the end of him playing with it! The striped one I’m using is the current clutch we have out and is only available through tomorrow, in case you want to snag it!
Add Something to Sort
Wallet Filled with Old Gift Cards: This is the pièce de résistance of the busy clutch. Ha! Find an old or inexpensive wallet and fill it up with old gift cards! Little ones will LOVE pulling them out and putting them back in, over and over.
Paint Chips: I recently added these to Arlo’s wallet because we’re working on learning colors. Best part is… they’re free!! Just head to your local hardware store and find the sturdiest paint chips you can in a few colors. Boom!
Family Photos: Arlo LOVES looking at photos so you can also print out a few wallet-sized family photos and pop them in the wallet too! Great for practicing and teaching names of family members and friends.
And Something Creative
Mini Travel Journal + Crayons: I spoke about these mini journals in my “best buys of 2018” post and they’re another staple in our busy clutch. It’s a perfect thing to break out at a restaurant or if the cashier at the grocery store hands Arlo some stickers on the way out and I love that we’re building a collection of little memories and doodles we do together. We keep a couple crayons with us in the clutch, too (or if we have room, we’ll bring along this roll-up colored pencil pack).
Lacing Card: Arlo’s a bit too young for this but I did give it a go on a recent plane trip. Small lacing cards fit perfectly into a clutch and are great entertainment for the older toddler crowd! Target often has them in their dollar spot.
Plus Something That Sticks
Washi Tape: The BEST busy clutch addition for flights with a toddler! Lately, Michaels has had a giant box of washi tape rolls by the checkout for super cheap or you can buy a bazillion colors on Amazon here. It’s great tape because it’s sticky enough to stick to the window, tray table, your face… but not so sticky that you can’t pull it right off. I’ve been using this with Arlo since he was really little and he’d love just pulling off the strips I stuck everywhere. Now he pulls and rips the tape himself.
Stickers: I feel like stickers are a parent’s superpower. Kids just LOVE them, don’t they!? We always have a sheet or two in our busy clutch (and in the car) for him to use in his notebook, or on himself more of than not. Haha!
Then Something To Read
Mini Board Book: This set of mini board books we got as a gift is one of our most used items in our home. They make all sorts of different characters and themes and one of the books is the perfect tiny size to toss into your busy clutch for the littlest dudes and gals!
Flash Cards: For the next stage, you can replace the board book with some flash cards for whatever words or skill you’re little one is working on recently. Bonus points if they’re small enough to also fit into the wallet. BOOM! We often end up using these lotería cards as flash cards and pop a few in Arlo’s! These little lunch box jokes are cute for the older kiddos, too!
And Finally, Something To Play With
Calculator: Why do kids love buttons? I don’t know. But they do, and it’s way more fun to let them play with a calculator than your phone or the remote they stole from your house. Haha! We have this cheap but sturdy (it’s been thrown… a lot) one in ours!
Sunglasses: An old or cheap pair of sunglasses works WONDERS and provides a lot of entertainment! Putting them on and off themselves, and everyone around them, stuffed animals, the works. Super easy addition!
Dimpl Toy: My greatest toy find ever, thanks to our cousins who introduced it to us! This is a bit bulky so I’d only pop it in there for plane flights or a long car ride but it’s like the never-ending toy. You punch all the little “dimples” one way and then flip it and punch them back through. Over and over. No noise, SO much entertainment!
I hope this is helpful to those of you trying to figure out ways to entertain your little ones! I know a lot of people (myself included at first!) are intimidated by taking kids out and about because they are so unpredictable. Having something like this in your back pocket helps alleviate some of that stress, you just know you have a back-up plan should you need it!
If you have something similar for your kiddos, I’d love to hear what you keep in yours! We’re constantly swapping out things to keep it fresh but almost everything we put in there falls within one of the above categories. Putting one of these together would be a GREAT one year birthday gift. Your friends will LOVE you! Ha!