Toddlers are such busy little people. Their short little attention spans can hold onto a single activity for what feels like seconds. Finding ways to keep them entertained is a never-ending challenge. And, it never fails you always need to take them somewhere ‘quiet’ when they are in their rowdiest moods.
Instead of fighting with your toddler to stay quiet and behave while you are dragging them along to somewhere boring, try creating a busy book to travel with your toddler and provide a large variety of appropriate activities to entertain them.
Sometimes also called ‘quiet books’, a toddler busy book is a collection of portable activities that fit into a three-ring binder and travel well. They are meant to provide entertainment for small tots on the go. They are great for use in the car on long road trips, in restaurants while waiting for food, or in the waiting room of a doctor's office where your toddler tends to become bored.
The best busy books provide plenty of opportunities for sensory play like manipulating snaps and buckles or moving the hands on the face of a clock.
This might seem like an obvious statement, but your toddler will show very little interest in a busy book filled with things that don’t appeal to him or her. There are plenty of options that have a wide appeal for all audiences, in fact, primary colors go over exceedingly well with small children. But if I am being honest, my three year old just adores pink and a busy book with a pink color theme will be a win for her any day over the usual spread of preschool colors.
Common theme ideas that appeal to toddlers:
Six months or even one year can make the world of difference in the development level of a toddler. Depending on the age of your little one, it is a good idea to tailor your busy book activities to the age and skill level of your toddler.
The younger the audience the smaller the book should be. Not only does it need to be a finished size that is easily handled by your toddler, but younger kids are a little happier with just two or three pages of activities. By age three, you will need to expand the number of activities or pages in your book to accommodate your child’s developing skills and interests.
Individual activities like large or small buttons, zippers, or yarn should be sized to the developmental age of your child. You would not want to include small pieces that might present a choking hazard on a busy book for a very young child. Similarly, as your child gets older, he or she might find some activities like crinkle paper and rattles to be a bit young for them.
Most toddlers get immense joy out of the mundane activities of everyday life because they are brand new to them. Activities that represent common chores like brushing teeth or getting dressed can provide solid entertainment to their developing minds.
A busy book can be made of any material that you wish. Some of the common books that provide sensory activities like buttons and zippers are sewn either with a machine or by hand. You can easily make your pieces out of felt and fabric and stitch the pages together, sewing on buttons and zippers where you need them.
But rest assured, if you do not sew there are still plenty of options to make a busy book. For one, you can simply hot glue or use no-sew bonding glue to put your book together. You could skip the fabric altogether and opt for laminated pages and repositionable stickers or dry erase markers depending on the ages of your children. There is no wrong answer to how you make your busy book, whatever material you can work with will be fine.
Assemble the pages individually and then use loose binder rings to attach the pages together. This allows you to easily take the books apart and swap out pages as you need to. If you have more than one child, you can swap pages to give a little variety without making all new books.
Include a handle to carry the book by. Little kids absolutely love being able to carry their own bags. Adding a handle is a fun feature that they will enjoy as it becomes a lot like carrying a purse - just like mom!
Use your imagination and do what feels fun and your toddler will love it. If you need some ideas to get started, check out our busy book page templates or brainstorm with these fun ideas:
A busy book can be a lot of work to put together so plan ahead before you get started. You will need to choose appropriate activities, come up with a design, cut the pieces, and assemble the book. But once it is done, your toddler can have hours of quiet fun interacting with the pages while you are able to get a few things done.