Busy Baskets – Simple, Quiet Play Ideas for Toddlers

Busy baskets: using common, every day items to create fun, educational and fine motor activities.

There are still two weeks left of summer break here, but I’m starting to get things ready for the Hooligans’ return.  I made our story stones the other day, a really fun and easy project, and I know they’ll be popular.

I’ve also found some neat stuff at thrift shops and yard sales this summer.  I sorted through, and organized them last night, and I’ve displayed them on a table just outside the toy-room door, where the Hooligans will see them in all their glory, as they’re going down the stairs.  I thought for a minute about what I could call these collections of treasury-goodness, and came up with “busy-baskets”.

We won’t spend a great deal of time inside in the fall, so the baskets won’t likely get a lot of use until the weather gets colder, but until then, they’ll be great for rainy days and quiet time.

A collection of busy baskets:

Glass beads with tongs and a small scoop.  The silk bag that I added has a fairly small opening, providing a challenging but fun activity for little hands.  It’s a great sensory activity too: the silky, slippery softness of the bag, and the smooth, cold, beads rattling around in the basket.  Love it!

A couple of months ago, at an auction sale, my mom found a huge (about 10000) collection of vintage buttons.  I felt like a kid in a candy store when I was sifting through them, and washing them up.  One of my favourite childhood memories is playing with a basket of buttons at my Nana’s house.  I love the way they feel when you slither your hand through a pile of them, and the soft clicking and clinking sounds they make.  They’re a favourite of mine for crafting and for sensory activities.  Anyway, my mom, knowing my love for buttons, picked the collection up for a steal.  Aren’t they pretty?

busy baskets - happy hooligans

We’ll use many of them for crafting, but I thought a busy-basket of buttons would be fun, and I added a scoop and a couple of small glass jars for filling.

Coloured glass beads are an all time favourite here. I’m not kidding, hundreds of hours have been spent, playing with these over the years.  The hooligans’ favourite bead activity is filling muffin and tart tins, but we also use them in sensory bins and for decorating play-doh. I placed a bowl-full beside the buttons for scooping and filling the little jars.

Another second-hand find this summer, these little wicker vehicles can hold treasures too.

A basket of assorted hardware: chains, nuts, bolts, clips etc.  I just rummaged through our tool boxes and came up with bits and pieces for little hands to sort and assemble.

paint chips - scissor skills

A tray of paint chip samples and a pair of scissors develops fine-motor skills when you encourage little ones to cut along the lines.  I have to pick up some brighter colours though; we used all of the brights and pastels when we were crafting for Easter.

Miniatures are always popular with little people, so when I saw this assortment of tiny copper vessels for A BUCK, I didn’t hesitate.  Gotta love thrift shops!

And, of course, we have the story stones!

And there you go!  Busy-Baskets: simple, inexpensive activities to keep little hands and minds busy!


    • happyhooligans says

      Aw, thanks Cathy! Keep your eyes open at the thrift shops for out-dated wood and wicker containers. Then you can fill them with whatever little treasures you have at home.

  1. says

    I love these busy baskets! They’re such wonderful ideas for rainy and/or cold days. My mom had a tin full of buttons when I was growing up. They were definitely a favorite toy!!


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