Make it: Create a busy bag for junior

Need your tot to keep quiet for long periods? These DIY busy bags might just come in handy!


Ever wish you didn’t have to resort to the trusty iPad to keep your young ’un occupied while you were waiting at the doctor’s clinic, or when you need him to sit still at a wedding?

That’s exactly how stay-at-home mum Joey Ng felt when she needed her son, Qi Rui, 3, to be patient. “Whenever we eat out or need to wait for a meet-and-greet session or live show to start, I would take out my phone to look at social media sites and Qi Rui would want to join in,” says the former primary school Chinese teacher. 

As Joey, prefers her son to go screen-free as much as possible, she started putting together “busy bags” for him. These packets contain simple but engaging activities for your little one, so as to keep them busy when you need some quiet time. While these are great for independent play, you can also do the activities together with your child. 

These are useful when you want to keep your elder child occupied while you tend to the younger one, or when you have free time while you’re out. “We also use it to practise fine motor skills or counting,” adds Joey, who is married to Soon Yinjie, cofounder of Tinkertanker, a tech and education firm that helps the IDA introduce programming to preschoolers. She packs two or three activities in a bag ― each is able to engage her son for 10 to 30 minutes. 

Joey, who blogs at Play Le Xue, shares several busy bag ideas!


These are make-it-yourself magnetic letters (you can use magnetic dry erase sheets like these), with dotted lines for your tot to trace his or her name. “I like to use a tin box, so the surface serves as a backdrop for various magnetic play activities,” says Joey. Throw in a whiteboard pen with a duster at the tip, so your little one can do the activity again and again.


He will place letters made of felt onto a soft cork board (stick this inside the tin box) in this activity. To help junior recognise letters, punch holes into the letters ― he will then push matching coloured pins into the felt letter’s holes. Removing the pins will also help him strengthen his fingers.


Or let your tyke thread coloured laces through the felt letter holes ― this will hone his fine motor skills.

More busy bag ideas…up ahead!