Class Clown

by Stefani on 12-September-2007

They say idle hands are the devil’s playground. Hmmmm. I beg to differ. First, two year old hands are never idle. Second, two year old hands are the devil’s playground!

Two year old hands are capable of much sweetness. They are chubby and soft and wonderful to hold, but they are often up to no good.

Our local possessor of two year old hands has discovered that school is in session, and that means Mama is sometimes not fully paying attention and he is free to explore (read, get himself into all kinds of mischief).

See, last year he napped while we did the essential subjects. This year though, he’s taken on the nasty habit of staying up until midnight if he gets even a smidge of a nap. So, we keep him up. However, he’s really too young for any kind of schooling, though he wants desperately to be a part of it all. Add to that the fact that the boy has a knack for busying himself in the most untoward ways, even if only given an unsupervised half second, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for trouble.

Really, it’s not all that much time that we’re sitting and working on core subjects, but my smart cookie knows where his window of opportunity lies, and he stores up ideas for when it comes.

Not long ago, he stuffed toilet paper down the bathroom sink and turned the water on. I had no idea until he came into the room singing gleefully, “I made a bee-youuuuu-daful waterfall!”.

Oh dear!

The remedy? Enlist help, and do a little pre-planning.

I pulled out an old trick that I used when the older two were little, only it’s made better now, because I have assistants.

We call them busy bags.


They are gallon sized bags, each with a delightful preschooler activity, deisgned to inspire, to teach, or just to keep him occupied for 10 stinking minutes and, more pointedly, away from the plumbing. I got the ideas and wrote them down years ago, from various sources online and off. I’ve since lost track of where I found them, so if your idea is here, the plaigerism is unintentional.

You see, while I work with one boy, the other helps his littlest brother pick out a bag and say, string noodles,




or transfer colored water from hole to hole with a baby nasal aspirator.


It’s kind of cool actually. Our littlest man is beside us, engaged with us, learning, playing and a part of things. Plus, his brothers get the benefit of taking on some responsibility and fostering those “patience with young people” skills.

Below is a list of some of the contents of our busy bags. I hope it helps provide some safe exploration for the little hands in your house too. Or, if you don’t have little hands, consider this: I once made a box of 12 or so busy bags, decorated the box, and gave it to a 3 year old as a birthday gift. Her parents said she played with the stuff in it much longer than the rest of the beeping, flashing toys that she received.

* Playdough, with plastic cutlery, cookie cutters and a garlic press. We like to make our own and put cinnamon or some other smell good spice in it. Be sure your little persom knows that it shouldn’t be eaten, no matter how tasty it smells.

*Yarn and a pair of scissors. The boy loves to cut to his heart’s content.

*Colored paper and a glue stick. If he’s not cutting, he very much likes tearing and gluing.

*Fat pasta to thread on shoelaces.

* Follow the dots pages and crayons. – We make these up. They are kind of like connect the dots, but they don’t always make a picture. Even more fun, is to draw only two for him to connect. Then draw one more and let him connect again. Continue to take turns this way.

* Eraser play- gobs of shaped erasers for sorting, lining up, stacking, etc. (This is not a good idea for kiddos who like to explore with their mouths)

* Linking shapes or cubes (for linking, sorting, stacking and making patterns)

* Egg hunt – plastic Easter eggs for finding. They don’t even care if anything is in them.

* Paints and colors, of course.

* Baby nasal aspirator and ice cube tray. Our tray is the insert from an old Tupperware deviled egg carrier, but an ice cube tray would work just as well. You just put a little water in, color it if you wish, and teach them to transfer it from hole to hole.

* Paper punching. You fold a hand towel and put some construction paper on top. Hand the boy a skewer or toothpick and let him punch himself silly.

* Buttons and a “piggy bank can”. – buttons are good for sorting, but are also fun to drop into a can (from nuts, butter, yoghurt, etc) with a little slit cut in the top.

* Puppets, for a show.

* Toothpicks – I draw lines on paper, some horizontal, and some vertical and give him a bunch of toothpicks. He lays them on the lines. Good fine motor practice.

* What’s missing? – There’s a little plastic plate in the bag and a few random objects. Starting with about 3 objects, you put them on the plate, tell the little one to look very closely at them, then turn around. You take one object away. Then ask them to tell you what’s missing. As they get better, you can add more objects.

* Stamps and a washable stamp pad. He stamp a row, see how many it takes to go across the page, roll a die to and stamp that many, or just go crazy.

* A cup and straw. – Add in a little nontoxic soapy water, and let him blow and blow until bubbles are everywhere.

* Bean bags for tossing in a bowl or balancing on your head, or passing over and under.

And for the super adventurous days –

Buy the enormous bag of pinto beans or rice, and dump it in a big plasic bin. Throw in a funnel, spoons, cups, etc, for digging and pouring. It’s fun to hide stuff in the beans too. I’ve also hid things in a great vat of flour (it feels SOOOOOO good to stick your hands in it).

You can also spray a whole bunch of shaving cream on the table and let them draw with their fingers in it.

Okie dokie, that should keep him busy for a while!


Anne September 12, 2007 at 9:08 pm

Thank you for all the great ideas. You should sell these!

Sarah Jackson September 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

That is totally awesome. Love love love it.

We’ve had that plumbing experiment in our house too. Good times.

Autumn Fawn September 12, 2007 at 9:26 pm

what fantastic ideas. so excited to try some of these…especially the water transfer.

Marjorie September 12, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Thanks for the great ideas! There are good ideas here for both of my boys (3+ and 1+) And gift ideas, too…

Amber September 12, 2007 at 11:05 pm

This is great – Last year was so much easier as my sweet little baby girl slept while we did school…now she has turned into a little one-and-a-half-year old monster! So much harder this year! These ideas are great and I also went and read your bio about homeschooling – it’s great 🙂

Ellie September 13, 2007 at 12:26 am

Oh oh oh… how wonderful. I need some of these bags for keeping Ari (3) entertained on his own, when I’m lying down with Mishi (7mths) for her naptime. Plus, so much fun for us all to keep our hands busy, our minds entertained, our house messy! You are one awesome homeschool Mama.

kity September 13, 2007 at 3:47 am

great great idea!

i found your blog this week, and i already put it on my faves…

erin September 13, 2007 at 5:22 am

those are great ideas, stefani! i especially like the idea of giving it as a gift.

Angela (Robinson County) September 13, 2007 at 6:09 am

Thanks for all of the great ideas and the fabulous pictures. I think I’ll add a link to this post on my blog–I have a lot of friends with kids just the right age for this!

leslie September 13, 2007 at 6:10 am

thanks stef! i have been wanting to do some stuff with my littlest on the days i am home with her, such good ideas!

Randi September 13, 2007 at 6:28 am

This is a great list! When my babe was younger I used boxes in the same way. Sometimes you just need to keep them busy (and safe!) for a couple of minutes so something can get done!

Amy September 13, 2007 at 6:32 am

gotta go make bags

beki September 13, 2007 at 7:05 am

Thanks for all those great suggestions! I’ve been looking for things to keep my all too busy three year old occupied.

brit September 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

OMG I love you. Maybe my hair will grow back now….

Liane September 13, 2007 at 10:26 am

Wow that is fantastic! I never thought of putting all those activites together in one place. Thank you so much for the list!

kristin September 13, 2007 at 11:09 am




Heather September 13, 2007 at 5:00 pm

YOU ROCK!!! I’ve never seen such a comprehensive list all in one place… and it’s chock full of great ideas. You never cease to amaze me.

melissa September 13, 2007 at 6:01 pm

wow! thank you for so many wonderful ideas. i have a two-year-old daughter and with the cooler weather coming this is gift of activities for both of us!
thank you!

Molly September 14, 2007 at 9:17 am

Where were you when my babes were 2?

emilyruth September 17, 2007 at 2:16 pm

wow! these are so wonderful!…thanks:)

Lina September 19, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Love this. I’m always looking for things like this for long journies…(although some of these might be a bit messy on the move!!). Its so often easy to overlook such simple ideas and get caught up in buying “stuff”. THanks.

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