What’s a busybox? It’s essentially a box of sensory items that a child can play with to encourage sensory play. Setting up busyboxes can encourage engaging play and also earn yourself some peace.

From rollingprairereaders:

“A busy box is toy rotation on a tiny scale. Basically, you grab a shoebox or small container and fill it with a handful of open-ended toys. Your child can then mix and match the toys for a variety of play options. Unlike busy bags, where there is just one activity for a child to complete, a busy box allows a child to be more creative in their play. It also increases focus and stamina for playing with a limited number of materials, while building independence (and a little bit of freedom for you). A busy box can be used at any time of year, but I find my kids particularly enjoy when I “theme” them for a holiday.”

Why use busyboxes?

Busy boxes can help encourage calmer days. They can be as simple and as low cost as you make them be or as elaborate as you want. They’re relatively easy to clean up, too, bearing that the sensory items stay in the box, that is.

Benefits of using busyboxes:

According to misskindergarten, there are three big benefits of using busyboxes: exploration, inspiration, and freedom. Busyboxes can encourage children to explore the items in the boxes and in turn lead to natural learning. They can also help foster both imagination and inspiration. Watch a child during open-ended busybox play and see how inspired they become! Busyboxes allow much freedom to explore.

A picture of a toddler playing with pasta in a busybox.

Let’s talk about how to set up a busybox in just three quick steps!

Step 1: Grab a filler.

This can be anything that fills the box, but here are several options for you to choose from:

  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Beads
  • Tapioca
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Sand or Kinetic sand
  • Dirt
  • Water
  • Plain paper

Step 2: Grab a few accessories.

You can use anything again here, but you’ll want to make sure it complements and expands the filler. Think dot markers for paper, a string for beads, scissors for Playdough or paper, etc. Here are some more accessory options:

  • Scoops
  • Crayons
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Small toys around the home (Hot Wheels, Happy Meal toys, Legos, etc.)
  • Dinky cars
  • Magnet or Wooden Letters

Step 3: Place it all within a boundary

I tend to lean toward using a bin, but a simple tray with low sides, a serving tray, or even a plate can work! This helps your child define their space for playing and working and generally makes clean up a little easier.

Bonus: Enjoy a little quiet! Here’s your permission to use the time to decompress, finish your chores, a cup of coffee, or give one-on-one time to another child.

We hope you enjoy creating busy boxes for your little one. Remember - the three simple steps we outlined: filler, accessories, and a boundary. If you make a busybox for your little one, we’d love for you to share it with our communities and us over on Instagram. Tag @thebeckablog and @simplehomemom! And check out Becka’s blog over at The Becka Blog.


Blog image overview with 3 steps to setting up engaging play.

Collab author bio:

Becka is a mother of 4 children under five years old - 4-year-old triplets and a one-year-old. She also writes for her blog, The Becka Blog, and Instagram by the same name. She is a previous special education teacher with both a bachelor’s and masters in education. She passionately shares about education, play, inclusion, and life skill learning on her platforms.

A picture of Becka.

Hi, I’m Kelly! I’m a mother of four children - three boys, one toddler girl - and our family lives on the beautiful east coast of Canada. I’m a past elementary teacher, turned stay at home, work at home mom eight years ago after I had my second child. I’ve found that the busier I’ve become and as my children age, that it’s become even more important to figure out what is most important to me and us as a family. Living a simpler lifestyle has helped us in so many ways in our home life - from better routines to faster tidying up times. It has been through my children that I have been inspired to learn how to effectively manage my time and to simplify in all areas of my home and life. I enjoy helping busy moms simplify home life by teaching flexible planning methods and skills. Enjoyed this blog and think it would be helpful to others? I'd love if you shared it. Thank you!