The “Busy Box” for Little Hands and Minds and Limited Play Space

Since Gavin is back at school and Gareth has fully recovered from his bought of Bronchitis, I felt it was time to wipe the slate clean again and cut back on screen time. To shake up the routine a bit, I’ve been getting Gareth out of the house as much as possible and it has helped to address his expectation that the TV should come on whenever he is in the living room (something we allowed when he was sick). But the problem remains that it is difficult to keep the children suitably occupied without turning the house into a war zone. Since we live with extended family, the common areas are shared and we have to be mindful of others.

Because we are still waiting to move into our new place, there is no dedicated play room for the kids. As a compromise, I set up a modified Montessori cupboard so that some toys are easily accessible at least, while I looked on in envy at beautiful play and learn rooms such as this one. The modified Montessori setup was far from perfect, but at least it was working for Gavin. Unfortunately, since Gareth was born, I have noticed that this arrangement is no longer effective.

Initially, I thought we could wait until the end of the year until we moved into our new place to try Jessica‘s suggestion of having Tot Trays for Gareth. Then last night, after being inspired by the Busy Brain Kit and Carisa’s Sensory Bins, I decided to modify her idea to make “busy boxes” instead. We might not have space for a pre-school workbox station, but I figured a couple of boxes that could be carried away when not in use was workable. The idea is to change the contents in the box every few days so the boys never get bored of them.

Gareth’s Busy Box – yes, a bit lame but it was our first trial and I am working on more activities to rotate into it.

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The irony was that Gavin was more excited about Gareth’s box than his own. I also learned that Play Doh is still a bad idea for Gareth (it was originally in the box but I removed it after Gareth made play doh confetti all over the living room floor). I think I shall reserve the Play Doh for a confined room on a day when I am prepared to clean up a mess.

Gavin’s Box – yes, this one also needs more work.

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I only did one box each, but the plan is to create a second busy box for each boy with a theme. I was thinking dinosaurs for Gavin and numbers for Gareth to start with.

What I like about creating the busy box is that I get to dig out older toys that haven’t seen the light of day for a while so they can get some new love. It’s amazing what we neglect when we don’t peer into the corners of cupboards for a while. That’s the problem of not having enough space – you pack everything away so well that you forget all about them.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “The “Busy Box” for Little Hands and Minds and Limited Play Space

    1. Ah yes, they have lots of those in IKEA, too. Definitely want to add more to our collection, but for the time being, I think I have to be a little more conservative because already getting nagged about my children’s junk! Just biding my time…


  1. Hey, think you’ve misunderstood me, reason for that suggestion is bc transparent box is easier to see things inside compared to non-transparent ones, don’t know why I’m always having the problem with ” out of sight, out of mind” more likely my memory is degrading more than expecting………


  2. No I understand. I know a lot of things get forgotten stored away in the backs of cupboards. Having the “Busy Box” helps with that because I go digging for them and take out the stuff that haven’t been seen for a while (as compared to when I left it to the boys to look for something to play when bored).

    For our future storage, clear boxes would definitely work better so that the boys can see what there is and initiate their own play.


  3. Hi Shen-Li:
    Thank you for this “busy box” idea, I’ve juz done a clearance of em’s toys room, found that she have tons of stuffs mixed together. Now I can juz create a theme for her, play and learn in her pax schedule. She also into dinosaur, which inhale some dino books for her too. Now she is in her mandarin lesson, which I have a box of stuffs included flash cards and story books too.

    Play dough….I’m a bit reluctant for her to play….clean up the mess, which I’m not lookin forward to… She been requested zillion time, think I have to let her plays it at home rather than juz in d school only.


    1. Glad you like the idea! It’s amazing how much stuff never sees the light of day because it’s been packed away. I find this is a great way to “discover” new toys.

      I totally hear you on the play dough… I do bring it out for Gavin to play, but also very reluctantly because I hate cleaning up after! :-p


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