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Vacation Busy Bags for Kiddos Ages 3-8

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Last week the four special needs kiddos and I went on vacation with my forever friend and her three children.  Our husbands stayed home due to work responsibilities.  We both agreed we wanted a media free week, and so operation busy bag commenced.  I love busy bags, but admit it's very hard to find ideas for children older than 3 years of age.  The bags I've created are made for ages 3 to 8.  One may say portable mini invitations to play may be a better name for them, but since they all had to fit in bags and were presented that way, I'll stick with busy bags.
The kiddos had a blast with all of the bags!  They worked perfectly during clean up and meal preparation times.  I only wish I would have created more.  On our next vacation I'm determined to convince Dinomite that it's okay that I use his superhero figures and possible Star Wars figures.  He was not at all down with sharing them this time around.  All of the materials used for the bags were items we had on hand at home from past units and kids' toy collections.

Here are our bags:

Pirate Play Dough Busy Bag
I admit, this is one of my favorite busy bags.  It includes a ball of homemade sand play dough, a package of dollar store mardi gras beads, plastic pirate coins, square glass beads, and our pirate figures.  The kiddos could play with this bag for hours.  It was one of the most popular bags.

Fairy Play Dough Busy Bag
This bag smelled delicious. Not only was the play dough purple, but was grape scented with glitter sparkles.  Also included in the busy bag were plastic flowers, fairy figures, and foam flowers.  The girls went nuts over this activity.

Insect Play Dough Busy Bag
This bag included green play dough, green and plain popsicle sticks, green pipe cleaners, and insect figures.  The boys played with this one some, but no nearly as much as I thought they would.

Mermaid Busy Bag
This bag was a "just add water" bag, whether it be at the beach or in a bowl at the table.  Sunshine really loved this bag.  It included 6 mermaid figures, foam sea life figures, and sea shells.  I made sure to include two of each kind of shell and two of each kind of foam figure, so Sunshine could practice her matching.

Alligator Busy Bag
This was another one of Sunshine's favorite busy bags.  It was also a "just add water" bag, however she didn't even need it to keep her occupied.  The bag included blue, green, and brown glass beads, popsicle sticks, and alligator figures.
Princess Stamp & Color Busy Bag
This busy bag included small pieces of white paper, stamps, ink pad, and colored pencils. All of the girls did this activity at least once during the trip.

Vehicle Stamp & Color Busy Bag
For those boys who prefer not to stamp and color princesses, I brought along a bag full of vehicle stamps.

Bead & Pipe Cleaner Busy Bag
I decided to use pipe cleaners in this bag instead of string, to make it easier for the littler ones.  A couple of the kiddos had a lot of fun making bracelets.

My Little Pony Busy Bag
Princess loves My Little Pony. I thought it might be fun to include one of her favorite books with ponies so she could act out some of the scenarios in the book.  It was a hit!

Space & Astronaut Portable Sensory Bin
 This sensory bin originally came in a plastic container with a lid.  We found this beautiful glass tray where we were staying, which worked fabulous for the activity.  Contents include dried black beans, dried white beans, marbles that look like planets, sun, & moon, and astronaut figures.  I can't think of a kiddo who didn't play with this.

Make Up & Accessory Busy Bag
I wanted to save the best for last.  This busy bag was a HUGE hit with the girls.  It worked because we weren't going anywhere except for the outside and the beach.  The bag included children's make up-lipstick, lip gloss, eye shadow, etc., bangles and bracelets, rings, easy to put in hair accessories, a portable stand up mirror and Q-tips for application.  There wasn't a day that went by that the girls didn't put on make up.

These bags were so successful, I don't think I'll ever leave for vacation without some again.  None of the kiddos brought any of their own toys.  Everyone shared the bags so well.  There were no arguments that involved the word "Mine!"  The only issue we had was that some bags were so popular it was hard for some kiddos to wait their turn.  In total, I had twelve bags for six kiddos. The one not shown here was a water dropper activity.  I highly recommend three bags per one kid to make the rotation go well.  I love it when plans go so well!  These bags were such life savers. I can't say enough about them.


  1. I love your busy bag ideas! They are easy to pack and take with you as you travel. Thank you for sharing.

  2. These are amazing - what wonderful ideas - can you do one for us adults too! Thanks so much for taking part in the Parenting Pin it Party, really appreciate it.

  3. Wow!! What a cool set of activities!!! I love your "rock theme" too! ;)

  4. I ve not made busy bags before but i m thinking of having a few on standby for the summer holidays for my 2-6 year old kids. #mondaypinitparty #multicraftmum

  5. This is a great idea for traveling with kids! I love that they're so easy to pack!

  6. Love all of these ideas! Such fun in teeny tiny bags :)

  7. A-ma-zing! Definitely pinning for our next big family trip. I love the idea of packing mini bags for all the kids at a location to have fun with.

  8. I definitely need some busy bags next time we travel. Thanks for the inspiration (and for sharing at the After School Linky)!

  9. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday.

  10. Thanks for allowing me to share your post in my traveling with kids roundup. It will go live November 12th!