A busy basket has been a must in our house since the kids were old enough to crawl. Back then, plastic lids and wooden spoons were all they needed to keep busy so I could work. I switched it out with different items and they knew instinctively to investigate the basket to see what new surprises awaited them.
As they got older, it was interesting to see what they would reach for. Their personalities became obvious with each new turn of items in the baskets. I learned that clearance items and dollar store finds were about as much effort and cost I needed to put into building the baskets as they got older.
By Pre-K, we were well into ABC games and counting with household items. The key to a good busy basket is to keep it fresh. Rotate items and throw in a big surprise if you need extra time to meet a deadline or just put your feet up.
Library to Build Your Busy Basket
Aside from school books for all grades, including what your child needs to know by each grade, the library offers packs of books by age, interest and grade. I grab a set of those and put them in the basket.
As they got older, I had them choose a pack of books by interest as well as two or three individual books. I would rotate them out of the basket so it was like a little surprise
Dollar Store Finds
The dollar store has coloring books that also help them learn letters, numbers, shapes and basic info for Pre-K and Kinder. We had fine motor skill needs so I took a turn down the tool aisle and put locks and keys, screws with nuts and bolts and small things to build. Grab some clothespins, floral stones or bag of beans that kids can use for counting exercises.
The teacher aisle is stocked with ideas and ways to build a mobile classroom. Pick up scissors and construction paper, ice cube trays and tiny cups as well.
Ideas for Pre-K and Kindergarten
Write letters on clothespins, A-Z and have the kids match the letters to a pack of ABC cards from the dollar store. You can also write the name of the object on the card on the clothespin, such as Apple for A and Dinosaur for the letter D.
Count to 10 with beans or other objects. Have little sandwich bags or ice cube trays that kids can put the 10 beans, stones, beads or other small objects into. Label the bottom of the inside of each square of the ice cube trays with numbers. Kids then fill with the appropriate amount of beans, beads or other small objects.
If you have a ton of those plastic Easter eggs lying around, put the uppercase and lowercase letters on each corresponding half. Kids match up the capital J with the lowercase j, etc.
Gather those tops of bottled waters and make them into letters to spell out simple words, such as cat, robe, nose, cow, etc. You can also use Scrabble letters and Appletters.
Scissor skills are important and can be tough for little ones to master. Start them early with simple, fun things. Print out basic shapes or draw straight lines on construction paper and have kids cut them out to practice those scissor skills.
For older kids, put a ruler in the basket and ask them to make a square, rectangle and triangle. Measure each side with the ruler. For bigger kids, have them find the area and perimeter of their creation. You can make it a game where they are building areas for a zoo so the elephants need a big rectangle, the penguins prefer a triangular pen and the monkeys want a square pen. Here’s an example I made for Shark Week that you can also use. Shark shapes