What Goes In Busy Bins?

Busy is probably one of the most used words in this momma’s vocabulary. Sometimes I feel like I am too busy, can’t keep my toddler busy, busy with to-dos, busy with my business, busy with my thoughts. Busy, busy, busy! Then again, isn’t everyone busy with something? Well, my toddler certainly keeps me busy, but there are days where I feel like I can’t keep her busy enough! And with a newborn on the way, how on earth was I going to do all the things??

That’s when I stumbled upon something called busy bins also known as quiet bins. Even the name gets a tired momma excited. The thought of my toddler being busy for some period of time without me seemed like a daydream. Busy bins are basically rotating bins you take out with a select amount of items/toys/books/activities to keep your kiddo entertained. So, I set out to create these so called busy bins with some help from Pinterest and my own cunning mommy brain. Check out my Pinterest page for more ideas too!

There are lots of ways to create these. And they look very different for different aged kiddos. Duh? Some mommas label their bins for each day of the week and can consist of:

  • Toys
  • Puzzles
  • Crayons and Paper
  • Manipulatives
  • Books
  • Stickers
  • Playdough

What did I put in my busy bins?

I personally wanted to create a bin that I didn’t have to worry about crayons or stickers walking around all over my house. So I stuck with no mess bins. Well, mess that I could easily clean up that is. I created 8 themed bins:

  • Farm
  • Dinosaurs
  • Garden
  • Zoo
  • Animals
  • Ocean
  • Colors
  • Trains/Vehicles

The theme came pretty easy because I had Usborne Books and More’s Peek Inside Box Set to get me started. These are very appealing to children because they can actively participate with the book and it provides wonderful interactive opportunities for the reader and child. Once I thought of the themes I set out to find things to fill them with around my house, and what I should buy to help keep her busy.


  • Matching Games
  • Puzzles
  • Flash Cards
  • Bingo Games
  • Tissue Paper
  • Paper flowers
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Small flower pots
  • Decorative Rocks
  • Felt
  • Dinosaur Toys
  • Terra by Battat – Wild Animals – Assorted Miniature Wild Animal Toys
  • Melissa and Doug Magnetic Number Maze
  • Felt Pouch Manipulatives from Target
  • PomPoms
  • Cars and Trains
  • Small Gift Bags
  • Paper Cups
  • Popular Playthings Mix or Match Animals, Magnetic Toy Playset
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Velcro
  • Magnetic Stick
  • Books
  • Memory Game

How do I use busy bins?

Well, it’s a work in progress. I don’t have them labeled by days of the week and to be honest, I will pick certain bins based on difficulty or how long I need her to stay occupied.

Currently I have been using them as a distraction tool. Whenever I need a break, or need to change things up, I say let’s get a busy bin! She knows what this delightful magic box is and typically stops what she is doing when I go and grab it.

One important thing to note – I always put the bin down and let her explore it. I don’t show her “how” to do anything. That’s not the point of this bin. It’s for her to explore and play with and learn from. I may open some games or containers so that she doesn’t have to ask, but other than that she has free reign with how she gets to play with it.

Be prepared for your child to play with the bin in ways you didn’t think of, but that’s the beauty of this! They get to learn and interact without you and work on their independence. Once she has had a session or two of playing on her own, sometimes I will sit down with her and suggest other ways of playing with the bin, which will reignite her curiosity. For example, the Zoo busy bin has small animal figurines. I put out a strip of tape and suggested the animals could march on the line. She loved this and even started to count animals she placed on the line….1….2…2…5. Still working on counting. 

How often do I give her busy bins?

I only (try) to give her one type of bin per day, but sometimes one bin will stay out for a day or two because it keeps her interest. I’m finding that they are most useful when I am trying to cook dinner or need to make a phone call. This will probably change as the needs arise because let’s face it… a household with children is always changing! Recently, I put out two bins for her to choose from with the other toys she has and will periodically swap them out. Personally, I think they don’t look so overwhelming with just two, unlike the top picture of this post. There are a ton of ways to utilize these great little bins – so find out what works best for your family!