Hubby and I started going to a new church more than a year ago. (We finally became members this month.) We love many things about this church, but it doesn’t have a nursery for the little ones to go to during the service. There is a play room with a speaker playing the sermon, but the children generally spend the entire service with the rest of the family. My toddler (almost preschooler!) did fine at first with a few toys and playing with my jewelry, but he has matured a bit and needs more stimulation now. This has forced me to get creative with small, quiet activities he can do in a church pew. We also drive 4-6 hours to see my in-laws a few times a year, so I also need some car-friendly activities. Here is what I have come up with so far for my almost-three-year-old:

  1. Duplo kits (current favorite). I have had my son help me put together Duplo kits to entertain him. We fill a bag with some Duplos to build different things. Usually, the little man, vehicle base, and flowers end up in the bag with some basic bricks. This past week, it was all red bricks. My son used these to make a plane, a horse, and other creations. These didn’t work so well in the car, but I think he just needs time to get used to managing them in his lap.
  2. Velcro sticks. My sister-in-law made these with colored craft sticks and velcro dots. These are great for learning colors and shapes with straight sides (square, rectangle, pentagon, etc.). My son used these to make a drill, a hammer, a triangle, a house, and many other things. These worked well in both the car and at church.
  3. Puzzles. Any puzzle will do. We are currently stuck between the puzzles with four pieces which make a shape and the regular puzzles. I think my son will do better with these later in the year. I don’t think this would work well in the car.
  4. Lacing cards. You can make these out of cardboard and a hole punch or buy the pre-made ones pretty much anywhere (even the Dollar Tree). Again, my son is a little young for these, but I think he’ll catch on to them sometime in the next six months. You could also do a string with large beads. This will make a great car activity.
  5. Pipe cleaners in a bottle. I cut down some pipe cleaners and put them in an empty spice bottle. To make this more challenging, you could put colored stickers around the holes and have your child match the colors. I think this one would also work well in the car.
  6. Matching cards. We have a set of cards where my son matches a colored vehicle to the corresponding shadow. He hasn’t quite caught on to this one yet. These are easy to make, or you could use a matching pairs game. My sister-in-law made our set for us. This is another one we haven’t tried in the car yet.
  7. Dinosaur farm. We have a pencil pouch with some small plastic dinosaurs we get out occasionally. If I include our duplo fence, my son can make a little farm on the church pew. We can also switch out the dinosaurs for some duplo animals we have.
  8. Books. This isn’t really a busy bag, but I usually slip a couple of books in our bag for my son to flip through during church. My baby also likes looking at the pictures once in a while.

I don’t pack all of these busy bags every week. My son usually picks out some duplos and 2-4 books. Then, I pick a couple of the other busy bags to include. Everything fits in my toddler’s play bag, and he likes carrying it out to the car and into the church. He also usually has a little stuffed animal he carries because he will sometimes fall asleep for nap on the way home. Let me know if you have any busy bag ideas.