Inside: Let’s make morning busy boxes for a toddler! This game-changing idea will have them actually engaged and playing with their toys.
Mornings are undoubtedly a tricky time with a toddler.
You have a tiny human who has immediate needs, plus your own needs, and maybe a baby or older siblings as well?
Suddenly you need to be making breakfast, holding them, reading 97 books, leaving your coffee somewhere, and also possibly feeding a baby as well.
Like I said. Mornings are tricky.
That being said, with a flexible routine in place, you may find that mornings are less hectic and more controlled when you have a plan.
Your plan doesn’t have to include anything crazy like waking up at 4:30 AM and making a green smoothie before running 5 miles (unless you already do that).
It can be as simple as having a few things prepared in advance for your toddler when they wake up.
This can look like:
- Muffins prepped (in the freezer to stay fresh or store-bought)
- Pouches on hand (applesauce, yogurt, or smoothie pouches – great for something quick!)
- Their water or milk filled up the night before
- Busy boxes prepped for the week on Sunday
Having a few things prepped in advance can provide you with time to make coffee, breakfast, and get things started for the day.
Whether that means unloading the dishwasher, packing lunch for an older sibling, or whatever else needs to get done, you’ve now bought yourself some time to do it!
As far as waking up before your toddler:
I feel like this needs to be said more:
Waking up before your kids is not always possible.
There are so many phases of motherhood and with each comes its own challenges.
Once your toddler is on a predictable sleep schedule, you may find it possible to wake up earlier and get your day started.
However, with a new baby or a toddler who is struggling with early morning wakeups, waking up even earlier is most likely not going to work.
In any case, being prepared in advance for the morning will do wonders for your morning routine, whether you’re waking up earlier or not.
Before we dive into today’s topic: If we haven’t “met” on IG, Hi! I’m Marla. I’m a SAHM to 3 little girls + 3 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
I teach a course all about systems + mindset called the Ultimate Stay at Home Mom Course – this course will help you get your stay at home mom life on track!
Inside the course you’ll learn exactly how to establish systems and routines so that your home operates with ease.
Can’t wait to see you inside the course!
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read our full disclosure policy, here.
How do I keep my preschooler or toddler busy?
One thing about toddlers is that they want to be exactly where you are, and doing what you’re doing, right?
Sometimes it’s fun to have them in the kitchen helping you, and sometimes you just need them to sit and play so you can get breakfast made and the dishwasher unloaded.
In terms of keeping a toddler busy, it really helps to have a morning routine (that includes play) that you practice every day.
For my 2 year old this looks like:
- Wake up, take off diaper, go potty
- Get a snack (usually a yogurt or smoothie pouch) and water
- Sit at toddler table with Tonies box and play
This is a routine that we have been practicing for some time and something that she actually enjoys and looks forward to.
Now that she is more verbal, when I open the door to her room she says: “pouch pouch, Emmy play”.
Is this routine for everyone?
Some toddlers will not want to sit at a toddler table. You may find they enjoy being on the family room floor or at the kitchen table.
You may have to start out by working through their morning activity with them the first couple of times before they’ll try it independently.
Every child is different with different needs, however, you can create a morning routine that works for you!
I have 3 different morning activities I rotate through:
- Book bin
- Morning basket
- Daily busy boxes
What is a busy box for toddlers?
A busy box or a busy bin, is a small plastic box (with a lid) where you can store “one day’s” worth of toys and activities for your toddler.
“One day’s” worth doesn’t mean a full day of play, but rather whatever time you’re trying to use the bins for: morning, after naptime, as a quiet time activity, etc.
The idea is simple:
- Set out 5 small bins (Monday-Friday) and add toys such as blocks, vehicles, figurines, puzzles, small games, and activities such as coloring or stickers to each bin.
- Label each bin Monday through Friday and store out of sight until ready to use!
You may be wondering, how does this differ from a morning basket?
A morning basket typically has a learning objective. Morning baskets might be themed for the season or preschool unit being taught.
The concept is to work through different activities and books to build skills and knowledge.
I typically use the same morning basket throughout the whole week and maybe change out a book or activity.
Below: busy box (left), morning basket (right)
On the flip side, for these daily busy boxes, I have one box for each day and they are filled with favorite toys simply meant for play!
There is no particular theme or objective aside from a peaceful morning routine!
Of course you could make themed busy boxes to go with a preschool unit you are working on if you’re doing preschool at home.
- Use the boxes to prep all the materials and activities for each day (as seen here on my Instagram)
- Or collect toys and activities that fit your theme (such as flowers, transportation, oceans, etc.) and disperse them throughout your 5 bins for the week!
This leads to the question…
What do you put in a busy box for kids?
And this is exactly what we’re going to cover below.
I really tried to pick toys and items that I think are available in most of our homes! While we’ll all have different versions of things, in general, most of the ideas below are pretty straightforward.
In a busy box for a toddler, I like to include:
- Coloring (crayons & coloring book, Color Wonder, Scribble Scrubbies, Color & Erase, or a small white board with markers)
- Mini or small board books
- A small manipulative toy (Legos, Duplos, blocks, STEM building toys, magnetic tiles)
- Something fun or of interest to them (cars & trucks, favorite characters, figurines)
- A small puzzle or game
- Create a morning routine that works for you
- Prep toddler busy boxes in advance on Sunday
- Practice the morning routine with your toddler
Morning Busy Boxes for Toddlers
Now let’s look at one week’s worth of daily morning busy box ideas for a toddler!
I’ve created a shop page for you so you can shop the items for each box easily. I didn’t want to crowd this page with links, so you’ll find links to all of the things pictured below here: Shop Busy Boxes for Toddlers
- Mini board books
- Playdough tools
- Mr. Potato Head
- Sesame Street Figures
- Mini Board Books
- Magnet Tiles
- Small Puzzle
- Color & Erase
- Bluey Coloring Book
- Lovevery Block Set
- Road Tape
- Farm Animal Barn
- Scribble Scrubbies
- Mini Block Legos
- Mini Board Books
- Flower stem set
- Mini board books
- Lovevery puzzle
What to Read Next:
- My 2 Year Old’s Daily Routine
- Morning Routine for Stay at Home Moms
- 3 Year Old Learning Activities at Home
- How to Organize & Store Preschool Activity Supplies
- 10 Best Toys for Toddlers (They’ll Actually Play With)