Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Post: Busy Bags

Yay! My First Guest Post!
I asked Rachel, from Sparkling Bay to Host today.

My name is Rachel. I'm Irish. Live on the South Coast of England.  Recently I hosted a busy bag swap with 8 of my friends.  It's an idea I saw all over the Internet, but particularly here. I thought it was a brilliant idea as I just needed to choose one activity, and make multiple copies of it, but in return received lots of varied activities for my toddler daughter.
It was important to me that my daughter was very involved in the process, from making and packing the activity bags, to exchanging them.  It was an opportunity for both of us to collaborate in a little creative act, and share the goodies with friends.  We learned that what goes around comes around, as our friends shared their creativity with us too. Although I love the company of others, I can be a bit of a homebody sometimes, so it was wonderful to reach out and tap into all the wonderful imagination and generosity out there in the community, and for my daughter to witness this.

Here are my tips for hosting a successful busy bag swap:-

1.  Gather ideas for everyone to choose from.  I found a great Google document which I shared with everyone.

2. Decide how many people you want to include.  I think under 10 people is perfect, as the activities can be quite time-consuming to make. Also the less people, the more enjoyable, meaningful and personal the exchange.

3.  Set guidelines.  I found it easiest to share this information in my post, and to be very explicit. Our guidelines were as follows:-
Each activity needs to meet the following criteria:

• Self-contained.  
Each activity should fit in a Ziploc bag. This way, you can just grab a bag and GO! 
• Transportable.  
Yes, they will definitely be used at home, but I want to be able to grab a few bags to take to a restaurant, a waiting room, plane trips, car rides, etc.
• Convenient.  
None of the bags will have supplies that require major set-up or clean-up.

• Inexpensive.
I limited the cost of each bag to £1 (in the US this could be $1). 
• Easy to Make:
 I didn’t want anyone spending hours making their activity. Unless they really wanted to of course.
• Re-usable.
 I want these activities to last a while so that our other children can use them in the future.  Therefore, I avoided activities where you would have to buy new supplies to re-stock the bag.  
4.  Set deadlines.  One for sign-up (the shorter the better, as people can't start to work on their bags until they know how many to make). And one for exchange.  I would allow at least 6 weeks for this, as someone always needs more time!

5. Make an exchange plan.  We exchanged outdoors at the beach, but consider a suitable venue in case of bad weather. There are a lot of people and a lot of bags!  Our exchange was a little chaotic, with everyone talking and exchanging at once..  Next time, it would be best to sit in a circle, take turns and have each person explain what their bag was, and then pass it around the circle until each person had one to add to their growing pile! 

And without further ado, here are the bags!

(These are the directions that came with this bag.)
Here are some more!


Head over to Rachel's blog, Sparkling Bay, for even more great ideas!


  1. I love this idea. The mouse with ribbons is really cute. That is so great.

  2. What wonderful ideas! The swap idea is genius!

  3. Thanks everyone! It was really enjoyable, and we are still using the activities. They were very handy for a recent trip to Ireland.


Thanks for your great comments!