Monthly Archives: September 2015

Busy Baby Tray Activities

Busy Baby Tray Activities : Low Cost Activities to Keep Your Little One Engaged for 30 minutes (that means you get a little peace 😉

busy baby tray activities ibelieveinjoy 

Busy Baby Tray Activities : Low Cost Activities to Keep Your Little One Engaged for 30 minutes (that means you get a little peace 😉

 by Joy

Before we begin: I call this post “Busy Baby Tray Activities” but of course – do not use any activities with young babies of choking age. Make sure your toddler is old enough to keep busy playing and not eating the supplies 😉 Routinely check parts for wear and tear to reduce choking risk and never let kids play with bags.

I began using a cupcake tray as my “Busy Baby Tray” because my kids thought the name and tray was “wonderful” and it has been an awesome tool to keep my little ones busy while I do what I need to do. Like find 30 minutes of connecting quiet time a day, work from home, or make an important phone call. There are times when I want to connect with my older kids and do our journal and devotion time and I need to keep my toddler busy. Thus, I invented our “Busy Baby Tray” activities. 

1) What is it?  A cupcake tray with lid and accompanied planned activities to keep my toddler busy.

2) Where do I keep it? In the kitchen cabinet and only take it out for the times I need a solid 30 minutes of an entertained toddler.

3) Why don’t I just stick my toddlers in front of an ipad or “educational app” on my phone? Studies are showing that infants even from birth to school age are watching more screen time in a day then they are resting. The risks to this long term are already beginning to be seen. I choose to limit screen time activities to the weekends for our family. So when I setup a 30 minute activity to keep my toddlers busy, I am also making the conscious choice to allow their brain and mind to develop through engaging through independent thought and play. They are also learning a vital skill- one that can never be bought, downloaded, or given – the skill of self creativity.  To feel the ideas and not watch the ideas. To experience the learning in the brain – and not distract the brain. To be part of mastering a task – and not watch someone else master a task. These are powerful differences which take place in the brain and development of a toddler during the first 5 years and lays the foundation for all learning later on. 

4) How much does this cost? After the initial purchase of the cupcake tray, All the 5 activities here I created for under $5.00 each. It seems like such a small amount to pay to watch my kids develop their creativity and mathematical portions of their brain while I get 30 minutes of quiet each day = priceless.

Here’s a Photo of My Busy Baby Tray Activity that I keep in my Kitchen Cabinet:

Busy Baby Tray by ibelieveinjoyThe cupcake tray is a basic tray and lid set you can get for under $10. Inside the lid I keep my gallon sized ziploc bags with 1 activity per bag. Do not let kids play with bags.

Busy Baby Tray ibelieveinjoy

I know that toddlers at this age have about 10 minute attention span, and my goal for quiet time is 30 minutes per day. So, I have 5 activities in bags ready which will each last about 10 minutes each. I over prepare, and often times will only need to use one or two activities to keep my toddler busy for this 30 minute time period.

While teaching at the library in San Diego I had to create low cost activities for families that had either a limited income, a single parent home, grandparents raising children, military families, or families in transition for some reason. I found that lack of income was potential risk for lack of engagement – a huge detriment to the first 5 developmental years  – which are critical. Yet, each week, more and more families came, and I found that if I could create low cost activities for those families – they all were more than happy to learn how to make low cost activities and engage their children. So, here are 5 activities that had high success with that test group.

1) Pipe Cleaners & Large Craft Buttons Busy Baby Tray Pipe Cleaners and Buttons ibelieveinjoy

The toddler can thread the Colored Pipe Cleaners through the Large Craft Buttons. Older toddlers can match button color to pipe color. Younger toddlers can try to get as many buttons on a pipe as they can. The options are endless. Save this activity to teach your kindergarten age child how to add, subtract, count, create ABC patterns, and SO MUCH MORE.

Here’s a photo of a busy baby tray in action: “I DID IT!”copyrights ibelieveinjoy

2) Large Milkshake Straws and Small Drinking Strawscopyrights to ibelieveinjoy This activity is so great for hand eye coordination, fine motor skills, developing pre-writing coordination, and just having fun! I cut the milkshake straws into segments (don’t give to choking age infants) and then I keep the thinner drinking straws whole. My toddlers thread the wider opening milkshake straws over the thin drinking straws. It keeps her busy and happy!

3) Pipe Cleaners and Strainercopyrights ibelieveinjoyFor this activity I keep the strainer in the cabinet and pull it out when it’s time for the busy baby activity time. My Toddler loves to poke the pipes through the strainer holes and make designs, shapes, pretend birthday cake with candles, and count as far as she can go. This of course also works all the hand eye coordination and fine motor skills as well. 

4) Puffs & Cupscopyrights ibelieveinjoy

This is perhaps my Toddlers current favorite activity. I pair 10 plastic mini cups with 10 extra large colored puffs (2 of each color) and watch what she will do! She matches, pours, creates pairs, pretend tea party, pretend ice cream cones – all while developing the brain mathematical center for patterns and sequences – a vital skill for later learning. 

copyrights ibelieveinjoy

She LOVES when I pull out this Busy Baby Activity. It gets me happy just looking at it too!

copyrights ibelieveinjoy

Here’s an example of how this activity inspires concentration and creative engaged play:

cups and puffs ibelieveinjoy5) No Mess Pouring Activity for Toddlers: Measuring Cup, Beaded Necklace, Pouring Cupcopyrights ibelieveinjoyThis activity was invented by accident – as most of my life is! Ha 🙂 And it has proven to be one of my most trustworthy activities! My Toddler at the time LOVED to pour. Everything. Anything. Usually – a mess. I needed to harness that learning curiosity for transfer of matter into something that could keep her occupied and not make a huge mess. Thus, busy baby activity pouring was created. She can pour the chain out, mix it, pour it back – over and over and over and over. Add a whisk into the bag and you just might not get the activity to stop 🙂 Make sure your necklace is in good condition and prevent choking. My Toddler loves this activity.

copyrights ibelieveinjoyI hope that these low cost “Busy Baby Tray” ideas will inspire you to look around your home and see how to capture that free spirit and creative energy that our kids all naturally have when they play. We still have it too – it just gets covered up I think by pressures of life and demands of the day. But if we connect with God and our own family intentionally for 30 minutes every day – while our babies are busy learning and playing with their activities right beside us – well, we might just have moments of quiet inspiration to live with a little bit more joy today.

You can buy all the supplies listed for under $5 each activity at your local Walmart or Craft Store. For convenience I have added links to purchase them in bulk as well, that way moms groups can split the cost and save even more. These are affiliate amazon links: 

Cupcake Tray & Lid  

Gallon Ziplock Bags 

Pipe Cleaners – bulk


Large Craft Buttons – bulk

Mini Cups – bulk

Large Colored Puffs – bulk

Beaded Necklaces – bulk

Thanks to all my “busy baby toddlers” and their awesome families who tried out these low cost activities. I carry your BIG little smiles with me every day!  ~ Love, Joy

You will also love this: Invention Box










September 11th

Open Letter to September 11

by Joy

Dear September 11th,

I remember the first day I met you. I can still smell the coffee on the counter. I can still hear my roommates chattering and yelling at me to turn the television on. That day we first met lingers on my mind, like a scented perfume that will never, ever, wear off.

There were stages of our relationship. Disbelief, horror, shock, despair. Vengeance, anger, confusion, concentrated attention. Sadness. Mourning. Loss. Grief. Children left parent-less. Parents left child-less. Families torn apart. Civilians torn apart. Bystanders torn apart. Service men and women torn apart. Life. Death. Humanity. Eternity. All questions collided with the planes that day, yet more questions burned in the flames unanswered.

Hello again, September 11. I knew you were coming. I decided this year I would be ready for you. I have been doing some soul searching. I have been reading. I decided I would stop reacting and start living with love, right now, where I am, in your honor.

Today, I looked at your memory and I shared love. Today, I listened to hundreds of heartbeats that made their beautiful last rhythm that day, and I played a new note for their honor. Today, I took your inflicted pain, looked it in the eyes, and decided that I would respond with love. 

In the physical body, when a cut or injury happens, the initial response of the body is to attempt to heal itself through first, vasoconstriction, and then by flooding the area with a massive amount of cells that will stick together. The area becomes hot, painful, and swollen in this initial time. This reduces blood loss and protects the body from outside influences. But the body cannot do this in the long run and still heal.

The next step is that swelling and pain is decreased, vasodilation has to happen, and the wound begins to heal, from the inside out. The amazing thing about this process, is that the body does not regenerate lost tissue, but it actually must replace it with something new and similar. There is a new growth of cellular development that would not be happening without the initial cause of the injury.

In the mental, and spiritual body, do we respond to injury the same way? This concept had me thinking this week as I began to prepare for the arrival of your visit, September 11. You are not just in the past. You are not just in the future. You have become a part of me. A new growth has occurred in my heart, mind, and spirit because of the injuries that occurred on that day.

Before you arrive, I just wanted to send this letter to you, so you can know a few things about me. First of all, I have changed. I have come to peace with the fact that I will never get over you, but I will always live better because of you. I have made my choice. Everything that you intended to harm me with, God has made for good. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Only through the darkness can we see the stars.” While this does not mean we like the darkness, it means that I see the light which is brighter. I choose Love. Dr King’s words were as true then, as they are today:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963

September 11 2001, I have been healing from the inside out since we first met. Since the first time our eyes locked glances, and I fell into a trance that was so hard to escape. I did not know how healing would work, or what would come of it. But I made up my mind that no matter how painful the healing process took, that I would choose Love.

Today, I walk with my 3 children down the street. We wear handmade T-Shirts with paint drips from little, innocent hands painted and freshly imprinted. The front of the shirts say, “September 11th We Remember.” The back of the shirts say, “We LOVE.”

Minds that do not yet know of hate, or vengeance, or politics, or war, carry handmade cards with hearts squiggled on their covers. Small footsteps, that tenderly walk this gift of earth, follow my footsteps with full trust, full surrender, fully modeling my actions. We walk together, and in the rhythmic pitter-patter of my children’s feet, I hear a familiar heartbeat. In fact, I begin to hear hundreds of heartbeats. Heartbeats not lost. Heartbeats not torn apart. Heartbeats not fallen, nor surrendered, nor broken. Heartbeats of those who have already met you, September 11th, yet, choose to LOVE. 

We carry those heartbeats with us. Up the front steps of the Police Station, the Fire Station, and the Military Center on our block. We ring the bell. With jam and toast still stuck on their purely innocent faces, smiles turn to laughter, laughter turns to joy, and joy turns to LOVE as we greet our local servicemen and women.

These servicemen and women, who are another person’s parents and children, open the cards, and read these words: “September 11 We Remember” on the outside and “We Choose LOVE” on the inside. Gift cards fall out of them, as freshly baked dinners are brought into the station. “What is this for?!” the service men and women exclaim. They open their gifts, and a new process begins to happen, that never would have existed, without the pain of the initial injury.

Just like to accomplish full healing in the body, a new process is started, with new tissues, that never would have been present before, so did we decide to make a choice, for Love to begin the same transformation in our lives. A new process started. A new healing. From the inside out. Looking around that room, hearing the heartbeats thundering in a new unity of love, I realized something. September 11, I had to write you this letter to let you know.

I am better because of you. Love has made me a new creation. There is a new goodness and capacity for love in me that goes deeper, reaches farther, and can climb higher than ever before. Because of the depth of the wounds that are being healed in me, I am not afraid to love. In fact, I run towards it with the last breath in my soul. This year, I am not afraid to greet you. I am not afraid to wrap my arms around the unforgettable scent of you, because the truth is, you do not define me. I am defined in every breath I take, by one choice I make, that you can never take away from me. One choice I make, that can never be silenced, nor weakened, nor threatened, nor manipulated, nor covered, nor stopped. 

So before you arrive again this year September 11, please make sure you read my letter and understand. I know we haven’t seen each other in a year, but you need to know, I have made my choice. 

I choose LOVE.
















Me and My House

~ This letter is written in honor of every human life that was lost on September 11, 2001. Your heartbeats that were silenced were a true, historic, tragedy, that we as a people will never forget. Yet, we are not broken. As we heal our heartbeats are beautiful, united, and strong. We Remember. We LOVE. 


The King Center: Strength to Love by Dr Martin Luther King Jr @

Lovearthnetwork: Strength to Love by Dr Martin Luther King Jr @

DM Medical: How Wounds Heal @

sept 11 2

September 11

Family Vision Statements

Family Vision Statements

Family Vision Statements

by Joy

I prepared this lesson for a Women’s speaking engagement, and people shared with me that it was a powerful hands on activity that helped to help strengthen their diverse family units. So I will post the activity online here.

We have walked beside so many friends, strangers, military families, (and ourselves!) who were sailing smoothly along – and then out of the blue, a life changing event happened, that left them asking – “What are we going to do now?” A loss of a family member, a difficult choice that is now having consequences, or even just the daily stress of finances, a chronic illness, or everyday life.

Creating and implementing a Family Vision Statement (also called purpose statement or mission statement) can be a powerful tool to strengthen and transform the trajectory of a family.

“We were honestly headed to rock bottom,” one mom told me. “But now we are on the same page and moving forward.” Implementing a Family Vision Statement can help stop the destructive cycles we often find ourselves in, and allow us to hear God’s heart for a new season in our families, and then run with joy and commitment towards it.

But Family Vision Statements are not just for use in hard times. They are a powerful tool that strengthens and prepares our families every day to have the patterns in place for effective communication, shared vision, and a clear measuring line to decide priorities. Developing a Family Vision Statement and implementing it together as a family can be a powerful tool to remove walls and reunite for a common purpose.

So, what is a Family Vision Statement? This fill in the blank lesson was used for a hands on exercise, so I am posting it below to share. 

Family Vision Statement Activity 

by Joy Brownlee

1) A Family Vision Statement is: a written statement that gives us a clear direction to run. A clear focus to measure our priorities against. A united purpose, and a united intention, that guides how we communicate and act within our families AND how our family _serves the outside community.

2) What does the Bible say about vision statements?
Habakkuk 2:2: “Write the vision, make it plain on tablets, so he may _run forth_ who _reads__ it.”

3) What does the corporate world say about vision statements:
“Vision statements are crucial to communicate within the organization and outside the organization, why your company will do what they do, what their goals are, and you can spend more time being _effective communicators _ instead of trying to fix poor communication problems later.” (Cella Business Corporate Consulting).

4) Two Notes:
* Vision statements are Not for __Perfect Families___. (They’re for imperfect progress.)
* A Vision statement is NOT saying that we are choosing to be in _Control__. (It’s the exact opposite. It’s surrendering together to run towards a united purpose as a family. We will fall on the way and we will each have to decide to get up and keep moving forward. We cannot control others, but we can decide the direction we keep focused on.)

5) Below are Examples of Family Vision Statements from real families, comprised of single or married parents from diverse cultures:

* We will keep moving forward.
* We will be joyful adventurers into forgiveness.
* We will choose joy.
* We are over-comers.
* We will shine God’s light and love.

6) Steps to Create a Family Vision Statement:
I. Pray___ We can give up trying to control our family and begin by connecting to our family with love and prayer. 

II. Repent___ Give God permission to have the direction of your heart and your family. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made and ask and extend forgiveness to members of your family unit as needed.

III. Listen___ We all have our own biases and shortcomings. Let’s listen as God and those we trust around us help give us feedback as to how we can move forward. One and two parent homes can seek family counseling during periods of time as needed. Divorced families can definitely still make a family vision statement together. If an agreement on some basic kind actions of treatment can be reached – what a difference that could make in the life of the children. 

IV. Discuss and Create the Family_ Vision__ Statement_ for this season of your family. Discuss and revise. Include each person’s input.  Use cultural and spiritual truths that are important to you to guide your family as you draft your family vision statement. Include Children in the process and remember there is not about a destination that we will arrive at, but a TRANSFORMATION or our hearts and mind – together.

VI. Celebrate_ Committed time each week (ie Friday Family Fun Night) to discuss, touch base, and celebrate the small steps of progress we make together.

* Film / Media movie that Highlights using a Vision Statement Display board: (If you have kids and want to involve them in the process, Gabby Douglas, has an excellent movie out that shows how a family vision statement displayed on a board was used powerfully in her family and her ability to reach her Olympic goals. The movie is called, The Gabby Douglas Story, and can be watched together as you start your own display board.)



ibelieveinjoy* Display your board in any spot you like. This is a favorite spot in our home where the kids like to sit and read or play. As ideas come to their hearts they can post it on the board, and we can talk about their hopes and dreams for their life and their family.

* I hope this activity and visual display idea may help guide an individual, family, or group as they move forward. Family Vision Statements can help us be united in purpose, have a clear way to communicate our hearts and dreams, and help guide the priorities in our families. I invite you to be creative and enjoy the process of imperfect progress and celebrate life together!


  ~     Love, Joy

You might also enjoy: new.ibelieveinjoy.comHow to Develop a Daily Quiet Time for the Whole Family


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