Busy Baby Tray Activities

Posted on September 15, 2015

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 ibelieveinjoy.com










Author Joy Brownlee. Written and Photography copyrights
to Joy Brownlee @ ibelieveinjoy.com for the photos bearing Joy's watermark.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *