How to Host a Busy Bag Swap

Busy bags are awesome!  They can be used to help kids practice new skills, follow directions, and learn to work independently.  Busy bags also give moms a chance to step back and not be the main source of stimulation, which is important for both moms and kids.

So, what’s the downside? 

They can be time consuming to put together and for moms and teachers time is something we never have enough of.  That’s why a bunch of mom friends and I have organized a busy bag swap.  And not just any busy bag swap–we use ours as a chance for a Moms Night Out!

How to Host a Busy Bag Swap!

But, before I get to the how to part, I should probably explain exactly what a busy bag is, right? 

A busy bag is a self contained activity that a child can play or complete all by him or herself.  All of the necessary supplies are placed into some kind of container (often a plastic bag) that the child can take out and play with.  They can be fine motor activities, math practice, reading activities, file folder games, any game or activity that can be done independently.

Busy Bag Fun

What is a Busy Bag Swap?

A busy bag swap is basically a mom-made activity co-op.  A bunch of moms each agree to make multiple copies of one busy bag to swap with everyone else.  Each mom only has to make one activity and gets to go home with one of each at the end of the night.

How to Organize a Busy Bag Swap:

Determine what types of activities you want to swap.

We are very laid back about the types of busy bags we do.  In our swap we take traditional busy bags as well as consumable activities, such as art supplies or a science experiment. 

We also do activities that would be appropriate for toddlers through primary school age kids.  The moms in my swap are fine with getting an activity that may not work for their kids.  They save them for when they are older or give them as gifts to kids who would love them.  This may not be what you are looking for, decide what would work best for you.

Decide how many participants you want to include.

The more moms you invite the more busy bags you get, but the more you have to make too.  We started small and got larger as we went and let people participate even if they can’t make the event.

Ask anyone who you think would enjoy it, but don’t be surprised if you get a lot of “nos” at first.  If they aren’t familiar with how easy a busy bag swap can be it may sound like too much work at first.  Give moms a chance to jump in after the first one if you have room.  

Choose where and when you’ll have the swap.

Our busy bag swap is a Moms Night Out, no kids allowed.We choose a fun activity and meet up to socialize and exchange bags. 

For us it’s the perfect situation, we get a well-deserved night out and come home with tons of fun activities for our kids.
We’ve done a tapas night, met at a restaurant, had a wine tasting, and have plans to try a night of painting and volunteering as a group this spring.

Find a way to keep track of the details.

Everyone involved needs to know how many people are coming and what activity they are bringing.  We also include the number, ages, and genders of our kids. 

You can use an Evite, a Google doc, a Facebook group, an Excel spreadsheet, a Sign-Up Genius form–anything that allows everyone to see the details of the swap.

Make your busy bags

Pick a busy bag and start crafting! Here are some fun ones to get you started:

And stay tuned!  There are new busy bag ideas each month in our Busy Bag of the Month blog series!  Make sure to sign up for email updates if you want all the latest busy bag fun!


  1. Shannon says

    What have you found to work best as far as supplies? Do you have one person purchase all of them and then break down the cost, or does each mom bring her own supplies for all of the items, or one mom is responsible to bring all the items required for one activity??
    I’m trying to put one of these events together and would love some input! Thanks! So glad I came across your post!

    • says

      Hi Shannon! You could probably do it any of those ways, but they way we do it is that each mom totally preps enough of the busy bag of her choosing and makes enough for everyone coming. We don’t make any of the bags at the actual swap. We hang out or try a new activity and then go home with one of each of the bags for her kiddos!

  2. says

    Hi! I am curious as to how you decide what bags you are doing…do you have to post what idea you have, or is it just a free for all…and if you have a double then it’s no biggie? Just curious…I am trying to get one set up here… :)

    • says

      We post what we were making (or planning to make) when we RSVP, but since not everyone can come every time we actually have had doubles at different swaps. We are pretty laid back about the whole thing. We have kids that are different ages so if we get an activity that doesn’t work for us or is a double we use it as a gift or donate it to a preschool or something. We talked about this happening before we started so no one is disappointed at the swap! I’d love to hear what works for your group!

  3. Julia says

    Hi, grandma here! I have my son and his family living with me for a short while, and since we have very limited room there aren’t many toys available much of the time. The little one is 2 and very advanced, so when I saw this idea I was to say the least.. thrilled! We don’t have any ‘mom friends’ around here and live in a very rural area, so I’m going to do my best to get something started where we can meet some mommies and daddys and have some fun. I will start at the library, and maybe the public pool, then take it from there. Any ideas you have would be awesome!

    • says

      I think your idea of meeting at the pool and library is a great one! Is there a local chapter of MOMS Club International near you? That may be a good place to find people. Or even Meet Up (dot) com. You can start your own group on there. Check out the pinterest board on the post for ideas of bags to make, there are some for all ages!


Leave a Reply

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

CommentLuv badge