What do you do to keep your toddler happy for hours and have a clean floor at the same time? You make a busy board for baby!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see Disclosure Policy here.
When I found out that I was going to be a grandmother for the first time, I sat in my newly remodeled living room and asked myself, “How I am going to have toys here for my grandchild without sacrificing my beautiful living room?” After all, my youngest child was 9 at the time and he had outgrown all toys and replaced them with video games.
The answer that solved my problem was simple…make a busy board for the baby! We didn’t need any toys just lying around the house because our grandson wasn’t there all of the time. It didn’t make sense to fill our house with toys when we will only see him once or twice a week.
Having three children myself, I knew that toys can get completely out of control and overwhelming. That was not going to happen in our house again!!
We knew that when our grandson was old enough to play with toys, the busy board would be perfect and would not clutter the floor.
It was actually a win-win!!
What is a busy board?
A busy board is a piece of wood full of fun gadgets attached to it.
Do you remember those fun activity cubes at the doctor’s or dentist’s office? A busy board is pretty much the same thing but it has all the fun on just one side of a board.
Most of the items that you can attach on these boards are things that a baby doesn’t normally play with but they are fascinating to them.
I know that when my kids were little, they would get bored with their toys and would much rather play with grown up things that they shouldn’t touch. This way, they can play to their hearts content and it is safe for them.
From squeaky toys to door stoppers, anything can be included on a busy board.
Why do you need a busy board?
These boards are great for sensory play.
Any play which stimulates the use of touch, smell, sight, hearing, using fine motor muscles, etc. is considered sensory play. Stimulating neural pathways through sensory experiences is a crucial part of kids’ early brain development.
They are so much fun and will keep the kids entertained for hours!!
The boards are much better for the kids than a TV because they use their brain and it is hands on play.
If you are at your wits end and your toddler is bouncing off the walls, busy boards are great for keeping their attention without destroying your house with loads of toys!
Busy boards are a whole lot of playthings contained in one little area. Organization is a breeze with this thing. No more taking forever to put away toys or stepping on those legos for the millionth time. (I’m saying this from experience…OUCH!!)
What kind of busy board is age appropriate for your child?
Busy boards are fun for both little and big kids.
If you can attach something fuzzy to the board, little ones love to run their tiny fingers over the fabric and feel the softness.
Big kids love to explore. The chain latch is the best thing for their fine motor skills. We taught our grandson to use it once and he locks and unlocks it over and over again.
Busy boards can also teach basic skills. You can include a zipper and attach a key ring to the metal piece so they can learn to zip it up and down. Attaching shoe laces are also perfect for kids that are trying to learn to tie their own shoes.
Buckles and buttons are also fun to attach to the board so the kids can learn some different basic skills.
Busy Boards are also great for kids with special needs
According to National Autism Resources, busy boards meet the specific therapeutic needs of the autism community.
Some kids with special needs have sensory processing disorders so these types of sensory boards help kids with this disorder make sense of their world. It can also help them meet important developmental milestones.
The five key benefits of sensory play are:
1. Sensory play builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which trigger a child’s inclination for and ability in competing more complex learning tasks
2. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction
3. Sensory play aids in developing and enhancing memory functioning
4. Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
5. Sensory play helps children learn vitally important sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry, etc)
Where do you store the busy board?
We attached our busy board to one of our doors that is never used by screwing it onto the door. It was the perfect fit!
If you don’t like the idea of putting screws in your wall, you can also add a piece of wood to the back like a bracket to stand it up while the kids are playing and store away when they’re not.
Even better, you can make mini busy boards. They can easily be stored in a toy box or on the same shelf as your books.
The mini boards are also perfect to throw in a bag for the kids when you are traveling. They will keep their attention without all that noise and beeping from video games or TV.
Supplies that you need to make the DIY busy board:
These are the supplies that we used to make our busy board but you can use whatever you want!
You can even use supplies from around the home that you already have. If your child loves to play with the handles on your cabinets and you have an extra one lying around, include it on your board! The possibilities really are endless.
That is the beauty of busy boards, you can make them your own. If you are truly stumped about what to add, Pinterest has some amazing busy board ideas to inspire you.
In the meantime, here is the list of what we used:
Additional items could include but is not limited to: Ribbons stapled to the board, buckles, ball chutes, yarn scraps, a crank handle, pulley with a small rope, a sample piece of carpet (the kind that you can take home from the store to test with the colors of your room), just to name a few.
How to make a busy board:
You can buy any kind of board from Home Depot or Lowe’s and they’ll cut it to whatever size you want. We used a pretty thick piece at least 1 inch thick because we were mounting it to the wall with screws.
Sand the board and round out the edges so it will be smooth and safe for those little hands.
I’ve even seen boards that have felt material stapled to the whole thing before attaching the other items. This is great if you don’t have a sander or if you can’t get it smooth enough.
I painted my busy board white but you can paint it whatever color you choose, stain it, or just leave it plain.
Position and mark your hardware on the board. While holding the hardware in place with your hands, test it out to make sure the items work smoothly and properly. If you don’t like the placement or if it disrupts the movement of something else, now is the time to move it.
Pro tip: There is no right or wrong way to choose your layout, babies find everything fascinating anyway so have fun with it!
We pre-drilled and attached almost everything with screws except for the light, mirrors and zipper.
For the light, we purchased some Velcro so it would be easier to remove to change the battery. We used E6000 glue to attach the mirrors and the zipper. Be careful gluing the zipper because we glued too close to the middle and it’s hard to zip it up and down.
I used my Silhouette Cameo to add the words WORK CENTER to the board. These words could also be written on the board with a marker or glue felt letters. Other variations of words could be, FUN, PLAY; KID ZONE; KID AT WORK; or personalize it with the child’s name.
What if I don’t want to make a busy board? Where can I buy one?
If you are not a DIYer and would like to purchase a busy board, there are so many places where you can buy one.
Here are just a few places that I can think of off the top of my head:
Etsy- You can find a board that is perfect for your child here or there are some that people will custom make for you.
Wal-Mart- They have a few boards to choose from. Mostly the Melissa and Doug brand.
Target- There are some cute options here too.
Amazon- They have a huge amount of boards that you can choose from. Super cute and affordable.
eBay- There are a large assortment to choose from here too and the prices are pretty affordable.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy your busy board!
Our grandson is 3 years old now and the busy board is the first thing he heads to every time he comes over. His favorite part of the whole board is the door stopper. I think it’s because of the fun noise that it makes!
At first, our grandson was a little frustrated because he couldn’t take the items off of the board but he now understands that they are not removable and he’ll play for hours.
Another fun part about the busy board is that the items can be switched out whenever needed to make new and fun things for the kiddos to play with. We are thinking of making a small ball chute for ours.
Guest post by Angie Fancher with Flippin Fanchers. When she isn’t busy being a mama and grandma (AKA amma), she loves to come up with easy DIY projects, and fun activities and crafts to do with her grandkids. Keep up with all her fun projects at Flippin Fanchers and on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.