As a mother I often refer to myself as a "bag lady" since it seems I'm laden with them whenever we are headed out. The bigger the girls get, the bigger the bags. One giant bag (such as my faithful Oilcloth Preschool Bag) isn't even enough for swimming, or airplane rides, or church these days. For plane trips I've refined the science and each girl has a backpack she stuffs with her choices of entertainment. (You can read a bit more about this in my traveling with kids post.) bags. I thought it was time they had their own bags for their other activities too such as soccer and swimming and church. Maybe it's silly to have a lot of different bags around, but it sure seems efficient to say "grab your swim bag and let's go" rather than having to unpack and repack a bag.
So for Valentine's Day I sewed laminated cotton Busy Bags for the girls to take to church. I have a complete tutorial for you too (which would also work well with oilcloth)! The goal here is to keep them quiet and engaged in something appropriate so they don't disturb the congregation during the family worship service, Sacrament Meeting. Of course, as they get older they'll be expected to sit and listen and sing, but in the meantime, coloring, and other quiet activities make it possible for their parents to listen!
You may wonder if this strategy means I now carry three bags, plus my own, to church. It's true there have been moments like that. But overall it's working really well! The girls love organizing their bags each Sunday morning and packing them in the car. I love that this is helping them become more independent.
These Busy Bags have plenty of pockets inside and out so their things don't get lost in a big pile at the bottom. I gifted a few small items in the pockets of these bags for Valentine's. They each added the rest. I thought I'd show you some of what is packed for each girl in case you need ideas to keep kids quietly busy.
I designed a double pocket on the front, the smaller of which is perfect for a 4x6 photo album (affiliate link). As you know, children love to look at pictures of themselves and their families. You can also use these to create flip books (Delia has some great ideas for an I Spy Book and a Feelings Book!) My girls each have a little book of scriptures and themes we are focusing on in their children's meetings at church this year.
Among other things, Audrey carries her own set of scriptures, an oversized coloring and activity book (I love this Usborne Doodling Book for Boys), a soccer-themed Boogie Board (brilliant invention!), crayons and a Pocket Doodles small coloring book. I clipped on some hand sanitzer, which I found ready to go with a carabiner at Jo-Ann for $1.
Scarlett's bag hauls a coloring book, stickers (one of my favorite forms of quiet entertainment--I can't help buying them in the dollar section at Jo-Ann), pink floral Boogie Board, crayons, reading book and a few fun toys we've found. I love the magnetic Silly Faces game and the similar LalaLoopsy magnetic paper dolls. Netted Squish balls are a new favorite for my girls, and thankfully, totally silent. I can't help giving them a squeeze myself! I also love these Pkolino Artist's Journals, which include a notepad and set of coloring pencils in a cute zippered case. (I should mention this is not a sponsored post--these are all products we've found and used and love. But there are affiliate links, which provide a small compensation should you purchase any of these by clicking.)
Tess's bag always includes her latest favorite small stuffed animal and a snack: a granola bar, or fruit snacks, or crackers. She likes coloring and playing with stickers too. A Sandra Boynton board book is always good for whispered reading. "Blue Hat Green Hat" is one of our favorites but we have to stifle the giggles at church. Aaron's Thinking Putty was a stocking stuffer for each of the girls this year. They had seen some friends at church playing quietly with it. It's great, moldable stuff, which doesn't dry out and fits nicely in the smaller of the inner pockets. But beware of getting small pieces smashed into your carpet or clothing! I also like The Melting Monster's and Aliens (and similar Melting Snowman). It is pretty amazing! Of course a stack of scrap paper for coloring is great for keeping them busy too!
It was fun for me to pick out different fabrics to suit the personalities of each girl. And even more fun, when after receiving the, Scarlett told me she was glad I'd intended her bag for her because she liked it, and the small gifts inside, the best. The other girls felt the same way. Glad their mom knows something about them!
I found the laminated cottons at the Etsy shop, Laminates. Audrey's bag uses Michael Miller Retro Cameras, Trade Blanket Smoke for Free Spirit, and Michael Miller Celery Ta-Dot, which I "laminated myself" with clear vinyl in an "8 gauge" I found at Jo-Ann.
Scarlett's bag was sewn with Tanya Whelan's Sugar Hill Blue Falling Roses, Scattered Roses, and Tamari Garden Teja Pink, the latter which I also laminated myself.
Tess's bag includes Robert Kaufmann's Kuka Dolls and Riley Blake's Just Dreamy Dots laminated cottons, and Michael Miller Geranium Pink Ta-Dot, which I also laminated myself, and some lime green rip-stop fabric.
Ready to sew a Busy Bag? click through for the tutorial.
TUTORIAL: BUSY BAG FOR KIDS
NOTE: I sewed these bags with a combination of laminated cottons, and quilting cottons which I "laminated" myself by cutting identical pieces from 8-gauge clear vinyl and layering them on top of each piece of cottonm which I then treated as one piece of fabric. This bag should wear well thanks to the double layers of laminated fabric. Oil cloth would be even more sturdy, which is nice for a larger bag.
- 2 18"x20" pieces laminated cotton for the EXTERIOR of the bag
- 2 9"x20" pieces laminated cotton for 2 EXTERIOR POCKETS
- 1 7"x 16" pieces laminated cotton for the SMALL EXTERIOR POCKET
- 2 18"x20" pieces of laminated cotton for the INTERIOR of the bag
- 1 9"x20" pieces laminated cotton for the LARGE INTERIOR POCKET
- 1 7"X20" pieces laminated cotton for the SMALL INTERIOR POCKET
- 1 yard of 1" wide cotton or polyester webbing (looks like belting) (cut into two 15" pieces for STRAPS)
- Coordinating thread
We'll start with all of the pockets so they can be sewn to the bag pieces prior to assembling the bag.
Take each of the pocket pieces and fold in half, rightsides together, with the short ends aligned. Your 9"x20" EXTERIOR POCKET PIECE, for instance, will then measure 9"x10". Pin the sides, leaving the top of the folded piece open.
With a .5" seam allowance, stitch the sides of the pockets from the folded bottom to the top, pivot and stitch 1" across the top. Leave the remainder of the top open for turning.
Clip the corners and turn the pockets right sides out. Fold in the raw allowance at the top of the pockets. Edge stitch closed and top stitch another line .5" below the edge stitching.
For the double EXTERIOR POCKETS, center the SMALL EXTERIOR POCKET over one of the large exterior pockets and pin in place along the sides and bottom.
Edge stitch to secure the smaller pocket to the larger, leaving the top open.
Now it's time to sew the pockets to each of the bag pieces.
On the EXTERIOR bag pieces, place the exterior pockets (inside of the pocket pieces to the right side of the bag pieces) centered and 5" from the bottom edge. Pin in place and edge stitch the sides and bottoms.
Place the EXTERIOR bag pieces right sides together. Pin the sides and bottoms and stitch with a .5" seam allowance.
Clip the corners and turn right sides out.
Now, to box out the bottom, grab one of the bottom corners of the bag and press it flat so that the side seam is lying on top of bottom seam as pictured above. Using a tape measure, slide it down from the corner until you've marked a triangle with a bottom edge of 6". This is where you will fold the bottom corner of the bag up towards the side seam.
Pin the corner in place.
Edge stitch along the fold to hold this corner fold in place.
Then edge stitch along the sides of the triangle. Beautiful, right?! Repeat for the other bottom corner of your bag.
**Now you'll repeat all these steps for the interior of your bag. Center the SMALLER INTERIOR POCKET with it's top edge matching the top of the LARGER INTERIOR POCKET.**
Turn the bag INTERIOR inside-out.
Now slide the INTERIOR into the EXTERIOR with wrong sides together.
Stick your arm inside the bag and be sure to get those corners matched up neatly.
I pinned the INTERIOR and EXTERIOR layers together at the bottom and in the boxed corners and then stitched along the bottom seam of the bag and up to the top of the triangular pieces on the bottom sides. This will ensure the lining and the right side of the bag will stay together neatly.
Hem the bag opening but turning the two layers to the inside .5" and then again 1" and stitch close to the folded edge.
Finish the ends of the webbing by turning them under 3/8" and zigzag stitching. Place the webbing strap inside the hemmed opening of the bag. with the short edge of the strap aligned with the edge of the hem. Align the straps with the sides of the pockets.
Stitch the straps securely by sewing a square over the portion of the strap covering the hemmed bag opening.
You've done it! This bag is ready to keep some lucky kid busy!