September 1, 2011

Busy Bag Swap: Day 1 (Bottletop Barnyard)

Chelsea and I are going to kick off this Busy Bag Swap series by posting each of our own blog assignments, respectively, and each day, we'll feature a new assignment from a momma in our group.  

Since it's my day to talk about my Busy Bag assignment and since we asked everyone to answer these questions, I guess we will, too:

Our family:  Charlie & Kirby, Asher (4),  McKlayne (3), and Oliver (6 months)

How do you spend your free time? I'd like to say blogging, but from the ever-increasing unread posts in my Google Reader and the lack of posting ... you'd all know that I almost never have free time! I like to craft — mostly sewing stuff for my kids. My favorite thing to make them is costumes since they currently love to dress up so much. I enjoy watching their imaginations come alive as they take on a new role depending on who they're pretending to be that day. I also like to make gifts for friends and family. I love garage saling and upcycling furntiure. Charlie and I both enjoy doing that, so it's a special time that we share — when given the opportunity.

When you were a child, what was one of your favorite ways to spend the day? Playing with my dolls, my dollhouse or my Barbies.  My two favorite dolls were Samantha and Bitty Baby. One of them was constantly either on my hip or in stroller.  I loved to play Barbies or "house" with my two older sisters when they let me.  I remember spending a lot of time playing dolls with them in a small enclosed closet (attic?) attached to their bedroom in a house we used to live in.  I would watch how they carried their babydoll around or listened to how they talked to their babies and would mimic them.  (I still do that in so many ways.) I would also play for hours in my room with my Little Tikes dollhouse. My mom saved it and most of the furniture, so McKlayne has been playing with the figures and the furniture with another dollhouse that she has.  This is one of her favorite ways to spend her day (which melts my heart) playing so we're cleaning up my old dollhouse for her for Christmas...shhh!  

Fondest memory with your mom as a child? I loved being in the kitchen with my mom helping her make cookies, when her and my dad would take us on family bike rides, and when she would read to us.  But my favorite memories?  This may come as a surprise to her...but I loved the days when she would drop what she was doing and jump rope with us in the driveway.  We'd take turns swinging the rope and jumping in the middle while chanting rhymes from a jump rope book.  Sweet memories. I wish I had a picture of us jumping with her from when we were little.

What does special time with your children look like? Special time looks different with each of them.  A & M (and no, we're not that hardcore of Aggies; it was just PURE coincidence) both love for me to sit down and read to them, craft or paint, play a board game, or help me in the kitchen.  Oliver loves for me to hold him.  Honestly, I think they love to doanything with me when they see me drop everything and am fully engaged with them...and I don't do that often enough. Asher enjoys for me to help him with handwriting or to work on a puzzle with him. McKlayne loves to sit in my lap, play with her dollhouse with me or have a fancy tea party.

Favorite outdoor activity with your children? Outdoor activities (that haven't included water) have been sparce as of late, but we love to walk to the park and play or collect treasures like bugs, acorns or flowers.

Favorite blog for children's activities/crafts/parenting? There are so many that I've linked to on this blog in the past, but my most favorite as I've been planning for what this Fall will look like is  All of her images are so lovely. I've been inspired  by her celebration of different "themes". I plan to recreate a lot of them as we play and learn intentionally together this year.

A favorite tradition that you want to pass down to your children? I loved the reverence of the traditional church services that we attended for Christmas and Easter. I hope to pass on that same spirit of reverence and worship throughout the respective holiday season.  My prayer is that their hearts would be ready to worship Jesus. I believe only the Holy Spirit can do that,  but my hope is that we'll create environments on ordinary and special days that would encourage their hearts to meditate on Christ and love Him.


Alright...let's get to it...I had a hard time deciding which busy bag to "assign" myself and (you can ask Chelsea) I was actually still going back and forth until 5 days before the Swap when I finally made up my mind! Yikes!  I work best under pressure, but I think I was making Chelsea, who always has everything so perfectly in order and planned out on her calendar, a little nervous!  The inspiration actually came from these bottletop name cards

I made some family name cards for my kids a couple years ago of themselves, their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.  They love them and still pull them out to play with them so I decided that every child needed a busy bag activity of farm animal cards that I named Bottletop Barnyard.

Each bag contains:

-26 bottlecaps of letters (not the whole alphabet; some words require duplicate letters)
-16 farm animal cards (8 pairs of mommy/baby)
-3 cards of Barnyard Songs

Pour out all the lids onto a table/floor.  Have your child turn over each lid so the letter is on top.

Give your child the stack of animal cards.  
One by one, have him find each bottletop and match it on top of the appropriate letter on the card until the name of the animal is spelled out.

This activity promotes letter recognition and matching (and later spelling.) 

Once your child has matched the bottletops to the card, celebrate with the appropriate animal sound!


Even if your child does not quite know their letters, they should be able to identify them as different "symbols" and match them accordingly.  

For younger children, work on one card at a time and pull aside only the letters needed so they are not as overwhelmed.   This is a great time to introduce them to letters as you hunt for them together.

I also included 3 different song cards about farm animals:

What I love about this activity is the variety of ways that you can use it to play!

ANIMAL INTRODUCTIONS: Talk about each animal mommy/baby and the sounds that each of them make.  (For older ones...use your cards likeflashcards to "quiz" your child on the names/animal sounds.  They willLOVE this!)

SORTING:Lay out all of the cards face up on a table.  Have your child sort the animals according to the mommy/baby that they belong with.

SONGS & MOVEMENT: Choose one of the three Farm Animal song cards included and sing the song with your child. Let your child look at the cards and choose which animal they'd like to sing about for each verse. Make up additional verses/sing about additional animals and their sounds: ducks, turkey, owl, piglets (wee, wee, wee), etc.

ROLE PLAY:Have your child act like each animal...making sounds, flapping your wings, crawling around, etc. (They'll really get a kick out of you play with them...) For older ones: Split up the cards among 2-4 players and play charades!  The person who guesses the most animals wins.

GO BARNYARD: (like "Go Fish") Remove the songs cards and play with 8 pairs of animal cards. Collect the corresponding animal pairs.  (If you have a puppy, ask for the dog, etc.)

BARNYARD MEMORY:  Lay each of the cards out on a table facedown and start collecting corresponding pairs.

LITERACY: Check out books from the library about farm animals.  A few of our favorites are: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, and Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka.  (If you'd like, lay out all the animal cards face up on the floor.  As each animal is introduced throughout the book, have your child flip over the corresponding animal.  Count how many animals were in your story.)

The total for making 26 bags was around $75.  

Ready to make your own?  For 26 busy bags, I used:
  • 494 4x6 photos (each bag had 19 photos in them...and CVS had an online promo of 10 cents per it cost me about $54 with tax.  Most of the pictures I used I got from my friend, Lynsey.  Aren't they just adorable?!  She is so generous to share her personal pictures that she took on their family farm.  The others were from Flicker's Creative Commons.) Did I mention that my husband also designed all things graphically for this project? Naturally.  You're simply THE.BEST. Thank you for all of your time, Char, and for responding to my every request with such grace.
  • 676 bottletop lids* from water and soda bottles (these were free...kind of.  It cost us our pride as Charlie and I went on A&M's campus for a Dumpster Diving Date.  Yes. It's true. In just a couple hours of trashy romance, we collected over 400 bottlecaps!  Charlie, you love me way too much...I'm forever indebted to you.  Don't worry Swappers!  We STERILIZED the mess out of these in several rounds of boiling's safe for your children (and mine) to play with these.
  • 1 inch circle punch (similar to this) from Hobby Lobby's scrapbooking ($4...they were on sale for 50% off!)
  • modge podge and paint brush (already had it)
  • 13 pages of instructions (printed 2/page front & back) and 13 pages of bottletop letters (around $6 for printing + $5 for a pack of cardstock)
  • I also had access to lamination for free
  • Hair Rubberbands to keep the cards in a neat little stack ($3)
Here's how I did it (and I meaning me, my husband and some help from a few friends. Thank you Kimberly, Elizabeth and Joseph!)

1. Sent 494 photos to print at CVS.
2. Sterilized 676 bottletops in boiling water.
3. Punched out 676 letters for the tops of the bottlecaps. (That's the file you'd need to print letters for only the names of the animals in our pictures.  Look for the complete alphabet at the bottom of this post.)
4. Modgepodge 676 letters to the bottlecaps...we modgepodge on top of the lid, then stuck on the paper and modgepodge again over the top of the paper.
5. Laminated and cut the 494 photos.
6. Counted out all 19 farm photos  (3 song cards and 16 animal cards) and fastened them with a rubberband. (I figured it'd prevent them from getting crunched up this way.)
6. Print and cut the 13 instruction cards.

Also, Swappers, I've included a pdf with the entire alphabet here, in case you'd like to save additional waterbottle lids to add other word/picture cards to your collection. I guarantee your kids would ADORE their own set of family name cards!  (I used Calibri font, 72 points.)

*If you can't collect that many bottletops, you can also use wooden disks like she did here.  I corresponded with a man named Frank out of the Houston area who was willing to make me a deal on about 800 disks.  What he was offering was FAR better than what I could have gotten them for at Hobby Lobby or Michael's in that quantity.  Contact him here on a price quote for any number of disks.
**Terms of Use:
We'd love for you to feel free to use the files that the ladies in our Busy Bag Swap have worked hard to create, but please keep in mind that the printable images and files on this site are some of our ladies own exclusive designs. They have been generous enough to freely share them.

The terms of use for using the free printable crafts and activities are as follows:  You may share these printables with students, friends, neighbors and family or even with your child's class full of children. As long as you share for personal use only. Please do not post printables on a web site - instead provide a link back to the original posting on this site. Linking to the original page is both welcome and appreciated.


Want a little sneak peak of what Busy Bag is being featured on Grow today?


The Lourceys said...

I love all of these busy bag ideas! I can't wait to get my own group together to make them. And I think it's amazing and hilarious that you went dumpster diving to get the bottletops.

Amanda said...

What a great idea! I'm pinning this one for the next time we do a farm unit. What is the busy bag swap?

Kirby said...

Great, Amanda! I hope you have fun using them!
My friend and I organized a swap with 24 other ladies that you can read about here:

We'll be featuring all of the busy bags included in our swap over the next two weeks here: and here:

Unknown said...

I love your swap I've been wanting to put one together but have not done so. Luckily I get to enjoy yours. Pinned your barnyards and names bottlcaps , shared on fb and twitter I LOVE these and can't wait to make them for 2 cute little boys.


Amanda said...

Just a question as I am preparing to make the bottletop barnyard. What size are those bottletops they look large, are they fromm soda bottle or gatorade type? Have never seen such colorful ones either? Thanks, love your blog, very helpful.


Kirby said...

We had to collect 676 lids, so we collected ALL kinds of bottle tops, Amanda.

These colorful ones came from various soda bottles and Nestea, I believe. They are slightly bigger than the clear or white lids from most water bottles. Water bottle lids are (generally) exactly 1 inch in if you're using a 1 inch paper punch then it will fit perfectly on the lids. The soda bottle lids are probably about 1 1/4 of an inch...maybe a little smaller. That's why they have a slight border on them.

While the colorful lids are "pretty", I think my kids prefer the water bottle lids b/c they fit perfectly on the cards...when the longer words are more crowded, the larger lids are a bit misaligned. Some kids may not notice; to others this is frustrating. :)

Kyle said...

everytime i look at this post i get sad and then mad at mom for losing my kids bottletop name cards. ;)

Catherine said...

Hey Kirby! Love this idea - I'm totally making them for my nephews for Christmas (and my Jack for later!). Kodak Gallery is running a 200 free prints deal right now too so it's perfect to order the photos. Here's the link if anyone else is interested.

Kirby said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Catherine! I saw it on MSM a few days after I I may need to link up to this!

What a great handmade Christmas idea! Love it! And little Jack is JUST darling!

Jen said...

I LOVE this idea!! i'd love to make it for my peeps!! i'm uploading the photos now and am getting a resolution warning...anyone have that happen? i just downloaded the photos...extracted from the zipped file? hmm...

Keune Family said...

Do you have your family cards on a file that you would be willing to share?? I have been working all morning at making my own and it's hard to get the longer names to look as good and yours look GREAT!

Kirby said...

Sorry, I'll have them in is a pdf...not the original working file, so that wouldn't be of much help to you! :(

Keune Family said...

Bummer! OK thank you anyways! What program did you use to make yours?

Kirby said...

I think I just used Publisher.

Jessica said...

This is AWESOME! I love your suggestion to pull out the letters for the littles!

Melvin, Sharon, Abigail, Joshua, Noah & Lydia Kelly said...

Hi, Love this idea! I am not able to access the cards with the animals! Is there another way to download? thanks, Sharon