Hearing my child exclaim, “I did it!” with such pride after completing a task using the items in the activity.
What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level?
Announce to the child that “It’s busy bag time” and have the child sit at a solid work surface. Present the new activity bag and spend a few minutes reviewing contents as well as the instructions sheet*. This should be sufficient for the contents to turn into a self-directed activity from then on. Set the timer; start with 10 or so minutes and let them play. As they play with the busy bags more regularly, try setting the timer in longer increments. Always supervise the child but encourage them to play independently.
One of the rewards of this type of play is that the child will learn to pay attention for longer periods of time if you regularly provide these learning tools. They will also learn to build creativity -- as they complete the original task, they may explore new ways to play with items in the bag.
In the beginning, stick to your guns about waiting for the timer to ding before for activity cleanup. Focusing is a skill and, like any skill, some people find it easier than others as well as requiring repeat practice to develop.