Quiet Time Bins

Meet my newest mothering helps:


Aren't they lovely? What's that… you want to know what they actually are?

These are the newest addition to my arsenal of tools that I am using to make portions of our daily routine run that much smoother. To my 4 yr old daughter, they are her "quiet time bins". To my 22 mth old, they are simply a fun container of toys that Mommy puts in front of him.

They were initially inspired by an article in Above Rubies, on what to do with little ones while homeschooling. One idea was to create bins with entertaining toys and activities for toddlers, with a different one to pull out for each day of the week. The idea was further inspired by seeing Crystal's bins for her daughter's quiet times- activities that she can do during the 1-2 hours that she spends in her room each afternoon (this is similar to what we do with our daughter).


Abbie helped me put them all together and choose some of the activities. She also traced each of the days of the week, for both sets of bins and helped me tape them on.


Here is a glimpse into a few of Abbie's bins: One has drawing and coloring supplies, another has beading materials, and another has a wooden dress up "doll". Each bin also has 2-3 books that she enjoys.


Here are two of Caden's bins. The first contains measuring cups and colorful counting bears. The second is wooden clothes pins and yogurt containers. His other bins have similar types of creative toys to keep a toddler occupied. All of his bins have 2 board books (read: indestructible) as well.

We've been using Abbie's bins for a week now, and they have definitely helped her to look forward to her quiet times and stay better occupied, and they are also simple for her to clean up afterwords.

Caden's will be implemented this week, as I will be training him to have a "playpen" time (working my way up to 30 minutes at a time) each morning while I do home education (learning time, as we say in our family) with Abbie. He will be given one bin to play with while he stays put in his playpen, which will free me to help Abbie with things like her printing, math, etc.

Are any of you using bin systems like this? What do you use them for and what types of activities do you have in them?

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  1. What a wonderful idea!! I will definitly be using that to keep my younger two entertained while having school time with our oldest!! Great post!

  2. We’ve been implementing a Quiet Time in the mornings for Emahry since she gave up her morning nap. We normally pull down a few toys and books for her to play with but I’ve been meaning to work on some activity bins since reading the same article in Above Rubies. I liked being able to look inside your bins for ideas.

  3. This is great!!! I am going to start on this right away for my 5 y/o twins while I teach my 3rd grader. πŸ™‚ TFS!!!

  4. This is a great idea! I’ll have to try it with my three year old when I’m doing school with her big brother. Thanks!

  5. Wonderful! I’ve never seen this idea…which is odd, considering that I was homeschooled and know many homeschool moms. This idea is a keeper for when my kids are old enough to learning.

  6. We use this idea too! Each of the bins for my 2 year old has a different theme- colors, numbers, letters, etc. They are a great help in occupying her when I need time to do something like work on dinner or feed the baby. We also have a giant bucket of dry rice and toys that we use for outside play.

  7. I’ve been thinking about this, too, since I read it in Above Rubies! πŸ™‚ It’s great to see how you’ve implemented it.


  8. Love your ideas. Here are some others you might add, based on my years as a Parent Educator for the PAT program of the midwest.

    Put a different colored disc in the bottom of a six-opening muffin tin, and encourage matching the bears to the colors. πŸ™‚

    Use the same muffin tin and a pair of simple tongs for a child to place colored cotton balls in the muffin tin. Removing is just as fun :). Can be a color matching game, as well.

    Use a quart milk jug (empty) and drop in the clothespins. Lots of entertainment. Fun to shake and dump out, as well.

    Provide index cards and a shoebox (with hole cut in top) for a mailbox. Fun to practice those fine motor skills of dropping in. Also fun to color, cut, stamp index cards, if able to use scissors and washable crayons safely and indepedently.

    The ideas listed above were some of the “child favorites” of my visits.

  9. These are great! Thanks for sharing. We haven’t started this yet, but I have been storing some of Tornado’s toys with numerous pieces) in these sort of boxes for a while. Unfortunately we started with Sterilite (I think that is what they were called) boxes because they were less than a dollar at walmart. Well, all my 2 year old had to do was stand on it once or drop it once and they broke. Splintering plastic. Just a word to watch out for. Make sure they are not going to break easily! Oddly, the ones we have now are Sterilite too, but seem more durable. Just keep an eye out! I would hate for your little one to cut himself!

  10. LOVE this idea!! I don’t Homeschool but could easily use these bins for some quiet time while I need to get a little work done, make a phone call or when my son is having his quiet time while his brother naps!

  11. We have the same wooden dress up doll and love trying different fabrics with her. Love the quiet time bins!

  12. Wow…I love this idea! When I need to get something done that takes a significant amount of time(which means every time I sit to work on my bills or plan for school), my daughter’s room usually looks like a disaster area and ends up being a frustration for her and me when we clean up! I am going to work on this ASAP!!!! Great, great, great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  13. too funny! i just started implementing this today and now i read your blog! ~smile~ i am using art supplies and “dishes” so far.

  14. VERY cool and timely idea, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing. My four year old gave up napping last summer but honestly, I miss the down time. These would be great for some self-entertainment time!

    Any ideas on where to get good stuff to fill the bins for CHEAP?

  15. Olathe mom, thanks for sharing more ideas! I plan to rotate the activities that are in these every now and then, so it’s great to have other ideas of what to put in them! πŸ™‚

    Melanie, they really didn’t take as long to make as I thought they would. I had the containers for almost a month before I did it and kept putting it off, but when I actually just jumped in, it went fairly quickly. I started by making a list of ideas to put inside, then gathered up the supplies, put the boxes together, then we made the labels together. It took a couple of hours in total, max.

    Babychaser, the ones I bought aren’t great quality either, and I think that the kids could break them if they stood on them. Abbie only uses them sitting in her bed, and Caden won’t be given the box, he’ll be given the contents. I am storing them up high, completely out of their reach, because I was worried about them breaking them and also just getting into all the little bits and pieces. Good comment!

    Megan, I was initially planning to buy stuff to put in them, but then became inspired to really get creative and see what I already had to fill them with. I just started pawing through all of our toys and homeschool stuff, plus all the games and multi-piece activities we have, then making a list of things I thought would be fun. Some of it is just toys from their regular stash, that is now set aside for the bins only.

    Here’s what’s in my bins:

    1) Wooden doll with fabrics, a few books, and I think she might have another small “friend” or two in there
    2) Bagful of beading stuff (not little plastic beads, but beading bears and soft rubber beading pieces, with shoes strings), plus books.
    3) A pad of drawing paper, two coloring books, a pencil and a bunch of crayons, plus books.
    4) Kitchen stuff (a few dishes, plastic food, etc.) plus some Playmobil people and animals, plus books.
    5) ABC matching card set, a My Little Pony and a stuffed animal, plus books

    1) Counting bears and measuring cups, plus books
    2) Clothespins and yogurt containers, plus books
    3) Kitchen stuff plus books
    4) A wooden bear puzzle, a couple small animals, plus books
    5) Wooden blocks, plus books

  16. I started doing these recently with our 19 mo old and it is such a great idea! It keeps things so much tidier and gives her a great surprise every morning. We use the large gift bags I save from holidays and it makes it seem like a present every day.

  17. Love it, love it, love it!! I use to do something similar years ago when my girls were younger, but I must admit, it was not this organized. I’ve learned a lot over the years and a little planning ahead of time goes a long way toward creating routines that kids thrive on and allow for peace to reign in the home.

    A favorite quiet activity for my girls was when I gave them a few pages from an old store catalog. I would trace the items with a black sharpi pen and they would practice cutting them out. Then they would paste them onto a piece of recycled office paper or construction paper. This would continue to create a collage of items. Often we would have a theme for the collage. On other days, I would give them a crayon and have them trace the lines on a coloring book page. Both of these activities are great for fine motor skills and suitable for some 3 year olds and most 4 to 5 year olds.

    Wishing you many days of successful schooling!

  18. Aimee, I have looked at the activity bags also, but was a little surprised by the price, so I didn’t buy them. I haven’t heard much in the way of reviews either, so I was hesitant to spend the money unknowingly.

    Does anyone have any experience with the “preschool activities in a bag?” Please, share your thoughts! πŸ™‚

  19. We have structured “solo time” every afternoon for 1 hr. I put a gate up and bring down his “solo time basket” of toys. He loves it! I have found that they really need the time alone, whether to rest, play or just focus on one toy without the distraction of other toys/ activities.

    I love your idea of having one per day, though, may have to use that!

    Thanks for the tip!

  20. Hi everyone. I just recently did a “preschool in a bag” exchange with other homeschool moms who also have preschoolers/toddlers. It was great and I love having ALL of the activities. My friend coordinated because she had the book and she chose the 20 best activities and we each were assigned 2 and had to make 10 bags of each. Pretty neat that after all was done I had 20 new activity bags for my 2 and 4 yr olds! A thought for those of you involved in a homeschool group/co-op or a moms group, but you could definitely just pick your favorites and do your own. God bless!

  21. QT is a staple around here… a much valued discipline. Even my very busy, social, active child looks forward to this time of day.

    We have all our toys in bins. Some small bins for Lincoln Logs and bigger ones for Playmobile and Lego (my older kids are 5 & 8). There is a one bin rule for QT. Too many toys at one time I personally think stunts creativity and can, as seen in my kids breed ungratefulness. I also make them clean every thing up after QT and we put the bin back in the garage. Keeps rooms clean and minimizes clutter which stresses me out :o)

    I like the idea of Abby helping you create the boxes. Once Eli is old enough we might try this ourselves.

  22. I love this idea! Crystal’s mention made me add it to my to-do list for when our new baby arrives. It was great to see what you had in your own bins.

  23. I recently organized a Preschool Activity in a Bag swap, and I was pleased with the ideas in the book and the way the swap came out. I now have 15 bags to use with my chidlren – primarily the 3 year old, but the 6 and 9 year old have enjoyed some of them, too. I love having the variety of activities on hand for quiet time or to grab and go for some enrichment and one-on-one teaching play with the three year old when an older sibling has ballet or PE.

  24. This would be a wonderful “carnival” to do sometime….have everyone post one idea for a quiet time activity on their blogs and leave the link here…I bet you’d get a lot of participation πŸ™‚ What a great idea, thanks for posting with pictures, Stephanie!

  25. I also saw this in Above Rubies. I used the idea to make boxes (old shoe boxes given to me) for my 3 year old to occupy her when the new baby arrived. It worked well but I need to make some more now. The best two ideas I had were large wooden beads and shoelaces for stringing (she is way past the hazard stage for this) and also taking a bunch of scrap paper I had and cutting out shapes (roughly, not done to perfection) out of all sorts of colours. I filled the shoe box with those, there were strips of paper, snowflake designs, hearts, diamaonds, squares, torn pieces etc., and then put in a gluestick and some 8 1/2×11 inch coloured construction paper and she glues the shapes onto the construction paper happily for a long time, and makes some neat art too! You could also use this to teach shapes if you do it more exact with the shapes rather than just quickly cut out hunks of paper. I must put it on my list to do more now that I am starting to do some school stuff for my daughter.

  26. I think this is a really good idea, but I am also a little concerned. The counting bears look like they might be a choking hazard. Maybe you could use larger objects.

  27. Just blogged about this and linked to you today! Am in the midst of sewing quiet time bags with the days of the week embroidered on the front…they are turning out very cute. And I have been finding things around the house that we already have to put in the bags and also found a few things for 30% off at a local kids consignment sale! So I hope to implement the quiet time on Monday!! Thanks for the inspiration and great ideas…since my 2 year old has stopped napping it has been so difficult b/c I really need the rest (pregnant with baby #5!).

  28. A little late, I know, but I finally got my act together and put our bins together today. Like you and several others mentioned, I saw this idea in Above Rubies. Then on Crystal’s blog several weeks ago and now here. I think God really meant for me to see the idea!! I’m going to put up a post about my new bins and just wanted you to know I’ll be linking to you.

  29. I recently did this for my 4 year old twins for their quiet time in the afternoon. But I didn’t seperate them into days of the week…I think that would help even more!!

  30. I put together some thing similar a while back. I’m not home schooling, but I found that I needed activities for my son to keep him busy when I’m making dinner or cleaning up the kitchen. I only have a couple tubs, but hope to modify… update that soon.

    1. Pasta and Pipe Cleaners – I have rotini pastas and multi-colored pipe cleaners, along with some dixie cups and funnel type things to go with the pastas.
    2. Play dough and “tools” (cookie cutters, etc)
    3. Coloring and crayons

    Great idea to have a different one for each day of the week. I’ll need to revamp mine!

  31. What a great idea… thanks so much for sharing!! I think I may need to do something like this myself!



  32. I love the idea of having bins for each day!


    At our house we have a cutting box with various scraps of papers and a variety of colors and patterns (and some envelopes and junk mail too!) with a choice of several child scissors. It is great for extra scissor practice and my son adores it!

  33. Hi Stephanie,

    I know this post was for last year, but I’ve been wanting to add these counting bears to our assortment of things for my kids. Have you looked into the quality of the plastic? BPA, etc?

    .-= BabychaserΒ΄s last blog ..Almost Home =-.

    1. @Babychaser, Sorry, but I actually haven’t. These are ones that I got years ago from a garage sale, and they are actually going to be discarded during our next toy down-sizing event. I like them, but my kids scatter them all over the house and have too many toys anyways. I think it’s probably best to use them with kiddos who won’t put them in their mouths!

  34. I know you wrote this a long time ago, but if you possibly remember where that article from AboveRubies is can you direct me? I went on there and did a search but like a hundred things came up and I didn’t see it at all.

    1. @Rose, I dont’ know if it’s actually on the site. I remember reading it in one of my magazines, but I know that not every article is on the website. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the author or the title, either. Sorry!

  35. As a WAHM, I can see lots of uses for these bins. I need to work on incorporating some of these. Might even use these for my 5 and 8 year old! I’m thinking crafts for them though.

  36. I am trying this idea, but my 3 year old doesn’t want to play very long or at all with the things I have put in them. He doesn’t like to play by himself either and I’m working on that. Sigh!

  37. We have a bin of Busy Bags. Just search “Busy Bags” online and you’ll find hundreds of cheap, easy ways to entertain little ones! We also did a Busy Bag exchange so I only had to make 1 type of busy bag (but I did make 25!) A favorite is sorting colored paper clips into plastic 1 oz cups marked with a single polka dot (which matches one of the colors of paper clips). My 4 year old still does that one!

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