The Best Busy Books for Toddlers

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Lyndsie Manusos

Senior Contributor

Lyndsie Manusos’s fiction has appeared in PANK, SmokeLong Quarterly, and other publications. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has worked in web production and content management. When she’s not nesting among her books and rough drafts, she’s chasing the baby while the dog watches in confused amusement. She lives with her family in a suburb of Indianapolis.

As a mother of two toddlers, getting them to sit still for a few minutes can be a challenge. Both of my children are actually quite good at independent play when they’re in the mood for it. Of course, it seems whenever I need them to play quietly (e.g. when I’m cooking, cleaning, or when I need to use the bathroom), that’s when they decide to cling to my legs. As such, I am always looking out for activities, books, and toys that can hold their attention for a short time. And if it helps them learn or practice a new skill, I’m all for it. Books are a favorite among my kids, and under that broad genre, there is a type of book you might not know about. These are called busy books.

What Are Busy Books for Toddlers?

To start, what is a busy book? Also known as a quiet book, activity book, or quiet time book, it’s not just a pop-up or sensory book. There is purpose to a busy book. According to the FirstCry parenting article “Everything You Need to Know About Busy Books for Toddlers”:

Well, busy books or quiet books for toddlers, preschoolers, and even babies, are books that are specially designed to practice the newly acquired skill and even learn new skills. These are kinds of educational toys that contain age-appropriate content for your child. 

From “Everything You Need to Know About Busy Books for Toddlers” by Aarohi Achwal

Busy books for toddlers can have multiple uses: they can help a child practice fine motor skills; identify shapes, colors, or letters; and encourage problem solving. There is a sensory factor, too, as many busy books are made of more than just paper. Many are made with cloth, felt, velcro, and other crafty textures.

DIY Busy Books for Toddlers

The great thing about busy books is you don’t always have to purchase them either. There are many DIY options you can find online to make your own busy book for your child. As I mentioned above, many supplies that make up a busy book can be found at your local craft stores.

Granted, there are pros and cons to making your own busy books. A lot of planning, cutting, sewing, and glueing can be required to create a busy book from scratch. It can take time to find, organize, and put together the materials. You’ll want to plan ahead to choose the theme and purpose of your busy book and create it to your child’s specific interests and development. This process might not work for you as a parent or caregiver, and that’s totally fine! I’m not the best craft person by any means; I tend to be a bit chaotic with my scissor-cutting skills.

For those who want to buy busy books, I’ll include some options that you can purchase ready-to-go below. For you crafty-minded individuals — I salute you — here are a couple DIY resources:

Resources For DIY Busy Books for Toddlers

image of online guide to making busy books for toddlers

Craft, Learn & Play by Lily Zunic

To start off our list, Lily Zunic has created a lovely website and guide to making busy books for your child. She reviews the supplies, skills, and time to creating your own busy books (or as she terms them, quiet books) and offers free templates to get started on your own!

Kindred Inspiration’s How to Make a Busy Book

For those who are great with printing and laminating, Kindred Inspiration’s website offers a way to make your own busy book without all the gluing. It recommends having a laminator and a printer to create pages, and make sure you have a pair of scissors as well. This resource will help you make pages for identifying shapes, stacking ice cream scoops, and more.

promotional image of How to Make a Quiet Book from the organization And Next Comes L

And Next Comes L’s How to Make a Quiet Book

This is a great resource in that it doesn’t require you to make a specific book, but offers a list of links to make the pages and themes you want for your child. It also recommends Pinterest boards and points to other makers of busy books for inspiration.

Busy Books for Toddlers You Can Buy

Finally, here are some options that you can purchase. These busy books are ready to go for your child. Since these are pre-made, I recommend checking what each book entails and the what age they are catered for. Some busy books are more like activity board books while others are more complex.

image of a toddler busy book from etsy seller

Toddler Quiet Book (2 Years and Up)

This quiet book you can buy on Etsy from star seller MiniMoms, who creates various Montessori toys. You can build and personalize the quiet book, starting at $21.25 and increasing in price.

image of an activity book for toddlers

Busy Book for Kids (3 Years and Up)

This is an Amazon option created by iHarPro. This is an activity binder, with pages focused on identifying letters, dinosaurs, colors, and more! This is a great option for older children who want to focus on practicing for preschool.

image of the cover of My First Busy Book by Eric Carle

My First Busy Book (The World of Eric Carle) (1 Year And Up)

For those seeking a busy book that looks and feels more like a board book, My First Busy Book is a great option. It’s a 12-page board book that includes activities on each page for identifying colors, shapes, and more. Being a board book, this is a great choice for those under two years old. This is also one of the more affordable options, being under $10.

promotional image of the Peanutshell Busy Book for Toddlers

The Peanutshell Busy Book for Toddlers (6 months and Up)

This is a fabulous busy book, complete with a handle for your child to carry around. It’s soft and easy to use, letting your child focus on shapes, colors, learning how to tell time, and following a line. One of the things I like most about this busy book is it comes with a mesh bag so you can clean it in your washer.

Image of My First Activity Book from Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids My First Activity (Birth and Up)

My kids are big fans of Melissa & Doug toys. This activity book is great because like the Peanutshell book, it’s machine washable and has lots of pages for fun activities. Children can learn to a tie a shoe, tell time, and match colors and shapes.

More Reading Resources

In addition to offering busy books for toddlers and babies, it’s important to create an inviting reading space. I’ve written in the past about creating a great toddler reading nook, and some nifty bookshelves for nurseries. Whatever your budget and interests, hopefully this is a good starting point to find or create a busy book for your children. May the the love for reading and discovering begin!