Since I became a Nanna, it has always been important to me to create special memories with my Grandchildren, to give them experiences that help them learn and Montessori style activities have always been a great way to do this. When I was raising my daughters I would often make toys and games for them out of fabric, or whatever I could upcycle. The process of making actually gave me almost as much joy as seeing the girls enjoy playing with them, and even now they’re grown up they still fondly remember the fun they had. Now that my two grandchildren, Tilly and Jesse are both three years old, it’s the perfect time to get back into that creative space once again and start making new things that they could enjoy.
My first project was to make something for Tilly. I wanted to create an educational toy that would help develop her fine motor skills and creativity. I also wanted to make sure it was well-made so that it would stay in the family and perhaps be something that she would eventually give to her own children. That’s when I began designing and creating Tilly’s ‘Busy Book’.
A Busy Book is a brilliant way for toddlers to learn while having fun. It is a fabric book with interactive activities on each page, teaching mental skills like sorting or counting, and physical skills such as opening a zip or buttoning or tying a bow. These skills come in handy for a child learning to dress themselves and with a combination of simple and more complex tasks, it can see them through various stages of development.
Inspired by the things Tilly loves most, like flowers and especially ladybirds, I already had a few ideas in mind. After a little online research looking at other examples on YouTube and Pinterest, I decided the best way to ensure success was to draw out a plan for each page and activity. Because each one would be made up from various different layers of fabric, planning the overall construction was really important. Also making sure I was using the best kind of materials was essential because toddlers aren’t exactly known for their delicate handling skills! In my fabric stash, I already had plenty of felt and and cottons with small-scale floral patterns, along with ribbons and popper fastenings. In the end, the only item I needed to buy was a zip for the ladybird!
Once I had made my plan, I used that to create cutting templates for each piece and once they were cut and ready I began stitching them on my sewing machine. Creating each element, to build each page of the book took some time but ultimately it was worth it. Once completed, I was able to ‘bind’ each page of the book together with more ribbon, cut to the perfect length that allowed it to sit open and flat on the floor.
When I finally gave the Busy Book to Tilly, she was overjoyed! Opening it up to a great big ladybird missing his spots on page one was a big surprise. She absolutely loved opening up his wings by pulling on the zip and finding them inside, before popping each one onto his body and feeding him with a tasty green leaf. With the book she has learned how to do up buttons, using the flower activity and is enjoying playing with the doll and the games too, which is great because once she has mastered each new skill she will still have them to play with.
If you’re thinking of making your own busy book, here are my top tips!
Create templates and plan your construction. With multiple layers, you really need to think about how each page is assembled before you start
Sewing isn’t the only way to create a Busy Book! If you stick with non-fraying fabrics like felt, you could use durable fabric glue to hold them together
Take your time! Don’t rush to finish, especially if you want it to last
Make extra pieces! Ladybird spots and flower petals can disappear faster than you think!
Keep the games fun and fresh by making new pieces like dolls’ clothing or characters
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