If you’ve never met a busy board, your life is about to change.
Do you long for peaceful car rides? The ability to make dinner? Just a need for the kids to be focused on something other than, well, YOU?!
Busy boards are the answer.
And you won’t need to worry about “screen time guilt” as the beloved tablet is still out of sight.
Busy boards are great for babies and toddlers because they’ll “upskill” over time. Watch your babe go from being unable to do a skill to becoming a little pro (proud mama moment!).
I’ve compiled a list of 15 amazing busy boards that are perfect for independent play. From sensory boards to Montessori busy boards to fidget boards, there’s something in here for your little one!
What’s A Busy Board?
A busy board is a sensory board (or fidget board) filled with everyday activities and skills. Think handles, switches, laces, zips, knobs, buttons, locks, and screws – anything that keeps those little hands busy with a skill.
Kids tend to love them because they can do “all the things” they probably aren’t allowed to do around the home – like turning light switches on and off repeatedly!
While they’re having fun, they also learn problem-solving, fine motor skills, and life skills.
Though widely known as “boards,” busy boards can also be cubes, houses, soft felt boards, tables, pillows, or even a barrel like the Lovevery Buckle Barrel below!
How To Choose A Busy Board
There’s no right or wrong way to choose the right busy board for toddlers or babies, but some factors you might want to look into are:
- Price – there’s a board for every budget, and while some of the pricier ones are realllllly cool, there are some amazing ones at a killer price point.
- Reviews – I read reviews on everything. They give you an excellent consensus on the safety, sturdiness, and quality of a product.
- Toddler interests – Busy boards are already interesting enough, but if your little one is currently into crocodiles, cars, garbage trucks, or dolls, there are boards that incorporate those themes.
- Is it too stimulating? – Only you can make this decision for your child, but it’s something to consider if the board comes with lights and sounds (and batteries.) Too much sensory input can be overwhelming for some kids (and parents, to be honest).
- What skills are being worked on? – Could this board help your child learn to dress themselves or open latches? What skills can they do already, and what could they use some practice with?
15 Best Busy Boards for Toddlers & Babies
Best Busy Board For Would-Be Astronauts: Tender Leaf Space Station
If intergalactic space missions rule their days, this busy “space dashboard” will make a dream gift.
There are knobs to turn, buttons to press, and even radar to locate UFOs. Plus, a microphone for launching rockets.
The board is made from renewable rubber wood, painted with water-based paints, and is free from a huge bunch of toxic substances.
Best Montessori Busy Board: Screwdriver Bus
Any sensory board for toddlers will have Montessori elements, but to be genuinely Montessori, it should isolate one skill.
This little screwdriver bus comes very close (technically, it does have different types of screws), and it’s super cute. It has three tools, and the bus window doubles as a place to drop screws while they work.
The Screwdriver Bus helps build fine motor skills and concentration but will be best for older toddlers as it has small parts and requires a certain amount of coordination. It might just train your kids to assemble Ikea furniture for you.
Best Life Skills Busy Board: Garbage Truck Dressing
Learning to get dressed is a skill we take for granted until we have our own kids. This little garbage truck focuses on all the life skills needed to dress for work as a garbage truck driver – zips, laces, toggles, buckles, buttons, and beyond.
I love that this board helps with a childhood milestone – getting dressed – while convincing your kiddo that it’s a fun game. That’s the secret to getting toddlers to do anything, amirite?
The board is also light and travel-friendly (made from felt) and has a shoulder strap for carting around.
Best Latch Busy Board: Melissa & Doug Latches Activity Board
Melissa & Doug are famous for their sturdy wooden, sustainable toys, and this board will help little escape artists navigate latches that hook, snap, click, and slide.
It’s fun to watch kids progress from having difficulty with locks to doing them with ease. Well, except when my friend’s one-year-old locked her out of the house. But she did manage to let her back in – that’s latch skill!
This one’s recommended for kids three years and up. But you can also look into the VTech brand for a latches busy board for baby (and younger toddlers.)
Best Travel Busy Board: Away We Go Busy Book
Though technically a busy book, I came across this while looking for things to amuse my kids on a flight.
I love it because all the skills are aligned with an element of travel – from packing, getting dressed for your flight, driving to the airport, and buckling your seatbelt. The final page has them pop the people into a tent and zip it up for the night. It’s adorable.
This one’s a great way to get kids excited about travel and can easily be squished into a handbag.
Best Fidget Cube: The Busy Cube
This busy board is a small wooden sensory cube that can easily be held in the hands and “fidgeted” with. A cube can be good when traveling or eating out at a restaurant as it takes up less real estate.
The wooden cube includes a fingertip gyroscope, safety lock and key, spring bolt, switch, wheel, water tap, and rotating screw cap.
Cutest Busy Board: Wooden Sensory Bear
Better described as a “busy bear,” this sturdy board is so cute they’ll want to hug him. He’ll also keep those little hands busy with locks, latches, clocks, keys, and bells. He can also double as room decor with that cute shape and minimal size – coming in at just under 12 inches tall.
The sensory bear is available at Target and comes with free delivery.
Most Creative Busy Board: Crocodile Activity Wall Panels
Consisting of five separate panels, here’s a board made to be room decor. So if you’re child digs crocodiles, it’s a win-win.
The multi-sensory busy board set contains 11 activities over five panels, from percussive instruments to interlocking cogs and number mazes. But it does come in at 6’2” in length, so you’ll need some space to work with here. It would look great in a playroom or child’s bedroom.
Best Personalized Busy Board: SmartBoard Toddler Busy Board
This company makes big, beautiful, bold – and personalized – busy boards that can be laid on the floor or attached to a wall. You can choose from five color schemes, and your child’s name will become one of the activities.
I like how this board has a great selection of sensory activities – fastenings, plugs, switches, and locks alongside a mini-musical instrument and various other “fiddly” items. It has a taste of almost everything you’ll find on these other boards.
Best Busy Board House: The Montessori Busy House
The “busy house” has activities on all four sides and two roof panels. Plus, the birdhouse-like design reveals a hidden “cubby” where they can hide their toys! I love this design!
There’s so much learning potential in this one house, and it will grow with them through various developmental stages. The house is definitely on the more expensive side, but it does have some wonderful reviews from parents who felt it was worth the cost.
Best Storytime Busy Board: Melissa & Doug Doorbell Dollhouse
Kids love making up adventures for their toys, so this Melissa & Doug house offers a different twist on a busy board. It’s no longer about the child opening the doors because now we have a story at play. The dolls need to open the doors because they live here. Or perhaps they wish to visit their neighbors.
The wooden house includes four doorbells that ring, four play people, and four doors that open with four different keys. And a handle so it can be carried anywhere they like. The keys are attached with a lanyard to the handle so they can’t get “locked out.”
Best Busy Board Cube: LaserTemple Busy Cube
Another gorgeous homemade sensory board for toddlers, this large cube is full of exciting activities. It even has a bonus lil’ blackboard. Because of its size, it’s also at a good eye level for babies and toddlers seated on the floor.
You can personalize the cube with a name and color combination which includes “natural” if you aren’t a fan of too much color.
Best Busy Board For Car Trips: Steering Wheel Busy Board
When you’re driving, a little backseat driver often wishes they could participate. This board offers that opportunity with a steering wheel, ignition switch, gear stick, side mirror, and plenty of switches.
This little board is cute and creative in aligning itself with a real dashboard and would make a great addition to your road trip.
Best Busy Switchboard: Sensory Switch Toy
This compact, lightweight toy takes the notion of switches and dedicates a whole board to it with 12 colored lights and 12 buttons and switches, plus a plug! It’s really interactive but also made of natural wood, so it doesn’t feel too busy. There’s a solid array of switch skills to be conquered here.
It does, however, require batteries, and though it’s a “quiet board,” it has a lot of colored lights – if that’s not ideal for your particular child.
Most Compact Busy Board: Sensory Buckle Pillow
The littlest board of the lot, this sensory pillow will keep those tiny fingers nimble while they learn to clip, buckle, and lace in various ways. And, once it’s completed, it becomes a puzzle to undo it all again. An excellent distraction on plane, train, and car trips.
The pillow is better suited to older toddlers and has varying levels of difficulty. But it also feels like a winning fidget board for a stressed-out mama while her kids are asleep…
Most Epic Busy Board: Busy Board Gifts For Kids
Another beautiful Etsy design, this board for toddlers and babies can arrive in a grand 40 x 24 inches! But the company also caters to smaller preferences with seven additional sizes down to a 12 x 16. As with all good Etsy boards, you can also add your child’s name.
The board is made from ECO plywood and painted with eco-friendly paint. Always a nice feeling as a parent.
DIY Busy Board
Of course, if you’re feeling crafty, you can make a busy board using some pretty basic supplies. I love this tutorial by Something Turquoise because it’s super simple but really pretty.
However, a busy board does NOT need to be beautiful to satisfy a small child. The FamilyHandyman team made one from items they already had around the home, and it’s fantastic and a real money-saver.
You can also explore busy boards on Pinterest for different items you might add.
There are a lot of busy board options out there, but don’t let them overwhelm you. Just as kids become obsessed with your car keys or their velcro sneakers, sometimes it’s the simple things that capture their attention.
Pick something with skills you know they haven’t mastered, and enjoy watching them learn. While you ideally manage to pop dinner in the oven – and maybe even grab a few minutes to yourself!