Creative Colouring And Construction With Faber-Castell Creative Craft Sets

It’s “Ocean” week for us, as far as PlayLearning themes go, but you wouldn’t really know it. Ameli’s come down with some kind of random illness that started as soon as the dentist put fluoride gel on her teeth without telling me what it was, and she’s had a headache ever since with a mad fever for 20 hours, that’s turned into a Faber-Castell Creative Craft Sets
sore tummy two days later. Fun times.

Before our dentist appointment, however, and a  for the past few weeks the girls have been playing with the new Faber-Castell Creative Craft Sets with Connector Pens.  We have the jungle set and the ocean set, which I thought would fit in really nicely with our themes from this month, despite the month going a little cra-cra on us.

Faber-Castell Creative Craft SetsThese Creative Craft sets are brilliantly odd. They make me think of superman. Is  it a bird, is it a plane? No… well, is it a pen, is it a construction toy? It’s both, which makes it just brilliant for holidays, car journeys and so on.

In the box you get 12 marker pens with caps which double as connectors. There are 50 additional caps that clip to each other, and the pens, and 20 half sized, swiveling connector clips. Then there are 5 colouring pages related to the theme (jungle, ocean) which can be coloured and then cut out to help with your designs. There’s also an instruction sheet with step by step guides on how to build the things in the pictures, kind of like LEGO instructions – for example in the Ocean Adventure box, you can build a ship, a fish, and so on. The colouring in sheets give you ‘backdrops’ for your constructions, and then the rest is up to you.

The Jungle themed box lets you build jungle critters, like an elephant and trees and so on.

You can of course just build whatever you want with the kits too. And eventually you do, since with a four year old and a 2 year old the pictures become unattached from the pens and end up everywhere but where they belong.

Faber-Castell  Creative Craft Sets

  • Perfect for holidays and travel, and lovely pens in themselves
  • Great for dual purpose toys
  • Perfect busy bag fillers!

I would suggest that the 6+ age recommendation on these is probably accurate. While my two have thoroughly enjoyed these kits, I would have loved to see finished scenes from them, and well… it ain’t gonna happen.  The fish backdrop looks butchered as Aviya has used the lines more as a guideline than a recommendation, and by the time we’ve coloured one bit – say the ship sides – they want to build the design, meaning we have no brown pen to colour other bits brown with (since you use the brown pen for a mast) so having two sets has been really helpful.  It doesn’t really matter though – they’ve thoroughly enjoyed them in their own way.

Faber-Castell Creative Craft SetsWhen we were away last week it was also really useful to pop a box of these in the Trunki, since we didn’t take a lot of toys, but on the one really rainy day we had, they were able to spend a few hours colouring and building and playing with it, so well worth the £7.99 as far as I’m concerned!







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Bought Busy Bags: Brilliant Busy Bag Activity Books

This is part seven in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series.

Tomorrow is World Literacy Day, so in honour of that I thought I’d share with you some of our favourite activity books for Busy Bags.  Some of these are single use, some are for reading, but they all fit neatly in our Trunki and are perfect for travel, and some of them just live in busy bags, ready for when Mama needs 10 minutes, or Ameli needs some entertaining.

Paint With Water Poster Book (US link to similar product)

I saw these for the first time recently when a friend gave Ameli one. Basically you have a handful of colouring pages, and each page has its own ‘pallet’, a set of paints on each page that you can dip your paintbrush on and paint away, without dripping paint everywhere. Depending on how much water you use, it could gt a bit messy, but it’s pretty good.

Galt Animals Magic Picture Book (US link)

I’m not sure if I love this book more than Ameli or not, but I found it very exciting. You have a book full of blank notes, but when you rub a coin over them, a picture is revealed. I’m not sure how it works. This isn’t like a scratch and win card – I mean, you don’t rub anything off. It’s just there. Ameli found the coin too hard, so we used a spoon instead and that worked really well. Once the picture is revealed, you can colour it in like any normal picture. 

Paint By Water  Painting Book (US link)

These books are fantastic. They remind me of my own childhood, sitting in the rain, ‘painting’. Its a great memory. Basically, all you need is a book, a paintbrush and some water. Wet the paintbrush and run it over the paper. Lo and behold, colours appear. These are so good for travel, because you really just need the smallest bit of water, you don’t have to wash the brush after each stroke, and they don’t make much mess.

There are more books to tell you about, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Check back next week for more Busy Bag ideas. You will need card, coloured match sticks (US link) and pens or pencils in matching colours. Optionally you’ll also need adhesive paper. 

Busy Bag For Bath Time: Shaving Foam Painting

This is part six in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series.

This is a huge favourite busy bag for me Ameli. There are just days where nothing works and we  just need some water to restore our balance and the peace in our home. I love running a bath – normally themed – and letting one or both girls just play. If you don’t want to confuse bath time with play-in-the-bath time, let them wear swimming costumes for play. 

You will need:

  • A muffin tray or ice trays
  • Foaming shaving cream
  • Food colouring - we use cheap and cheerful variety, since we’re not eating the shaving cream!
  • Paint brushes

Drop a different colour of your food colouring into the ice trays. I have four colours, so I use one drop for lights, two or three drops for darker, or mix colours like red and blue for purple.

Spray your foaming shaving cream into the compartments, and mix it up.

Add a paintbrush or two.

Let loose in the bath.

If I’m using the opportunity to do something else, like hang up the laundry, I leave the bath empty and just let the girl(s) paint. If I’m sitting in the bathroom with them, I’ll put some water in.

So, what do children learn from this busy bag activity?

Well, there’s colour mixing, there’s creative and imaginative play, there’s fascination at the gel-turned-foam, but most of all, this is an awesome mood saver activity for us, perfect for resetting the stress levels in our home and refocusing us. It’s easy to set up, easy to clean up and can seriously last for ages.

This is also a really good activity for rainy days – take it outside, and let everyone get a little wet!

Next week we look at books for busy bags, in celebration of International Literacy Day

Busy Bag: Memory Game

This is part five in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series

Memory games are fantastic for children, wonderful for developing logic skills, patience and memory, which in turn will help with reading and learning. Even at 2.5 years of age Ameli was able to play match with a set of cards she was given.  I think this game can be made as easy or as difficult as you wish, and you could play it different ways: match the cards, match the colours, match the animals. There are loads of options.

For this game you will need:


  • Card, enough for two squares each, at least. 
  • Backing paper all in the same colour so you can’t see the colour of the squares when they’re back-side up. 
  • Stickers with at least two identical stickers (US Link)
  • Glue
  • Sticky paper (optional) (US Link)
  1. Cut your cards to equal size – we used 8 cards – and glue to backing paper. 
  2. Cut into individual squares again
  3. We covered these in sticky paper to prolong their lives
  4. Glue matching stickers on two cards at a time. 

To play, turn all the cards upside down so that one plain colour is looking up at you. Turn round one card, see i.e. the snake and a blue snail. Turn back. Turn round two new cards, i.e. Elephant ant a blue snail. Keep the blue snail, and go back to the previous blue snail, taking them out of the game. Turn the elephant around again, and turn two new cards, until all the cards are paired up.


Check back next week for more Busy Bag ideas. You will need an ice tray, mini muffin tray or something with similar compartments, shaving foam, food colouring and a paintbrush.

Busy Bags: Threading And Lacing

This is part four in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series

Threading and lacing are fantastic activities for little people. The good thing about doing these home made is that you can make as many shapes as your heart desires, and your options are limitless. I just worked on basic shapes, but you can cut out the characters on cereal boxes, or use one of the free printables online too.

Your toddler can thread the holes around the outside, and as they become more confident, you can get them to skip holes or go criss-cross in patterns. We used pretty gold string, but you may find it easier to use a shoe lace that has the aglet (plastic bit) attached.

You will need:

  • Card – either basic shapes, cut outs from grocery boxes or downloaded printables
  • String – a shoelace would be good, but we used pretty gold string
  • Hole Punch – for the holes, obviously

How to Make It:

Cut out your shapes
Punch holes all the way around the outside
Tie a piece of string to one hole, then trace the outline of the shape with the string, then double it and cut it
Place it in a busy bag, ready for little fingers to thread

Check back next week for more Busy Bag ideas. You will need stickers with at least two matching pictures and matching cards.





Busy Bags: Colour Matching With Pegs

Part three in a series on busy bags, this post brings you the first of our hand made busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags, read past posts in the series. 

I love this peg game. It is so simple, and Ameli loves it too. It’s also great for changeability – it starts off as one game, and can go on to others later on.

To start off with, I’ve written the name of the colour in the colour, and coloured the tip of the peg in the same colour. You can use the other side of the peg to write the colours all in one neutral colour, like black. That way you can teach colours and word recognition initially, and later on can use it for learning the letters when learning to read too. A game with longevity. Bonus.

This game as is teaches problem solving skills, colours and fine motor skills get a workout too.

You will need:

  • Pegsmini pegs (US link) are great but normal ones are fine too. 
  • Paper – the back of a cereal carton will suffice.
  • Colouring pens - whatever you fancy

How to make it: 

Cut a strip of paper in a rectangle and colour the squares in equal sizes,  then use the same colour on the tip of the peg on one side and write the name of the colour on the other end.

Flip the peg around and write the name on the other side, using a neutral colour, like black.

I like to keep the pegs in the right place when the ‘game’ is put away, so that  so that it is a ‘finished’ game whenever we take it down. That way I can be sure all the bits are there, and Ameli gets to refresh her memory about what goes where before starting.

Check back next week for another busy bag. To make it, you’ll need card, a hole punch and some string. 

Bought Busy Bag Ideas

This is the second in a series of posts on Busy Bags, toddler activity bags. In The Low Down On Busy Bags, I share what they are, how they work and how we store them. 

Most of my busy bags are made up from scratch, but there have been a few that we were better suited to bought items.

1. Books

Most pre-made games and activities can be made into busy bags

You can find really cheap children’s board books (US link here) if you look in the right places. These are small sized so they can fit into a Busy Bag.  I have thought to put one book in a bag with props that go with the story, but haven’t gotten that far yet. A story about a red balloon that goes up, up, up and away – My Red Balloon* (US link here) could include a red balloon ( or a few for reuse!) that can be inflated for the story and played with for a while after. You can go a step further and include a bear, rabbit, polar bear, penguin and  giraffe toys in the bag to help bring the story to life.  The child can then act out the story after you’ve read, or simply play with the items. Remember to return it all after play and before opening the next bag though!

2. Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk (US link) is great fun, because it simply washes off.  It’s probably still best used outdoors, and provides a great excuse to get outside and soak up some winter sun. It works on blackboards too, but I think it’s a thicker chalk otherwise it’ll run out on the ground faster. Remember if you buy a big tub of it not to give all the pieces in one go. Three or four to a busy bag work just fine. Save the rest for gifted busy bags, a busy bag swap or just to replace used up ones later.

3. Construction Games

We used ItsiBitsi construction rubbers – circles with cut out bits that you slot in to each other to build designs. I cannot find these online anywhere, but it’s a similar concept to the Galt First Octons (US link to loads of different fabulous looking construction kits). These can provide hours of entertainment in 10 – 15 minute slots. Once again you can buy one large set, but you don’t have to put them all in one bag, they can be split between bags.

4. Play Foam

Play Foam (US Link) is an alternative to Play Doh. It is less messy and doesn’t smoosh into your carpets. It’s not the most ‘natural’ of products, but at least it’s non toxic. You can make and mould and play with it more or less like dough. The kids like it, and yes, I do sometimes find some in Aviya’s nappy, but she’s survived it. As you can see, I only included two colours in the busy bag because this is a bag for when I’m busy and need something that occupies the girls – I do not want to spend hours cleaning up once they’re done!

5. Colour Sorting

There are so many different colour sorting activities you can do with your toddler, but I particularly like this one, because when you’re done with colour sorting, you can use the stacking cups for water play, in the bath, in the sand pit, colour mixing (using food colouring) and all sorts of things. You can also use the stacking cups (US link) as intended and pass them down to your baby for stacking. In this game, you need to provide pompoms (US link) in the same colours as the stacking cups and laying them all out in front of the little one, you get them to sort the colours. As they get older, you can also use this number for counting, or you could use both the pompoms or the cups themselves for a lesson in size.

The main thing with these busy bags is to buy stuff on sale, buy them when you see them cheap and split the contents into different bags so you can mix it up from time to time. Or if you can, join a busy bag swap, or start one with your friends. It works out a lot cheaper if you buy in bulk, and make a bunch of bags, then swap with someone else who’s done the same.

What have you bought to make up ‘bought’ busy bags?

The Low Down On Busy Bags

I hate jumping on a bandwagon, and if you’re on Pinterest you’d be forgiven for thinking the whole world does Busy Bags, or Toddler Activity Bags. In a chat on Facebook today, however, it turns out that’s not the case, and in fact there are many mothers that don’t even know about them yet. Colour me pleasantly surprised!

Busy bags are pre-made, pre-prepared bags of activities for toddlers or babies – activities vary depending on ages – that a busy parent can reach for and give to your little one when you need ten minutes worth of entertainment. Some bags are things they can do on their own, and some are joint activities. Ideally, everything you need for a bag is in it – so if you have a colouring book, you’ll also have some pens or crayons. If you have a craft activity you’ll also have glue and scissors, or at least have them near by.

When would you use a Busy Bag?

Well, if I have to make an important call, Ameli loves taking that exact moment to really need some mama time – grab a Busy Bag and she’s normally distracted enough for me to do what I have to. Same applies for making dinner or going to the loo!  You can also take appropriate busy bags out with you on car journeys, to a restaurant or as we are, on really long flights. The list is endless really. We had a bunch of busy bag activities for Ameli to do by the side of the pool during Aviya’s birth, and more for the early weeks of breastfeeding. It was a god-send. 

Busy bags don’t have to be expensive, but they do take some planning. We currently have only about 10 busy bags still in action, but I’m working on it. Ideally, I’d probably like about forty bags so that I can rotate and alternate, keeping the activities new and fun and having some available to do every day. That will vary from person to person though, dependent on your needs.

I also think Busy Bags are a wonderful preparation for home schooling. We sit at the table, working together or separate, and they mean that I don’t run around trying to find things for us to do in the ‘heat’ of the moment – instead everything is there, ready, calmly and peacefully waiting.

What Bags Do You Use and How Do You Store Them?

Most people seem to use plastic ziplock bags for busy bags. I liked the idea of brown paper, but in the end it really didn’t work for us. You had to open each one to see what’s inside, and they weren’t as hardy. I got some heavy duty large plastic bags* (US link) and a trouser hanger (called a skirt hanger in the US), and the bags hang on those quite comfortably and neatly.   The bags are not cheap, but I recommend heavy duty versions as they last longer and work better.

Some people ‘file’ the busy bags in tubs, but I find that too messy and untidy looking as everything flops about.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some of our busy bags with you. Most of the busy bags I’ve made myself, but some I’ve bought bits for,or taken broken up toy sets or even second hand items and made them busy bag fillers.

Do you use busy bags? What are your child’s favourite activities? And ‘fess up! What’s yours?

*If you purchase through this link it will cost you nothing extra, but I will earn a few pennies (cents if you use the US link) from the transaction.