What is a busy book?
Busy books, quiet books, or learning binders are created generally for toddler or preschoolers for a variety of purposes. Parents may use them to keep little hands busy for a few minutes (that’s not on a screen!), or a teacher wanting to teach new skills in a fun way. There are many ways to use a busy book!
Busy books are usually made with simple materials, cute and engaging pictures or clipart, and often with hook-and-loop or other moveable pieces that are easy for little hands to move.
What should a busy book contain?
Busy books, if possible, should be individualized for the child with the intent in mind. Meaning, do you want it to be something they can do on their own? Do you want it to present new skills? Do you want it to be moveable pieces or just pointing?
I’ve found the easiest ones to make and to be versatile are laminated pages (for durability), in a binder (so pages can be moved around), with hook-and-loop pieces (littles LOVE to pull and place).
- Pre-academic skills (e.g., matching colors, shapes, letters, numbers)
- Calendar activity
- Dress the character
- Social Emotional Learning
- Pieces of a favorite book (for retelling)
- Community helpers
- Preferred subjects (e.g., space, trains, vacuum bags, whatever!)
- So much more!
Just about anything you think of can be turned into a busy book page!
How big should a quiet book be?
There are two sizes that are generally used: half-page size and full-page size.
Small: Great for portability. Throw in a diaper bag or in the backseat of the car. Consider, if moving around a lot and if there are moveable pieces, where the pieces will be stored and how proficient your child is at putting them back where they belong. Otherwise, you may be frustrated at having to redo the pieces all the time! One option is to only do looking/pointing books for the portable book.
Full-size: Like I said, I like using the 3-ring option because I can print a bunch of different pages and just select the ones I think are best for the student in mind. I also like to create these books with hook-and-loop storage options, meaning that the pieces have a dot-spot for each piece that is on or near the instruction page. Each piece has a storage location (not just a bag to go into). I find the pieces are more likely to be saved from the disappearing monster!
This size book is best for sitting at a table and/or working with a parent or teacher. I definitely use this book the most in a classroom or clinic setting.
3 Ways to use Busy Books in Preschool
Here are the three main ways I have used busy books with my preschool or special education students.
Individual Goal Work
I use these books in a couple of different ways with individual students during one-on-one goal work time. For my students with autism, they seem to really love the “hook-and-loop” books with simple matching activities. I think the sensory feel of the “pull” and the matching is satisfying to a lot of them. So, I use a general binder of activities in-between other work to keep them focused while I’m prepping materials.
I also create individual binders with learning targets or IEP goal materials. For these, I actually pay attention to what they’re doing so I can track data!
I like to use a pointing (no “hook-and-loop”) version for small groups. I have the students point, or, even better, I give the students a small pile of playdough or even small candies, and as I give the instruction (e.g., “Point to the cow” or “Point to the item you sit on”), they take a piece of playdough or a candy and place it on the correct answer.
The same small group activity can be used for a whole-class activity. The only difference would be 1) I’d be cautious about the materials being used. Do I really want the whole class playing around with playdough or candies? 🙂 and 2) I can’t really monitor correct responses like I can in a small group or 1:1. Still completely doable, but I would keep those caveats in mind.
Using a Smart Board
I think my favorite way to use these in a group is when I can also use a Smart Board. When I put something digital up on the screen, I get really good attention to the task! So I project the learning book up on the screen digitally (just pull it up through my Google Drive™ folder as a .pdf), and I will reference the one on the screen. Students will either not have a book at all (not required to have one for this to work) or they each have a book in their lap.
I don’t have a cute picture of using the Smart Board with the busy books, but here’s one using Boom Cards™! Still cute.
Movable pieces or secured?
I use both books with the moveable pieces (either with “hook-and-loop” or tacky-putty; I’ve even just used scotch tape before) and the ones where there are no moving pieces for different reasons. I typically like the moveable pieces for 1:1 instruction and especially with my littles with autism who have good matching skills (it’s reinforcing for them), and I’ll use the pointing-only version for small groups. Benefits to both!
This last set I created, I added a couple pages at the back for progress monitoring. It’s a simple form that has all the targets on it, and I just use + for correct and – for incorrect when I do a probe of skills every couple of months. Easy-to-use!
If I create an individualized binder that only has SOME of the pages / targets in it, I can just take data on those particular targets. Not a big deal to leave some of them blank. I’m sure not all the pages can be presented to a student at once! Too many options! Don’t overwhelm!
I love using these, and my colleagues have adopted different versions and use and love them, too. Nothing better than littles being kept active and engaged during instruction!