living on pb & j

Ordinary moms living on Prayer, the Bible, and Jesus!


“Busy” Bags

In my preparation for home schooling next year, I was looking for ideas to help occupy my little ones while I’m teaching school. I LOVE to plan ahead and get really, really obsessed with… well, just about anything. My obsession has to run its course until I have done something about it, then my newer obsession can take over and I can plan ahead for whatever else is months away!

In my planning, I came across the idea of busy bags. And I’m hooked! Basically, you set up a system of “busy” activities for your toddler or preschooler to play with. You can get bins, nice little tubs, or be a cheap-o like me and use Ziplocks. A busy bag should be able to be done completely solo, with only direction from you the first time.


So, here are the ones I’ve come up with. These 5 bags are made from things I had around my house already. The only thing I bought was clothespins, and I also picked up the paint swatches. Everything else was found lying around somewhere!

1. Stringing things.


I already had these Penne noodles in my cabinet, so I just used these. Basically, your child can string them on the yarn. It’s great for fine motor skills too. You could also use macaroni noodles, pony beads, or anything else with a hole!

2. Shoving it in


You could make this a lot cuter, but I just wanted to use what I had, so an old sour cream container it is! I just cut a hole in the lid and cut up some old pieces of ribbon. Your little one can try to see if they can stuff every piece in, then take them out again. There is a magical age, where putting in and taking out, are just so much fun! I may have missed it with Eva, but that’s beside the point. 😉

3. Scooping Beans


This one is a big hit already! Yep, pinto beans and a few scooping things. I just used extra things I had. A 1/2 c. measuring cup, a medicine cup (because you only need one in the drawer!), and a few plastic spoons. We are going to use a tray when we get this bag off the shelf! (On a side note, Grammy has always let our Jackson play with dried beans at her house. They are perfect for excavation work! Now we keep a bag of them on the fridge, that are just for playing.)

4. Sparkles


This is just some old sequins and a little plastic box. I know Eva will love it! We will also use the tray for this one.

5. Paint Match


I LOVE this one. It’s the only one I had to actually make. I picked up paint swatches, and grabbed a pack of clothes pins. Then, I cut the swatch just a little to cut off the name of the paint, and to give me a small rectangle to glue onto each clothes pin. It’s so cute! And you can make this as simple or difficult as you want. You can get the four-shade cards (really difficult), or just do some primary and secondary colors.


I’m all about busy bags right now! The plan is to have around 20 or so, so each bag only gets used about once per week. They are also great in everyday life. To take to church, in the car, or just to use when you’re in the middle of a project. I’m excited to share when I get more busy bags in my collection.

How about you? Do you do busy bags?

❤ Joy

* These ideas aren’t all original to me, however if you look on Pinterest and search on Google, you will find it is almost impossible to know who actually thought of it. So, sorry if I stole your idea, dear reader. 🙂


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Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Here are just a few Christmas traditions our family does for this special time of year!

#1 – 25 Stories Leading up to Christmas

We’ve done this for several years & LOVE it! I go to the library & pick out 25 Christmas books. I wrap each one & print off numbers to stick to the front for each day. We read one story a night leading up to Christmas & I always save the best story for last. I do look at the books & calendar & depending on our schedule, I try to do shorter ones for church service nights or special events that we have going on in the month. It’s been a highlight for our family each year & I have some of the most precious pictures of our boys reading with Daddy.


#2 – 12 Days of Christmas 

This one is for my Hubby. 12 Days before Christmas I have pre-planned for him little gifts or thoughtful messages & I give him one gift a day until Christmas. I have the number of the day match how many items go with that gift. I printed out these cute little “On the First Day of Christmas” tags that I found on Pinterest & organized them with each gift. It can be anything as simple 3 e-cards that day, 4 notes for him to read from when we were dating, a 6 pack of soda, or a CD with 12 Christmas songs. I had so much planning this & surprising him each day!


#3 – The Johnson Express (Polar Express) 

One of our oldest son’s favorite things right now is The Polar Express. Another find on Pinterest, we planned our own little getaway night to surprise him with a trip to the North Pole. 😉 We put both boys in their pjs, had Bible time & prayer & had them go to bed like a normal night. After a couple minutes, we went to their room, flipped the light on & told them there was a surprise under their pillow. We had a “Johnson Express” ticket under each of their pillows. You can imagine the excitement in our home when they heard what we were doing!

My husband also decorated the inside of the van with Christmas lights & we had candy canes ready for the ride! Once they got outside, they found the conductor (with his hat & puncher) out by the “train” to punch their ticket before getting on. We also planned to pick up one of Josiah’s friends & took them with us for the trip. We drove a ways to get to our destination, looking at Christmas lights along the way, Once at our destination, we had them punch their tickets & we watched The Polar Express & had popcorn. Our son still talks about it to this day & we made so many funny memories that night! Image

#4 – Felt Christmas Tree

Last year I made a Christmas Tree out of felt for the boys to decorate as they wished. They loved decorating their own & I could always remind them that they had a special tree to decorate if they tried to rearrange the ornaments on the tree in the living room. 😉


#5 – Happy Birthday Jesus! 

We make a cookie cake for Jesus’ Birthday & let the boys decorate it.


#6 – Christmas Eve Dinner 

My husband & I wanted to do something special, but nice for Christmas Eve. We do an Oriental Theme dinner with all of our nice dishes & put out the chopsticks. We invite a couple families over & enjoy each other’s company while making sweet memories!


We keep adding to our list of traditions we do each Christmas…these are just a few ideas to make your Christmas time one of many memories! We would love to hear your ideas of what you do together as a family too!

Joyfully Serving Him,

Rachel Johnson

I’d like to share this story and  video of my little ones with the hope that it will help many of you with your holiday travels.  If your children are anything like mine, they love to ask questions similar to these:  “Mom, when are we going to be there?”  “Mom, are we there yet?”  “Mom, how much longer until we get there?”

While these questions are innocent enough, they can get a little tiring on a 20-minute ride to the grocery store.  And they get downright exhausting when you’re going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house!

One day, while my six-year-old daughter and I were driving to a destination about five minutes away, I was feeling a little annoyed after the fourth time she asked me, “Mom, when are we going to be there?”  In desperation, I began singing the little song you will hear on the video.

When I finished, she said, “Did you write that song?”

“Yes, I did,” I replied.

“I hate it!” she said.  “It’s VERY annoying.”

“I know,” I said with a smile.  “So is that question.  From now on, when you ask me that question, I’m going to sing you that song.”

It has become quite the family joke.  It has also drastically cut down on the number of times I hear that question in the car!

From a songwriter’s point of view, I freely admit that this is without a doubt the worst song I have ever written.  But from a mom’s point of view, it is music to my ears, and hopefully, it will be to yours too!  Feel free to use it to help your own children curb their questions, but be warned, it won’t get you any rave reviews.

Happy traveling!