I’m always on a lookout for the best elements for busyboard - special, whimsical ones, not like anything that you can see around every day. Such busyboard parts kick the kid's imagination, and drive their engineer thinking.
When I was designing a new busy board for a 1 year old boy, same as every time, I went for the custom layout and got a bit creative with elements. I prefer to give my busyboards just one extra twist to make them something bigger than just a set of hardware attached to the wood.
Best elements for busyboard are the ones that puzzle kids. Make it something they’ve never seen before, like the Eye Button, little propellers, or a rattling plastic chain.
A long busy board pattern that I was making here has several benefits. First, layout gets more even that way. Second, several kids can play with it at once, which aids the teamwork skills. I did it before for the Ash and Luca’s Tandem busyboard.
The color scheme is my all-time favorite bold red-and-white. It’s stimulating, cheerful, and perfectly compliments any interior. It pops up in the playroom, saying: ‘Playtime!’ It’s also an homage to my first Control Panel board.
Now to the elements. Let’s go through these shiny knick-knacks one by one.
13 best elements for busy board that make it a huge success
1. The tube. It amazes the toddlers to the most. Like in the Mario game, they would put their little toys, or cars, or little balls through the top and squeak from joy when they fall out from the bottom. They can do it for thirty minutes in a row, for real.
2. The light switch. Neat and tidy, and easy for the small hands to practice switching on and off, without a need for the whole family to seizure from the light flashes in the living room.
3. The button. Pretty simple and obvious, yet the big hit. I always choose the buttons that would be pleasant to touch and make a lovely sound when pushed. As a kinesthetic, I aim for the most satisfying experience. There are buttons that push more satisfying-ly than others, do you agree?
4. The concierge bell. Ding! Ding! This one is awesome and deserves to be a centerpiece on any busyboard. It is big, round, loud, mirror-y and looks like a shiny metal boob. A bit tricky to attach, but as I’ve been using them for a while now, I mastered the process. This bell makes outstanding prop for the Sailing and All-aboard games. Toddlers go crazy about it.
5. The hook. Simple, yet actionable. I was surprised how much the little ones like the opportunity to have a place designed for their stuff. If they have a favorite bag, basket, or a toy guitar, they would eagerly hang it on their busyboard. This way, it adds nicely to the imaginary play. Or else, when kids pretend that the busyboard is a car or a plane, the hook serves as a trunk where you can put “luggage”.
6. The wheels. Big ones are mesmerizing and bring momentum. Smaller ones give the distinctive busy looks. Perfect for the little fingers to practice the precision operations. Or, for the little palms to steer them fast, getting a good massage on the way.
7. The plastic chain curtain. Making this one was fun. I wanted the plastic chains to be something bigger than just an eye candy. I cut the pieces to have a 1-2-3-4-5 ratio of white and red links. Then stenciled the similar numbers to the board. Attaching was a challenge. I installed a couple of massive metal hoops. Kids love grabbing them. Then I attached a rubber rope, beading the pieces of chain. Voila – this Counting Curtain works like the abacus of a kind. But you can also just pull and release it, making it jump and rattle.
8. The spring door stoppers. A huge hit of all times. Boing! Boing! Though it’s #8 in our list, it is very probably the, hands down, best element for busyboard. Get a spring stopper on your board, and crack open a bottle of chardonnay – your baby isn’t getting anywhere for at least couple of hours.
9. A mirror. Peek-a-boo, baby! This one is a rear-view with a fish-eye, it can be spinned around, and lets your baby see the room behind while playing. A must when playing a driving game.
10. A door chain. Isn’t it lovely? A shiny golden chain to practice the eye-hand coordination by pushing it through the slot. One of my favorite statement pieces on any board, and also can make a cute smile face when attached next to two buttons, like here.
11. A jingle bell. A lovely smaller sound element, that adorns any blank space perfectly. Install several of them to get the Christmas-y feeling on your board.
12. The little door. A nod to toddler peek-a-boo obsession. I didn’t put the latch on it, because what’s underneath sticks out and wouldn’t let the door close properly. But it’s so worth it, because underneath there are…
12a. Googly eyes! Love them. The babies get most excited when they peek under the door and there is someone staring at them.
13. The handle. It’s highly functional. For the almost-one-year-olds, the busyboard becomes a great machine for practicing standing skills. The handle helps a lot. They will grab and stand-up confidently while they play. And you will use it more than once to get the board around while installing.
Ta-daaa! It took me several days to make this one, couple hours at a time. Very happy with the layout and with the creative stretch that the plastic chain gave me.
I was very happy to make this custom busyboard for a boy named Orest. Even more excited was Orest’s auntie, who ordered it. She couldn’t wait! Every time I meet adults who are sincerely fond of the busyboards, I feel they are exactly my tribe. Each mom or dad who ever made a busyboard, gives me an enormous boost of inspiration.
Check out our updated list of best elements for busyboard in our new post How to make a Busyboard: Parts from A to Z.