Friday, June 14, 2013

Busy Bag Swap

The other day I read a blog that referred to pinterest as Satan's Tool, and I laughed. I laughed really good and hard.

Oh, the many things pinterest has made me do. Yes, made me. There are just some ideas I see on there that I can never get out of my head. At least not until I try them (and then I either jump for joy or weep in frustration).

And so it was with the busy bag swap. The concept literally kept me up for hours a couple of nights.

What's a busy bag swap, you wonder (unless of course you follow the same blogesphere/pinterest pages I do, then you don't wonder ... you already know). Well, I studied up the details of a busy bag swap from these two sites: second story window and the ringeys and then decided to put my own twist on it. I'm not super controlling (about some things), so I figured I didn't want to put a cost restraint nor an idea restraint on those participating. We all know what we are capable of, right?

This was my list of rules:
Activities must be:
1. Reusable and durable (no need to buy new supplies)
2. Playable without constant adult supervision
3. Self-contained and easy to clean up (stored in zip lock baggies, water bottles, etc)
4. Age appropriate, toddler bags could use shapes, colors, sorting, matching, fine motor skills, etc. Perschool bags could use letters, numbers, patterns, sorting, sequencing, memory games, fine motor skills, etc.

I figured I could hold both swaps on the same night, back to back. Most moms participated in both. Total there were 12 participants, 8 of us participated in both. I did two bags for each group (that's another story).

I created an event on facebook and invited everyone I thought might be interested. I e-mailed friends not on facebook and I started talking to mom's I saw at the library and wiggles and giggles. I soon realized I needed to come up with a google doc explaining the whole concept, and I also made two pinterest boards filled with ideas (toddler and preschooler). Originally, I just shared the two links (second story and ringes) I used to help me come up with the idea, but I realized that wasn't clear enough. I needed my own explanation and my own vision for how this swap was going to work.

As people signed up for either group I made them tell me what they were going to be making and then I updated the master list on both the facebook event site and the google doc. I only had one instance where two people wanted to do the same thing and they were both very understanding about it.

In hindsight, my recommendation to anyone interested in hosting their own swap would be to create a public google doc that explains the concept (you are more than welcome to edit mine to fit your liking) and a pinterest board of ideas before sending out the invites. I don't feel like it is necessary to make participants choose from a list of pre-approved ideas. I hate to stifle creativity, plus who knows what you might have overlooked on the Internet. As long as you keep a shared master list of what people have chosen you won't run in to any problems.

Actually, I was so flexible people weren't afraid to change their activities at the last minute. I think we were all just as pleased with their final results  as we would have been with their original plan. People changed because they realized a supply was too hard to find, or was going to cost too much, or they made their first idea and didn't like how it looked. In each case I thought they made good changes and they let the whole group know about it before showing up at the swap.

Overall, I think it went really well and I'd definitely do it again. The only thing I'd change is being more clear  about how we'd hand out the activities. I had planned to have each of us explain our activities as we passed them out. I started passing mine out and explaining it, but as I did another mom started passing hers out at the same time and I didn't really know how to go back to my original plan. It seemed like most of us who wanted to speak our peace about our activity got to though. It's always hard to make a room of 10 moms quiet down and listen to everyone, but I'd try harder to do that next time. I needed to whip out that old middle school teacher that is buried somewhere inside my soul.

I did have cookies and chips and guacamole for afterward. My friend Jamie brought a treat as well. We didn't meet up until after 8:00, so everyone could put their kids to bed. About two days before our actual swap I stumbled upon this blog and thought the idea of meeting at a McDonald's and letting the kids play was a good one. I know a couple of the moms who participated work though, so it might not have worked for us.

I loved the size of our swap and I loved that we did two swaps, but if I were to do it again I'd only do one swap. Not because I regret doing two, but just because I've already done two and I think doing one in an even smaller number (6 or 8 maybe) would yield really nice results.


Casie said...

Emily that does Second Story Window is a good friend of mine. We met through med school. I did her busy bag swap and the boys still love all the activities. So worth it!

Casie said...

And I just looked at your link to her busy bag swap and that was our exact swap. I wasn't able to go the night of the actual swap, but the pictures of the ladies in that room are some of my best friends from the last chapter of our life. Crazy! Sorry, had to share. :)

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