Homemade Portable Sensory Board for Preschoolers

Make your own busy board for creative, fine motor fun with your preschooler. This small-sized activity board is compact and portable for use at home or on-the-go!

Busy board for toddler and preschooler

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Sometimes the simplest activity is the perfect addition to your daily schedule.

A homemade activity board is one of those simple tools that is easy to prepare, fun to use, and beneficial for early development by:

  • inviting independent play.
  • supporting cognitive skills.
  • providing sensory and fine motor experiences.

A busy board can occupy a restless preschooler, promote creative play, support focus and concentration.

The board provides these benefits through hands-on interaction with small manipulatives.

You can build your portable activity board with everyday items and no special tools. It's a fun DIY project!

DIY activity board

The value of an activity board is in its invitation to play - Explore! Experiment! Observe!

Colorful, 'mysterious' manipulatives are just waiting for curious hands to grasp, twist, and press.

Supplies for a busy board

The items chosen for a busy board will have unique textures, colors and shapes. Most have moving parts or flexible surfaces.

This handheld option for a busy board is easy to make with everyday items.

Best of all, this homemade device is ready to go when you need it.

Here are a few ideas for objects we used to make this portable busy board.


DIY busy board project


Small sponge

Plastic coil from a spiral notebook

Jar lid and bottle top

Recycled plastic spoon

Sewing spools

Bread ties

Gel stickers or puffy stickers

Fabric buttons

Recycled plastic straw or small wooden dowel


The manipulatives will be secured to the board with tape, glue gun, and screw nails.


Instructions for busy board

Start with a wooden board approximately 12 inches (30 cm) square.

Design the busy board with the items you've chosen. 

  • Arrange and rearrange the manipulatives until you are satisfied with the placement of each item.

  • Leave enough space between each manipulative for hands-on interaction.

Ideas for a homemade busy board

Prepare a few items before attaching to the busy board.

1. Buttons: Lace buttons onto a narrow length of craft foam. A shoelace is a good option.

2. Jar lid: Make a hole in the center of the lid with an awl. Insert a screw nail.

3. Plastic spoon: Make a hole in the spoon. Insert a screw nail.

4. Bread ties: Thread bread ties onto a plastic straw.


The manipulatives will be attached to the board with glue gun and screw nails.


Household items for fine motor play with toddlers and preschoolers



1.Make an opening in the side of a sponge with a craft knife.

2.Drop a dab of glue into the opening. 

3.Insert one end of the straw holding the bread ties.

4.Repeat with a sponge on the other end of the straw.

5.Glue the sponges to the busy board.

  • The bread ties should be raised enough to clear the board.

6.Glue bread ties to the top of the sponge. Add directional indicators with a permanent marker.

  • Action: Slide the bread ties back and forth across the straw.

  • Action: Press on the bread ties on top of the sponge with a fingertip.



1.Attach to the board with a screw nail inserted in the hole in the center of the spool.

  • Action: Turn the spools to the left and to the right, one at a time and both at the same time.



1.Insert two screw nails into the board. Wrap the ends of the length of craft foam around the nails. Secure with glue gun.

  • Action: Slide the buttons back and forth. 


Attach small items to a board for fine motor activity



1.Attach the spoon to the board with a screw nail.

  • Action: Swing the spoon back and forth.


Small everyday items to attach to a wooden busy board


Jar lid

1.Attach the lid to the board flat side down with a screw nail.

2.Draw an indicator arrow inside the lid.

3.Draw numerals on the board at intervals around the lid.

  • Action: Turn the lid to line the arrow up with the numerals.



1.Attach the coil with a screw nail.

2.Twist the end of the coil around the nail.

  • Action: Pull the coil, then let it go, to see the action of the spring.


Gel stickers

1.Glue the stickers to the board.

  • Action: Press on the sticker to experience the gel effect.


Bottle cap

1.Attach a bottle cap flat side up with a screw nail.

  • Action: Rotate (spin) the cap.


Experiment with other household items or craft items.

Make the device accessible for everyday play, or reserve as an awesome tool for calming or to focus attention.


More simple activities with big play value

1. Introduce a game of toss on a play date.

2. Make a sorting activity with jar lids accessible for kindergarten free play time.

3. Set up an art activity with paper shapes during craft time.



Busy board for toddler and preschooler



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