Sunday, November 4, 2012

Activity Bags (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

When I first visited the Activity Bags website, I had high hopes that the activity bags would fill some specific needs in our family. Lauren has lots of medical appointments and I'm always on the lookout for worthwhile activities to do while we are waiting. The Travel Activities in a Binder looked perfect for our on-the-go days. The Science Activities in a Bag looked like it was custom-designed for the homeschool parent that doesn't do a great job of planning for science experiments. Often, I'd love to do an activity to illustrate a science concept but I get stuck trying to gather all the supplies or remembering to pick them up at the stores.

Travel Bags:
The Travel Activities in a Binder are created in a binder with clear page protectors instead of in ziploc bags. I assembled our binder and gathered some dry erase markers the night before some doctor's appointments for Lauren. She typically spends appointments playing on my iPod so I doubted that she'd enjoy the binder. I was surprised to find that it was a big hit with her. Her favorite activities are the one where she and I both play together -- tic tac toe, boxes, rolling dice, etc. I'm going to expand on this idea and add even more games to her binder.

Science Activities in a Bag (eBook1, eBook2, and eBook3):
Each Science Activities in a Bag ebook contains 25 simple experiments to assemble. These activities in a bag can be assembled as part of an activity swap where each person makes a specific number of bags all containing one experiment and then swapped with other participants so that everybody gets a collection of bags. I chose to assemble an assortment of activity bags for my own children to use.

Unfortunately, the activities did not turn out to be as complete as I had hoped they would be. I hoped that I could assemble everything on one weekend and then keep the bags until we had a day when we wanted to do some science activities. I found, however, that many of the activities required supplies added to what was already in the bag. These materials are not difficult to find, but I cannot be certain that I'd have them on hand when we started to do the experiment. For instance, one of the experiments called for red cabbage, and another called for earthworms. Some of the experiments called for food ingredients that we don't often have at our house -- whipping cream, eggs, etc. I had hoped that I could gather everything at one time, but it seems like the science activities bags will still often require me to plan ahead to have supplies/ingredients ready to go. Parents of children with a latex allergy should be aware that several of the activities in each book require balloons.

My other disappointment for these materials is a bit of semantics. I try to follow a scientific definition of an experiment -- an activity in which the student uses the scientific method to test a proposed hypothesis. Many of the activities in these ebooks are simply observation activities, not actually scientific experiments.

The Travel Activities in a Binder eBook is available to download for $15. It seems most appropriate for elementary aged students, but I have a feeling that my older kids (sixth and ninth graders) would enjoy playing along while we wait somewhere. Each Science Experiments in a Bag eBook costs $15. They offer package deals for each the first two ebooks for $27 or all three ebooks for $39. All of the science activities are geared towards elementary students. Activity Bags also offers activity in a bag ideas for preschoolers, reading games, and math games.

If you'd like to see some examples taken from the various Activities in a Bag ebooks, you can receive a free ebook sampler by signing up for completing a short survey. The link is on the main page of the Activity Bags website (look for it towards the top of the page).

Disclaimer: I received four Activity Bags ebooks as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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