Monday, November 5, 2012

It's in the Bag


"Where fun and education fit in the same bag."

I first discovered Activity Bags when Preschool Activities in a Bag was released. At the time I had two little ones, ages 4 and 2 and another on the way, plus two older children. My oldest was a pretty high maintenance student, and my middle child needed one on one time to fine tune his reading and math skills. I was looking for ideas on how to occupy my younger children while I worked with the other ones. It wasn't like we didn't have toys for the little ones to play with, but it seemed that whenever we were working on school assignments, the little ones wanted to "do school," too.

That's when I came across the Preschool Activity Bags book. I was so excited when it arrived because the concept of preparing activities ahead of time that only came out at "school time" (thus making them special and attention keeping) made so much sense. My mom is a reading specialist by trade and had suggested having things like file folder games (which I tried, but the ones I had from here were just too hard for them without supervision at that point...her students were older) and learning centers (which took a lot of time to prepare, took up space, couldn't be left out indefinitely, and were often awkward to store). Her ideas were ecellent ones and I have used them in different circumstances since then, but they just didn't work for me at the time with the ages the little kids were. I needed something else.

Activity Bags was a revolutionary product for me and struck me as simply brilliant because it was so simple. How easy is it to put pre-planned activities into bags with labels and pull out one or two at a time to reinforce needed skills or to simply entertain the kids? Easy-peasy! Actually, the idea was pretty much what my mom had already suggested (file folder games, just a variation of it, and centers...contained in a Ziplock bag), but adapted from the classroom into a form perfect for homeschoolers.

Space-saving, efficient, easy to store, easy to assemble, and fun, Activity Bags delivers just what you are looking for to engage your students with hands-on learning activities. Many of the activities require only items you probably keep in stock around your house, especially if you are a homeschooler. They are simple to assemble on your own, if you just plan on using the book for your own family, or you can arrange an Activity Bag swap party and assign the supplies for one activity to each participant, set up the items in a Round Robin sort of way, and everybody leaves the party with as many different bags as there are people. Now that deserves the Easy Button. Easy!

I've got to tell you that hostessing an Activity Bags party really makes sense because when make-your-own activities require particular items to complete their assembly, you can't generally just buy one of whatever it is you need (like metal spinners or Velcro dots). Multiply each of those supplies by twenty-five activities and it adds up to a lot.

BUT if you are responsible only for the supplies for one or two of the twenty-five activities, then suddenly your boxes of spinners and game pieces don't seem too expensive after all. Someone else brings the Velcro and laminated flowers, another participant brings the dice, poker chips, and photocopied game board, and you walk away with three fun activities for your kids to play...and it only takes about five to ten minutes to assemble each bag (instead of an hour to gather the materials and do each one individually and on your own). What a nifty concept...I love it!

The next great thing about Activity Bags is that they are so easy to store. You have lots of storage options. You can keep them in a filing cabinet, in a crate or laundry basket, use banker's boxes or Rubbermaid containers, clip them to a clothesline stretched across your basement classroom, or place them around your classroom in learning centers. Oh, and they are fantastic for workboxes, too. They fit right into most drawers or upright file holders very easily. Pull a few activity bags out each week to add some variety to your kids' school days and they will thank you for it with more enthusiasm and excitement about learning. You will thank yourself for doing it because suddenly teaching your varying ages (or even your one or two students) is much easier AND you get this sense of having done more than just making sure the kids got their workbook pages completed and nature journals filled out for the week. Nice.

We received the full three-part series of Science Experiments in a Bag and I was as impressed with them as I had been with the Preschool Activities years ago. Those preschoolers are older now (though there are other preschoolers using the original activity bags and they are still holding together!) and they LOVE the idea of doing experiments. As a busy mom, experiments just seem like a lot of work and mess to me, especially with the little ones all wanting to help at the same time. Having to gather the elements of the experiment, print up a notebooking page, get all the kids safety goggled up, then doing the experiment, writing it up, and picking it up...whew! That takes the whole afternoon.

Of course, you might say I am just stressing myself out by writing up the experiments, but I just think that the kids understanding the scientific method and being able to look back in their notebooks at the pictures of what they've done is a valuable exercise. So if I am not going to cut out the write up, how can I make doing science experiments easier and more appealing to me so I will choose to do them more often?

The answer is Activity Bags. I love them. I can take an afternoon on a weekend when Hubby can tote all the kids to the dump, his favorite home improvement store, and to Sonic for ice cream cones, and in just a few hours I can have ten experiments put together in bags and stowed away for Fun Fridays (see links below to my old Fun Friday posts and get in on the fun yourself!). Then when the kids say, "Mom, can we do an experiment today?" I don't have to think whether we have the baking soda or the coloring or the paper tube or the funnel...I know all the parts and instructions for TEN (there are twenty-five per book) experiments are waiting in their bags, along with the notebooking pages I printed ahead of time from my favorite source, and I can just say, "Yes, let's do one right now." Let the fun begin! The smiles make the up front preparation worth it. I highly recommend all of the science e-books. I don't see how you can fail to love them, too. Your kids sure will.

The Science Experiments in a Bag e-books are a welcome addition to any science curriculum. Covering topics from biology to nature to chemistry and the human body, the can be used alongside your own unit study or to supplement your textbook. They are also great if you don't have a curriculum for science, but want your kids exposed to vital, basic concepts in a fun and engaging way (especially in the earlier years, or by using lab notebooks to further cement the concepts in their minds).

Easy enough for older students to complete with minimal supervision and simple enough that even the most science-challenged mom will not be intimidated, Science Experiments in a Bag go together in a jiffy, and get you a lot of "bang" for your homeschool budget dollar at $15 dollars each, $27 for two, or $39 for all three. Since there are 25 experiments in each book, one book can last you a year if you only do one a week. Since we also do nature studies as a vital part of our "eclectic Charlotte Mason" curriculum, once a week is plenty for us, and the kids LOVE IT!!


Science Experiments in a Bag E-Book 1


Science Experiments in a Bag E-Book 2


Science Experiments in a Bag E-Book 3

Activity Bags doesn't just have these three excellent e-books about science, they have Preschool Activity Bags 1 and 2, Reading Games Activity Bags, Travel Activity Bags, and Math Games Activity Bags, too. A little birdie told me they might be coming out with a Craft Kits in a Bag series of books kids are going to adore those!

These fine collections of activities are ideal for:

  • families with kids of all ages (target ages K-8, unless otherwise specified)
  • parents who need to keep kids occupied while they work with other kids
  • co-op groups
  • homeschool groups
  • MOPS groups
  • hands-on learners
  • independent learners
  • beginning homeschoolers
  • Charlotte Mason homeschoolers
  • Unschoolers and Relaxed homeschoolers
  • useful with any curriculum
  • science enthusiasts (easy labs for young ones)
  • those who are not so enthused by science, but want their kids to be...
  • reluctant/beginning readers
  • math enrichment
  • public or private school teachers of all sorts
  • Special Education teachers and Reading Specialists
  • Fun Fridays (see my blog posts about Fun Friday at our house Variety is the Spice of Life, Friday Fun School, Twenty Fun Friday Ideas, and Fun and Games Friday.)
  • getting Dad involved in the homeschooling experience...perhaps you could have him do an experiment every Saturday.
  • aftercare workers or grandparents to do with the kids.
  • and much, much more. Anyone and everyone...this means YOU!

Check out this great sampler of the Activity Bags books.
Check out info on how to have an Activity Bags swap.
Check out pictures of Activity Bags made all over the world!
You can order some Activity Bags books TODAY!


You can read other excellent reviews about the Science Experiments in a Bag Activity Bags and other products from Activity Bags at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


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