Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Activity Bags - Sceince Experiments and Travel Binder

Have you ever had that moment where you needed to keep your child busy while you were doing something else like chores, talking on the phone, or teaching your other children?  OK, silly question.  What mother hasn't had that problem?  Well Activity Bags is a really inventive solution for keeping children occupied so busy moms can get things done.

Activity Bags are just what they say, they are activities inside a bag.  All the bags are organized ahead of time so the mom just has to grab it and hand it off to the child to keep them occupied so the mom can handle whatever chore or catastrophe awaits her at the moment.  So when you get that phone call that you just have to take and can't get your preschooler off your leg just "grab a bag" and give it to them.  This should keep them busy for awhile because they now have something to do that they haven't done a million times already because you aren't handing them a toy they play with all the time, but some new interesting activity.

Activity Bags come in a variety of age groups and study areas.  For the purpose of my review I was given their Science Experiments in a Bag ebooks 1, 2 and 3 as well as their Travel Activities in a Binder ebook.

For those who know my daughter you will know that science is her favorite subject and experiments are her most favorite thing to do.  Now, while the Science Experiments in a Bag are handy to have, many of these are not the kinds you want to hand off to a child to use unsupervised as you might the Preschool or Math Games Bags, but they sure are handy for when we are looking for something fun to do at home.

Activity Bags do require a lot of time, effort and a little expense to create, however they have a really neat solution for helping with that too. Each Activities Bag book explains how to coordinate a swap.  In a swap you can gather up to 20 other friends who each take part in gathering the items for the bags.  Then you give each parent about 3 weeks to make bags for their activity or experiment.  Instead of having to assemble several different experiments as I did, you just focus on one or two but make several of each.  I can assure you that this would be easier and faster than what I did by myself.  It would also be more fun.  They do give you everything you need, including very clear instructions and printouts, for you to organize a successful swap.

So here is how they work.  I had 3 different Science Experiments in a Bag ebooks to review so instead of making all of them for my own use I chose some experiments from each of them and made one Science Experiment Bags bundle.

The Science Experiments in a Bag is geared towards grades K-8.  Book 1 includes activities in Biology, General Science and Nature. Book 2 includes Chemisty, Human Body and General Science while Book 3 is all about Chemistry.   I assembled various experiments from each book and placed them in my basket.  Now, when we need an experiment to do we can just grab one.  In fact, one weekend when Gess was looking for something to do we said, lets do an experiment!  We took her to the box and let her look them and choose one.

She chose "Lots of Lava" from the Science Experiments in Bag Book 3.  This was a really fun and messy experiment that we all enjoyed!   Each experiment bag is labeled with what is inside, what you will still need and any warnings such as not intended for children under 3, etc.  They offer print outs of the labels for your convenience.  Inside each bag you will find components that are prepared for you as well as experiment logs and answer sheets that you print out on card stock (since these were for myself I used regular paper). 

Then the child opens the bag and gathers the ingredients and begins reading the directions.

 Ours had 2 parts.  First we had to make a volcano out of a flour, salt, cooking oil and water.

Then we had to set that aside and let it dry for a couple of hours.  We had some books about volcanoes so while she waited I had her read them and look up some videos about them.  Once it had dried we were ready to complete the experiment.  It wasn't completely solid but held together enough for our purposes.

You are given a bottle in the bag that has dish soap and food coloring in it.  I prepared it according to the instructions.  You add to that pre-measured baking soda (in the bag) along with warm water.  You then add vinegar until you start to see the reaction.  Ours was rather unimpressive.

Not only did it not erupt very well, it was slightly pink, not red at all.  So my husband and I added more baking soda and tried again.  Once we got the reaction we liked, we added more red food coloring too.  We finally got the results we were looking for.

Not all experiments are this detailed, messy or require as much work.  Some are rather simple.  They all seem to be really interesting, though with some like this one you may need to alter some of the directions.

I also reviewed Travel Activities, which is actually Travel Activities in a Binder.  These activities are geared towards elementary age children though they even have some pages labeled preschool.  These are really great activities for children to do in a car which is why a binder makes way more sense than a bag.  Here is the one I made for Gess.

Now you can probably tell I recycled an old binder. You of course would not want to do this if you were making it for a swap.  However I am making this for a road trip we are taking next month so I used what I had.  It's really great.  Inside you have a nice pencil holder with dry erase markers, some felt for an eraser and some dice.

Then you place printouts inside of protective sheets.  This way the child can do them over and over again.  They have all sorts of activities from travel games, board games to mazes and puzzles.

I don't have any pictures of Gess doing this yet because I am saving it for our trip.  We will be on the road for 12 hours so she will certainly love having new activities to do!  I chose things she could do alone since she will be the only child in the car but I also threw some games in there that we can maybe play in the hotel room.  It only called for 2 dice but I went ahead and put a whole pack in there since that's what I had  (you know in case you lose some).

We really enjoyed these products and while they do take quite a bit of work, lots of printouts and some expense I think once the work is done it's worth having them around and in the end will ultimately save you time when you don't have it. I think I may try to get a swap going locally to get some of those experiments I haven't done yet or try some of the other books I didn't get to review.  The Travel Activities in a Binder ebook sells for $15.00.  The Science Experiments in a Bag Book 1, the Science Experiments in a Bag Book 2, the Science Experiments in a Bag Book 3 sells for $15.00 each or you can purchase all three as a bundle for $39.00.  They are also offering a FREE Activity Bag Sampler when you sign up for their email list and fill out a quick survey.

To learn more about these and their other products visit the Activity Bags website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the Science Experiments in a Bag Books 1, 2, and 3 ebooks plus the Travel Activities in a Binder ebook for giving my honest opinion and assessment of these products in my review.  
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.

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