Monday, October 29, 2012

Activity Bags

One of the best ways to keep young children working diligently and quietly is to have engaging activities prepared for them that they can work on confidently and independently.  If you're looking for a great way to provide educational opportunities that are easily assembled ahead of time and ready-to-use without the hassle of preparing an activity, experiment, or project on the spot, I can highly recommend Activity Bags!

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

While Activity Bags offer many subjects and age ranges, I was given the opportunity to review the books Preschool Activities in a Bag 1 and Preschool Activities in a Bag 2.  I chose these books because they are geared for ages 3-6.  My boys are 3 and 5, so I knew there would be activities to meet the needs of both boys.  Honestly, I wanted something that my 3 year old could do while big brother was doing his Kindergarten work, but they are great for Kindergarten review too!


How do Activity Bags work?
These books were written by homeschooling mothers, Paula Reetz and Sherri MacLean, with their own preschoolers in mind.  Between the two books, there are 60+ individual activities designed to develop preschool skills such as colors, shapes, ABCs, numbers, patterns or fine motor skills.  Each activity can be created with simple household objects (buttons, beads, straws, pompoms, etc) and/or reproducible master pages that are included with the book, and they can be stored in a gallon size zipper bag.  The majority of the bags are very easy to put together--just gather the items and drop them in the bag!  Some of the bags may require a little "work" but it's hardly more involved than printing, cutting, and/or laminating to prepare the bags ahead of time.

The bags are meant to be grab and go type activities, so your preschooler can easily choose a bag based on the contents.  Younger children may need to be showed once how to do the activities, but they are self-directed and self-correcting, so most children can work independently.  This makes them ideal for when you are homeschooling older siblings, on the phone, or otherwise need something to engage your little learner.  I keep them in a basket near our usual school area, so they are easily accessible.

Using the Books
The books have a wealth of information in the introduction and the Q&A section.  Then each activity is clearly laid out and includes a description of the activity, the skills covered, the materials you will need, assembly instructions, and even an example of a label to affix to the bag.

I specifically went through the two books looking for activities that I could put together with things I already had around the house, and that did not require printing (I was low on the ink when I received the download) and I was still able to put together several bags immediately.  That's how easy they are!  Then I decided to keep a running list for the next few activities on my list.

The great things is that while they are typical household items, the materials needed can also be substituted with what you have on hand or can find in the store.

For instance, for Shape Tracing, I already had several pre-cut foam shapes, so I saved myself a little work by using some of those.  Then I only had to cut out a few more to have enough for the activity bag.  This is a great bag to include in our Shapes Quiet Time box too!

Another example of the flexibility of the materials is Wrapping Paper Match.  I used scraps of scrapbook paper and it still works just as intended!

For Some Stick Some Don't, directions are included for making a magnetic wand, but for our bag I included one from a science kit we already owned.  Magnets are always a hit with both boys, so variations of this activity will go a long way!  I can always change out the items for more exploration opportunities!

The authors are very supportive of using substitutions to meet your needs as long as the quality of the activities are not compromised.  I love being able to "tweak" the activities for my kids!

Coordinate a Swap
If you are interested in owning several bags for less work, you can coordinating a swap.  Both Preschool books and Science books 1 and 2 include detailed information for the coordinator who can organize a swap.  If you have one of the other books, you can get the Coordinator Handbook with all of the information and forms for free.  I am not coordinating or participating in a swap at this time, but it is something I might consider in the future to add to our collection!

Are you Interested?  There are Samples Other Subjects Available too!
The Preschool Activities books are offered as e-book downloads.  Individually they are $15.00, or $27 as a bundle.  There is also Book 3 in the works!  Yay!  Remember, there are also many other subjects available, including science experiments, math games, reading games, travel activities and daily journals.  Craft kits in a bag are in the final stages of editing.  As you can tell, there's a little of something for everyone, and I'm interested in some of the other books as my kids get a little older!  You can check out all of the Activity Bag Products for more information, browse the website and fill out the survey about their website for a great sample of their Preschool and Science activities, and definitely read what my Crew Mates are writing in their reviews!

My Final Thoughts on the Preschool Activity Bags
These are similar to "trays," "workboxes," and "busy bags" for preschoolers.  Some of these are activities you could come up with on your own, but I like having a whole collection together in one place so I'm not constantly scrambling for new ideas or wondering where on earth I saw a particular idea.

The activities are definitely varied enough to to appeal to the full 3-6 age range, as well as different personalities and interests.  For instance, my 3 year likes snipping the paper with scissors, while my 5 year old loves the Texture Rubbing Activity Bag.
Texture Rubbing:  Foam Star

The bags are great for rotating so the activities stay interesting!  I plan to save some of the bags for after the baby is born.  They are easy enough for dad to have some one-on-one with the big kids without any instruction from me, and this will allow me to have several completely new activities to keep the boys engaged and learning while I am too sleepy to function!  ;-)

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are based on my personal experiences and were not influenced in any way.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful reveiw of the Activities in a Bag products. Would it be okay if I used some of your pictures on our website?? I would give credit to your blog of course, but wanted to ask first.

    Thanks again,

    Sherri MacLean