Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crew Review: Activity Bags


As you may have noticed, we've been doing a LOT of travelling the last couple of months. We're actually (hopefully) almost done with our constant travel, at least for awhile, but even during "normal" times, we do travel quite abit. Visiting grandparents, traveling with Daddy for work, etc.So "portable" school options are a great option for us.

And this review came at a great time, in the midst of all our travel.  We were given the chance to review two great products from Activity Bags.

Photobucket Travel Activities in a Binder  and Math Games in a Bag. Both are for elementary age students and each ebook is available for $15.

I received these ebooks a couple of weeks before our trip to Florida. Both products (and most, if not all, of the products on the site) are written in a way that is geared toward a group of families. In that scenario, one person would purchase the ebook and act as coordinator (the site offers a free downloadable coordinator's handbook to help you figure it all out). The coordinator would assign "bags" (or pages, in the case of the binder), to each participant. So, if I were assigned math game #1 and it was a group of 20 people, the coordinator would give me the instructions for making that game. I would make up 20 copies of math game #1, each packaged, with directions in a labeled gallon-size ziplock bag. After everyone had turned in their bags, the coordinator would sort them all out & I would then get 20 different math games (including the one I had packaged). Cool huh? There's information in the coordinator handbook for organizing a long distance swap if you're like me and have very few friends with similar age children nearby. While the book is written as if you will do a swap, you do have another option, and that is simply to make one of each activity bag for your own use. Since we only had a few weeks (even a local swap would have been difficult to coordinate quickly enough for us to use the product in the time allowed for this review), I didn't attempt a swap for either of these products.

 I went through the math games ebook and printed off some of the games for the girls. What I suspected as I was reading through them, and found to be true, is that, since we take a "real life" approach to math, rather than drills and worksheets, these "math games" weren't real appealing to my kids. I think if a child was used to doing math workbooks and flashcards, these would be a great change of pace. For my kids, it wasn't nearly as fun as working on fractions by making a cake :) That said, I know that our family is in the minority (to put it mildly) in how we do math, so for most kids, this would be great. Even so, the games struck me as having a relatively short "life" . . . a game that helps you learn your times tables is great, but once you KNOW them, you're not likely to revisit it often. I think, if I were coordinating a swap for this, rather than doing it as suggested, for this one, I would have each family make ONE of their bag(s), then just trade bags around within the group so that all the families get to use all the games for a month or two, then rotate. While I plan to continue to use these games from time to time to fill in some math aspects that my kids need some practice with. I think what I will do is talk to a couple teachers I'm friends with, who happen to teach 1st-4th grade and see if they would like the games to use in their classroom after my kids are done with them.

One thing I wanted to note about these games. The games that include reusable "cards" of some sort, in the directions the person making up the bags is instructed to print them on cardstock, then once you, as the recipient, get your bag, it suggests laminating and then cutting out the cards (or game pieces, or whatever). Perhaps laminators vary, but I know the laminator I have, each item needs to be sealed all the way around, so laminating the page and then cutting it out wouldn't work.I need to cut them out, then laminate them, then cut them out again.

Photobucket The other ebook we received, Travel Activities in a Binder (yes, the graphic says bag, but trust me, it's a binder), was timed perfectly, since we got it just before a 3 day (one way) road trip. This is a slightly different product. instead of packaging activities individually in gallon ziplocks, these are all pages that are printed out and placed in page protectors, then all the pages are placed in a 3 ring binder, along with a dry erase marker, and a couple other small things (piece of felt to use as an eraser, a couple of the games require dice . . . ) all placed in a pencil pouch inside the binder. Then you have a binder all ready to take along in the car to keep your child(ren) entertained as you travel. I went through and printed out the pages I thought my kids would enjoy, a single copy of most pages, 2 or 3 copies of those that I thought each child (or each of the older girls) would want their own copy. I included 3 dry erase markers.

And I discovered that, my 9 year olds don't require "entertaining" in the car. They played with the pages some, but for most of the drive, they preferred to just do their normal "talk play" as they call it (they make up imaginary scenarios together, kind of like joint day-dreaming, it's great fun to listen to). The 3 year old enjoyed the pages that were things she could do.

So, what DID we think of it? There is a good variety of things. One page includes a bunch of "classic" silly song lyrics to sing, we had fun with that, and then branched off into others that we knew, it was fun, and worked to snap Sassy out of a bad attitude one morning. MiniMe isn't a fan of competitive games, so that caused some conflict since there were quite a few pages that were 2 people games that I'd figured the two of them could play together. Sassy was annoyed that MiniMe wouldn't play with her, sigh . . . but I can't fault the games for that, it's just my kids, and their quirks LOL. Sassy WAS very impressed with how challenging some of the mazes were.

All in all, this is a binder that will stay in our car and we'll continue to enjoy for a long time. While elementary age seems like a good "guideline", if you have older & younger children there are certainly alot of pages that will keep them entertained too.

In addition to the products we reviewed, the Activity Bags site offers lots of other ebooks, including science experiments, preschool games, reading games . . . the Crew had the opportunity to review many of these, so be sure to read the other reviews to learn about all these great products.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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