Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Craft Kits in a Bag Review

Activity Bags, LLC graciously sent us all three of their newly released Craft Kits in a Bag E-Books to review. I must say it was perfect timing for us because they arrived during the hustle and bustle of the busy month of December!


I have to admit I am just not good with following through with craft activities. The big problem that I run into every time is that all of my art materials are not in one place especially at this point in my life. Most of our belongings are still stored in boxes after the last move. This is where Activity Bags comes in and has made my life a little less hectic. Beware this post contains many photos.

What are Craft Kits in a Bag?
Sherri MacLean is the author of Craft Kits in a Bag which are activities prepped and assembled in advance by an adult, older child, or volunteer. The contents are pre-packaged ahead of time and contained in a large one-gallon Ziploc bag for a child to later complete. Several craft kits required my supervision and help while others were done independently. The craft kits contain most of the arts and crafts items needed to complete a specific craft with the exception of glue, tape, and large or bulky items. The extra frequently used art materials were stored in a caddy. Click here to view the table of contents for each book and a craft sample for each book complete with instructions for making a star wand, daisy chain, and newspaper leis. Try it out and see what you think! I love the convenience of the craft bags.


Swaps
The author suggests participating in a swap if you want a lot of craft kits made all at once in a short amount of time in the least expensive way. I have always wanted to join or organize a swap, but our schedule and time limits prohibit me from participating in one. Part of me actually prefers to make the bags myself. If you decide to organize a swap be sure to download the FREE Coordinator's Handbook. You can find more information about a swap here. It sounds like a great way to gain numerous craft kits while socializing with other homeschooling parents!

Age Group
Each craft book is geared towards children in K-6th grade. Several activities could be used with older children in middle school if they have a strong interest in arts and crafts. The craft kit activities were age appropriate for the indicated age range. Please understand that younger children will need to be supervised and assisted for several of the projects.  

What's Included in Each Book?
The craft kit e-books contain printable supply lists, assembly instructions, lists of items to be placed inside the bag, bag labels, buying tips, craft directions, and any necessary templates or blackline masters where applicable. There are 32 kid-friendly activities with black-and-white text and graphics within each book. The books are downloadable in PDF format for ease of use. There are approximately 121-126 pages in each book. You will NOT receive pre-assembled craft bags; you WILL receive a PDF file to download, print, and save on your computer once purchased.

Craft Kits in a Bag Book One
This book is loaded with craft kit fun! We created glittering flying discs, bean mosaics, colorful pasta necklaces, photo bookmarks, straw belts, and more. We kept ourselves very busy this winter and utilized the bags when we weren't feeling well and wanted to lighten our school load. Let me share two projects we finished from this book.
Mirror, Mirror...
"Mirror, Mirror" was by far her number one choice and all time favorite craft from this book. Alyssa insisted on doing this activity because it reminded her of the story and movie Snow White. What little girl doesn't like princesses - right? One day I surprised her and had it on her desk during her free time. She did have trouble cutting through the thick cardboard that I provided and needed my help. I should have purchased thinner cardboard or chip board as suggested for this project but I was trying to save a little money. Lesson learned! I also helped her cut the center circle out of the template. Check out the following photo shots showing many of the steps necessary to complete this project. She had a ball!!
I LOVE IT!
Stick Frame
Alyssa made the "stick frame" as a gift for her great grandmother. First, she chose a photo which happens to be one of my favorite ones of her taken by Uncle Hans. We did not follow the directions for this craft. My daughter glued the photo to the construction paper first and then glued the sticks around the photo to form the frame. She also laminated her picture before crafting the fame. We used paper clips to hold the glued pieces tightly together while drying. Her favorite part of this craft was decorating it in the end. She kept it very simple. I offered her items not on the supply list including gel pens, glitter pens, glitter, and more. She used adhesive rhinestones or gems. The adhesive didn't stick well so she found glue dots in the closet to attach the gems. We found a mini plate or book easel to prop the photo up on great grandma's bookshelf. I believe Great Grandma Mae really appreciated this gift! She was surprised that she made it all by herself.
Thank you Uncle Hans for taking such beautiful photographs last year!
Craft Kits in a Bag Book Two
This would have to be our favorite book out of all three in the series! During the winter holidays, we made can candles, glittery paper chains for our advent countdown, button flowers as Christmas gifts, beeutiful candles, toast tongs for friends, and stoney friends as pets. Here are a few photos of Alyssa working on two other crafts from the Craft Kits in a Bag Book 2.
Picture Puzzles
She took out the template printable and began planning her color scheme. Alyssa wanted to color the duck to look like a mallard duck. I googled an image of it for her to cop and she used the encyclopedia to research the topic and images. She used Mr. Sketch watercolor markers to bring the image to life. She LOVED the smell of the markers! She was fascinated by the different scents representing colors. However, she was hesitant when cutting up her picture. She quickly realized (after reading the directions again) that she was making a puzzle and that the image had to be cut. I think she forgot what she was supposed to be making while engaged in the coloring process. The great thing about this craft is you can use your own photographs and images. You can also cut fewer pieces to make puzzles easier for younger children or cut more pieces to challenge your children. She's making a funny face in the bottom photo, because I turned on some Spanish music and she was dancing and singing to it while she created her puzzle.

String Painting
We had a few problems with this project in the beginning. She would accidentally get glue on her fingers when pressing down on the yarn. Every time she pressed on the yarn and lifted her fingers; it would tear up the work she already completed. She wanted to constantly wash her hands during this project. She finally figured out a system that limited the amount of glue that ended up on her fingers. She asked to do this project in steps over several days. She was more patient than I was with the project. She was persistent and finished the craft with success and great results. We did use different colors of yarn based on what was available in our house. We did not use the recommended pink and blue colors or hues. My daughter wanted to use green yarn for the leaves and brown for the pot. Oh ... I almost forgot she found a sparkly yellow pom pom for the center of the flower. I believe it adds another dimension to the project. Sorry, I do not have a photo of the finished project. 

Craft Kits in a Bag Book Three
Alyssa enjoyed creating the crafts from this book as well. She had a blast creating rice mosaics, princess star wands, cute bottle friends, button frames, and she even started her first baby scrapbook. It really was hard deciding which book was our favorite because there are so many fun and engaging crafts to choose from in each book. I wanted to share a few photographs of her working on two of her favorite activities from this book.
Growing Hands
She loves writing letters to family so the "growing hands" appealed to her interest right off the bat. She immediately decided to write to her Aunt Sammie and Uncle Hans in New York. I hope they aren't reading my blog today. She had to keep the love notes short and simple since the palm of her hand is still fairly small. She hasn't mailed the envelope off yet because she wants to add more traced hand notes to the envelope and mail them all out at once. It saves us money when it comes to stamps so I won't argue with her thinking. This craft bag also serves as a great opportunity or teachable moment where the parent can review the concept of how to address an envelope. Her envelope is addressed and waiting until she decides to mail it out.

Personal Light Switch
What a wonderful way to personalize a bedroom! I wish I had thought of this idea on my own! My daughter couldn't believe we were actually going to replace the old light switch with her newly decorated one. She worked super hard! The stickers match the colors of her bedding and pictures hung. We might remove the light switch and take it with us when we move to our new house. I doubt the grand folks would mind as long as we replaced it! The last photograph shows the end result without the application of the glue mixture or sealer. I really liked this craft!

Should I Print or Save the Books?
I chose to save the files on my computer because I can't afford to print all of the books at this time. I will eventually save all of the e-books on a zip drive as a back-up and will hopefully one day have the chance to take them to Kinko's to be printed and bound. The text is black and white which cuts down the printing cost should you desire to print the books yourself. Keep in mind that each book has over 100 downloadable pages in PDF format. The choice is yours to make.   

Storage and Organization
Right now we are using a tub to store the bags that haven't been completed. However, I found two wonderful ways to store activity bags on Pinterest. Check out my Pinterest Organization Board here.

How We Used The Craft Books
This was the one review product that I did not follow a specific schedule. Trust me ... I had a plan and that blew out the window when the holidays, allergies, and illnesses hit us hard. We ended up taking a more relaxed approach when using the kits. They were mainly used after all school work was finished, during free time, or as a quick break depending on the activity. After completing lessons for the day, I allowed my five-year-old daughter to choose one craft bag a day on particular days. I was most grateful for this product in January when Alyssa visited the doctor several times for severe allergies and illnesses. She worked on craft kits in the waiting room. The worst part was not having enough supplies for every child at the doctor's office.

Alyssa was thrilled to have the opportunity to craft again. She chose a few craft kits that she thought would be fun. I picked craft kits that I felt she was capable of doing and saved several craft kits for future use. There were specific kits that I wanted to do immediately with her, but I felt they could be used better in conjunction with a lesson at a later time so they were set aside.

The craft kits were a lifesaver when preparing for Christmas. I limited the number of subjects to complete and her regular scheduled school time during the holidays. I chose several craft kits that were related to our thematic units and would compliment our December-February holiday studies. Alyssa also created several crafts and gave them to family members and friends as handmade Christmas gifts. I also already made plans to use several more of the craft kits this year as mentioned above.

Other Craft Kit Uses
Research your area to locate hospitals, centers, and homes for the elderly. Be sure to obtain permission to drop off craft kits ahead of time and ask about any specific restrictions before beginning the projects. Always ask permission from the authors to use craft kits for any of the projects listed. I am merely sharing a list of ideas and suggestions for use. I e-mailed the authors asking permission to include a few reading and math games in our operation shoeboxes this year. I also asked permission to use them as gifts for family and friends. Please remember that not all craft kits are ideal for each of the following situations.
  1. Operation Shoebox
  2. Delivered as Gifts to Hospitalized Children
  3. New Life Treatment Center Girls Home 
  4. Gifts Taken to Home for Elderly
  5. Family Handmade Christmas Gifts
  6. Restaurants or Doctor Visits
  7. Car Travel (No crafts that require glue.)
  8. Summer Free Time
  9. Arts and Crafts Center Activity
  10. "Mom I'm Bored" Jar - The parent can number the craft bags and place numbered slips in a jar. The child draws one number out and completes the numbered project that day. 
Pros
  • The child can explore craft materials and different mediums.
  • The craft kits encourage independent play and prevent boredom.
  • Crafts spark the child's imagination. They can provide endless creative outlet possibilities especially if children are given a variety of art materials with the option to use the one they desire. The projects instill the value of creative thinking.
  • The craft kits can build confidence levels and the child's self-esteem. They will do several projects independently while practicing skills. They accomplished goals and will see the end results visually.
  • Craft bags not only foster creativity but they also improve fine motor skills, problem solving skills, and children learn to appreciate the skill of crafting.
  • The craft kits eliminate time spent searching for necessary supplies in the long run. Once the bags are assembled in advance; you'll have several "ready to go" activities contained in one place with minimal prep at your fingertips.
  • Most of the materials can be easily found at home. I did make several trips to the store for certain supplies. 
  • The books are organized and formatted well with a readable font.
  • The price is reasonable especially when you consider the fact that the bags can be used for multiple children across several ages. 
  • The best part is that you can choose which crafts to do, which to skip, and which ones you'll save for later. You can do one craft or all of the crafts to get the most for your money.
Cons
  • The materials and supplies are consumable so they will need to be replenished. However, you can reuse the gallon bags which saves money in the long run ... that is if you only make a handful of bags at once. 
  • As with any craft kit, the interest level depends largely upon the child. There were a few activities my daughter did not find desirable or of interest such as the alphabet matching game, sticker matching game, and so forth. The activities she found less appealing were those meant for the youngest users covering basic skills. She wanted to take on the more challenging and time consuming crafts.  
  • It took me a lot longer to get motivated to create these bags than those from the past. The reading and math games required less prep. This book series took more prep time up front because I needed to gather so many different supplies for three different books all at once. I also didn't always have all the items on hand which meant that I needed to make several trips into town for supplies. Although ... if we weren't living in boxes. I am sure I might have found several more items available.
  • Many of the crafts are well-known or common activities that can be found online for free, however you will save valuable time searching the internet for craft ideas. This time can be spent with your children.
  • It would take a lot of ink to print all three books. I suggest printing a few activities at a time to save on the cost of ink. Print what you need or want. Our ink cartridges are pretty expensive and the new printer is a ink hog. I have learned that I need to be more conservative when printing.  
Improvements
The only improvement would be to add a "Crafts at a Glance" page where all crafts for each book can be seen on one page in a table. If I am not mistaken, the math and reading games had "Games at a Glance" pages. Those pages were convenient and helped when planning enabling the user to see all of the items at once without having to scroll through the table of contents or book pages.

Our Thoughts
Alyssa had a wonderful time exploring the craft kits and their contents. I was really impressed with the number and variety of activities available in each book. The Craft Kits in a Bag occupied my daughter while encouraging her creativity. They were extremely helpful during the month of December when holiday stress was unfortunately high. I will say that they are a great fit for any homeschooling family with creative and artistically inclined children. The price is very reasonable. We will attempt to craft more often this year. We had so much fun making the crafts from each book! She loved anything that involved sequins and glitter which of course are not my favorite art supplies. Several projects did require a little more patience to finish. The one that I remember off the top of my head was the "String Painting" craft. It took several attempts before Alyssa and I could cover a petal without having glue all over the place. However, she did not give up and her father loved both of our creations. She's very artistic and enjoys the freedom of creatively expressing herself through her artwork, therefore the Craft Kits in a Bag were a huge success meeting her needs and interests. 

Price
Each Craft Kits in a Bag E-book costs $15.00. The company deliberately designed the craft kits to cost a dollar or less. The cost per bag is minimal but depends on what you actually have available in your home. I believe the cost would be approximately $3.00 or less per bag depending on the art craft.

Recommendation
I am pleased yet again with this company and I do highly recommend the Craft Kits in a Bag.

This Product Could Benefit:
  • Homeschool Families
  • Church Groups
  • MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or Other Clubs
  • Co-op Groups
  • Preschool Teachers or Directors
  • Classroom Educators
  • Art Instructors
  • Babysitters
Other Recommended Products
Reading Games in a Bag (Reviewed, HIGHLY Recommend)
Math Games in a Bag (Reviewed, HIGHLY Recommend)
Preschool Activities in a Bag (Purchased, Recommend)
Science Experiments in a Bag (Haven't Reviewed, Highly Regarded)

Please read my review the Reading and Math Games in a Bag here. You can also find other reviews for their products at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here. Additional reviews and testimonies for many company products can be found at their website.

If you have any other questions about the products developed by Activity Bags, LLC, please read through the FAQ's section on their website. You can contact the company by e-mail at info@activitybags.com. The authors can also be reached at (303) 288-0948. Based on my personal experiences, customer service is great and they are quick to respond. If you would like to be added to their mailing list be sure to take the survey so that you can receive the awesome Activity Bag Sampler packet.

Disclaimer: I received the E-book Craft Kits in a Bag Series from Activity Bags, LLC, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest and professional review on my blog. The opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced by the company in any way.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful review 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
    www.ActivitBags.com
    info@ActivityBags.com

    ReplyDelete