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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Product Review (Pt. 1 of 2): Boxed Acitivities - ExploreSandbox

This is Part 1 of 2 parts since I recently was given the opportunity to try two types of Activity in a Box from two different suppliers of these in Manila.

The first one is Explore Sandbox. As per the site: "ExploreSandbox is a monthly themed subscription box, targeted for kids ages 3 to 7, that is delivered straight to your doorstep. Themes vary on a month-to-month basis. We do all the research, preparation and sourcing for you, leaving you to focus on connecting with your child."

Activities in a box like these has grown in popularity in recent years as a way for working, busy parents to still provide educational and at the same time, memorable experiences with their children. The concept is be able to take the children away from just being in front of a television set or a gadget and get back to the basics of exploration and discovery through experiments and doing. It can be done alone or with adult supervision. The activities deal can be from sensory play, arts and crafts, to simple experiments and more. The box would contain 4 to 5 activities that revolve around a common theme assigned for the month, and would vary from toys, materials and guidelines, which is included in the box.
This month's (February 2014) activity set is Colors and Shapes. There were: (1) Wooden Tops, (2) Accessories Making, (3) Geoboard and (4) Colored Balls.

I suggest you review the box before giving it to your kids to start playing unless they are meticulous in reading instructions and is a bit more organized. In my case, I made sure I was at home to get the box and review what is needed for what activity.  It looked so impressive upon opening! Check out below.

(1) WOODEN TOPS: dealt with Primary and Secondary Colors, hand coordination in spinning the tops

Instructions: color wooden tops and use one color per section. When finished, spin and see how the color changes as the top gains speed.

I would have wanted C to take a bit more effort in coloring the tops so he could see the color changes from Primary to Secondary colors when he spun the tops but I think at this age, he was more interested in the game than the color changes.

(2) ACCESSORIES MAKING: Fine motor skills and patience in getting the bead through the string

Instructions: String together a combination of shapes and colors and when completed, tie the ends together.

I know this is one of the popular exercises in C's school and so he knew what to do immediately. The only difference is that this exercise, it became a necklace to wear.

(3) GEOBOARD: recreation of shapes, promote fine motor and math skills

Instructions: Use the rubber bands to make different shapes on the Geoboard.
Note: the Geoboard is a math manipulative that can be used by older children to understand math concepts like perimeter, area, angle, measurement and polygons. It can also practice and promote fine motor skills to create letters and numbers.

After showing C what to do, he quickly took an interest to this activity. C has been interested in shapes and colors and this was was his "cup of tea". He enjoyed the tactile feel of the board and the interesting shapes he was making just by placing the right rubber bands to the right pegs. He experimented on a lot of types of shapes by stretching and pulling the rubber bands on the board. It also gave him a sense of imagination. He kept overlapping rubber bands to make shapes.
I liked the fact that this can be reused for future educational teaching tools as stated.

(4) COLORED BALLS: chemical changes and observations

Instruction: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water and pour into container. Choose one colored ball and place in bowl then squirt solution to container. Observe the color change in the solution. See the surprise inside.

I was more excited of this than C, since he was more interested in squirting water unto the container than observe the chemical reaction. Some of the balls arrived crumbled already so I'm wondering if better transport container should be done since some came in half already so "the surprise" can be seen or the ball disintegrated even before we started. Also, the solution might need more strength since I remember using almost the whole bottle for one ball and it wouldn't dissolve the ball to reveal the surprise. You also have to notice the solution well since we only got partial disintegration.
Nonetheless, C enjoyed the chemical reaction and even smelled the solution after, where I had to explain to him what it was since he couldn't find the right words to describe the "sour" smell.

(1) Being a busy mom with two kids, who is also busy with household chores and kids activities in school, this box really is a life-saver and gives parents like me the chance to do some home-schooling like classes, even if it's within an hour or so at our own liesure. It is allows parents to start activities with their children together without having to plan days in advance for research tools and materials.

(2) I like how the makers of ExploreSandbox thought of the packaging since it came in a very sturdy box for transportation/delivery easy.

(3) Since this box is on a monthly basis, this type of subscription based item provides both, parents and children, an excitement that is very similar to opening a Christmas present though on a monthly basis, while at the same time tackling on the world of discovery and experiments. I loved how they addressed it to my son. It made him realize that the box is for him when he first saw it.

(1) The crumbled color balls was a bit of a disappointment. It sort of lost it's "mystery factor" regarding what is inside since 2 out of the 3 balls had already cracked and I didn't see much color change in the solution till the 3rd (last ball) since it was intact and had better colors to show my son what the solution colors were. Plus the prize inside was basically the same but different colors. I think it might appeal to girls since since boys wouldn't really know what those are. Maybe a small plastic toy or something would have been better.

(2) The sets per activity wasn't packaged as a package. It was laid out all together, though it really looked good in the box, it took a bit of organizing and reading the instructions to make sure the proper item was for the said activity. Not a really huge deal but it would be a good idea if the materials per activity would be individually packaged.

Overall Review: I liked it! I also think C appreciated the change in bonding activity instead of just readinga a book, writing practice or watching TV (gasp!) after dinner.
There was much thought for the activities that you couldn't get in a store. I.e. Colored Balls and Geoboard. I do appreciate the further thought that some of the items can be played again and again like the Accessories Making and Geoboard and can later be used for other purpose - whether for play or education.

If you want more information, pricing or would like to order ExploreSandbox you can, email your queries to ExploreSandbox at gmail dot com or via mobile at +63.917.6955.