Elenco Snap Circuit Kit- The Best Science Toy We’ve Ever Owned

I can not say enough good things about the Elenco Snap Circuit set that we own. I bought it as a birthday gift for my oldest son when he was eleven and it fast became one of his favorite toys. He could play with it for hours. It has now been passed on to the younger kids and they can’t get enough of it either. Everyone enjoys the set, but Ben (age 7) is the one that really loves it.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

What’s in the Box?

Elenco has several different Snap Circuit sets and each one has different parts. There are a few basics that are in every box. There is a base plate to build on, circuit pieces of varying lengths and sizes, and special pieces that do different things such as light up or make noise. Right now we have the SC-300 Discovery Kit. It has over 60 parts and an instruction booklet containing over 300 projects that can be built. So far both Ben’s and Corey’s favorite thing to build was the radio.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Why are Snap Circuits so Awesome?

The best part of the Snap Circuits toy is the snapping mechanism. The snaps work just like the ones found on clothing and are easy for even the smallest kids to assemble without any pinched fingers. The circuits are contained within the plastic pieces that snap together with the metal snaps allowing them to conduct electricity. The set can then be run on battery power or plugged in with the optional Snap Circuits Battery Eliminator. Each set has hundreds of different configurations that can be built from the instructions, and kids can also create their own once they understand the principles. Another great thing about Snap Circuits as that they are very sturdy. Officially only kids who are able to read are allowed to play with them in our house. Of course this hasn’t stopped the littler ones from snatching pieces or touching when older kids are using them. After 4 years of use and having been packed up and moved 3 times we have never had a single piece break.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Are there any downsides?

Of course no product is perfect and just like everything else Snap Circuits do have a few disadvantages. First off only one project can be built at a time. Many of the projects require you to use most of the parts in the box so it is pretty much impossible to build more than one circuit at time. Plus each kit has only one power source, so even if you could build two circuits you wouldn’t be able to power both of them. Second if your child can not read the instructions then it takes quite a bit of hands on help form a parent or older sibling. This isn’t’ as big of a deal for most families, but in a large family like ours I really like to have things that kids can work on independently when needed. This isn’t an issue with the older kids of course, hence our rule that you have to be able to read to get out the Snap Circuits.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

The Snap Circuit Kits

As I said above we have the Snap Circuit SC-300 Discovery Kit. They also have two smaller kits (SC-100 and beginner) as well as two that are larger (SC-500 and SC-750). In addition to the basic discovery kits Elenco has come out with several new specialized kits since we purchased the basic kit four years ago. Here are the ones that are at the top of my wish list for expanding our collection.

Should You Invest in Snap Circuits?

Of course every child and family is different, but if you’re asking me my answer is a resounding YES! If you have a child that is even slightly interested in the science of electricity they will love Snap Circuits. If you’re lucky you’ll get 6 hours straight of independent play from this toy like I have!

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Do you have any of the Snap Circuit sets on my wish list? I’d love to hear your opinion of them to help me choose which ones to buy first! Do you have any other similar toys such as circuit scribe or littleBits? I would love to hear your reviews on those as well!

Time to Plant a Garden

I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for a few years now, but never quite got past the talking about it phase. We’ve had gardens in the past, but they were always planned, planted and cared for by Cameron (Dad). He hasn’t had the time lately, so it’s up to me! I talked about wanting to do this with another homeschooled family. They are renting their house, and putting in a garden would take a LOT of work as they would have to clear out a grassy area to do it. Cyndy (mom of their family) has a lot more knowledge of gardening than I do as well. We decided that they would come over to our house and we would plant one together.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Wally insisted on wearing a pair of gardening gloves, then used them to slap Abbe in the face.

About 3 years ago Cameron cut down and burned a huge pile of branches. The mound has been sitting in the yard ever since collecting debris, worms, bugs and all sort of natural material. About 6-8 months ago he covered this pile in a layer of mulch and then a layer of cardboard. The dirt in this pile is now rich, black, and perfect for a garden! We didn’t’ want to interfere with the natural ecosystem that has formed on this hill, so we just planted right into it.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
One thing I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for older and younger children to work together and build relationships. Jack just ADORES his Gillian!

Cyndy and I both really like the principles taught in the book “Square Foot Gardening“. With such an irregular shaped plot of land to plant on, however, it wasn’t really doable to measure out precise squares. We used many of the principles of how to plant things, but did it in a more freeform layout.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Boris will be losing one of his favorite sunning spots. Sorry buddy.

In case you were wondering 36 weeks pregnant is NOT a great time to be squatting and planting, especially on a hill with slightly precarious footing. Cyndy took charge of most of the educating and planting while I hovered and took pictures.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Discussing the purpose of mulch

First Cyndy talked to all the kids about mulch and what it did for the ground. We told them how we were going to clear away just enough to get to the dirt, then once we saw sprouts coming up we would put the mulch back down around them. This would help to keep moisture in the ground and stop weeds from growing in the soil around the plant.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Reading a seed packet

She then taught them how to read the seed packets and figure out how close together seeds should be as well as how deep to plant them. They then each measured their fingers so they could learn to feel how deep 1″ or 2″ was.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Leah chose to plant carrots

Now it was time to get planting! Each child had chosen a packet of seeds from the stash I’ve had in the freezer for a few years now. The plan was that each of them would plant their selection. It didn’t quite work out that way as many of the smaller ones had reached their attention span limit and wandered off. This was ok, learning is fun and if they were bored they weren’t learning anyway. Plus it was a bit easier to work with less little feet climbing all over the hill.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Is this a good rock?

The kids and Cyndy worked together to carefully scrape away the mulch and plant the seeds. We planted corn, squash, melons, carrots, lettuces and more. We had a few seeds that needed to be started indoors, then transplanted. We cleared away spots for each of those plants and had the kids find some medium-sized rocks to place in them. This way we know exactly where they go in our plan and we wouldn’t accidentally over plant and not leave room.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Our broken blind plant markers written by Maddy

Maddy (8) took charge of making the markers for each plant. We used the slats from a set of broken blinds. They should stand up to the weather great and are nice and visible.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
We found a worm!

I’m excited to see how our garden turns out! If nothing else I’m sure we’ll learn things that we can apply to net year when the area that has been mulched and covered in cardboard is even larger!

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Rachel decided she needed to take a break and just supervise, what better place to do so than Sam’s lap?

Did you plant a garden this year? What did you plant? What methods do you use? Do your kids help? I’d love to hear all about it. If you have a blog about it please share in the comments so we can read and follow your journey too!

 

Magic School Bus Science Club!

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I wish I was Mrs. Frizzle! Seriously she has the coolest clothes, endless patience, and who wouldn’t want a magic school-bus? My kids love her every bit as much as I do. That’s why the Magic School Bus Science Club is at the top of our Christmas wish list!

SPECIAL HOLIDAY OFFER: Between now and December 13th you can get 55% OFF a year-long subscription to the Magic School Bus Science Club and FREE shipping in the Continental United States! Ships to Canada for $2/month. Just use code MSB10 at checkout and you’ll receive an additional 10% off the already discounted price – bringing the total to just $9 per month, DELIVERED! The first kit ships on December 15th, making it a perfect holiday gift!

If you have children (ages 5-12) who enjoy the Magic School Bus books or videos–and if you like doing science experiments with them–then you’ll LOVE The Magic School Bus Science Club!

These award-winning science kits were developed by a team of Harvard graduates, scientists, and educators. Each month you will get a new kit delivered right to your doorstep!

Each kit includes a colorful manual based on The Magic School Bus characters, as well as everything you need to complete at least seven experiments related to that month’s theme.

Kit Topics:

*update- grandma bought us the subscription for Christmas! Stay tuned for reviews on our fun experiments.

 

Building a Dam- Unschool Physics and Geometry

A few days ago the kids were helping Dad was a friends truck. While dad was doing the final details and rinsing the kids were having a blast playing in the water run-off.  Ben, our 6 year old engineer, noticed that the water flow patterns changed when they were standing in the “river”. He decided that a dam was required. First he made one with his feet. Realizing that this meant he had to stand still he began the search for alternate damming methods.

First he tried a small stick. It kept washing away. He thought for a minute then decided that if he put the stick in the crack of the sidewalk to anchor it then it wouldn’t wash away. That worked, but it didn’t really dam very much water. “I need a lake!”

He then began experimenting with other materials.

unschool physics|geometry|math|science|homeschool|roadschool

First he tried using the lid to a treasure chest. It was curved, the sidewalk was not. The water went right under, and that idea was quickly discarded. He discovered that fatter sticks held back more water, but then the water quickly built up and went around. After trying a few different sticks that were not flat he finally hit on the perfect solution. He lined up several fat sticks to make a nice long dam that held plenty of water.

This was a great opportunity for an unschool physics lesson. We were able to talk about why the water flowed the direction it did, why the force of the water moved the little stick, and even a little bit about how real dams provide us with energy. We also mixed in a little geometry talking about curved vs. flat shapes, size comparisons, as well as explaining that a stick was a cylinder.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn all around you. You just have to look for them!

What opportunities did you take to teach your kids something new today?