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PLAY WITH ME: Birds--Togetherness Time for Your Preschooler and You Review by Melanie Bunnett

The SMARTSeeds Company
PO Box 1000028
Cudahy, WI 53110

As a mother who has a young preschooler and who is also busy homeschooling three older children, I found this kit very intriguing. The set advertises "ready-to-play, out-of-the-box, easy-to-do activities" that help to strengthen the parent-child relationship. Just the thing for a busy mom with an inquisitive preschooler!

The SMARTSeeds Company currently offers three of these kits; Birds, Big Cats and St. Valentine's Day; and there are plans for 49 more thematic kits on such topics as All About Me, Whales, Tall Buildings, At the Farm, At the Zoo, and South America. With this wide range of titles, SMARTSeeds is sure to have a kit that will interest your family.

Each PLAY WITH ME kit has five sets of activities for you and your preschooler. And each activity can be completed in 30 minutes (or shortened or lengthened to suit your needs). The Parent Instruction Guide is easy to follow and guides the parent through each activity; it also offers suggestions to expand the fun by including additional books and projects which are not included in the kit.

Also included in the kit is a music/data CD. This CD has 23 tracks of music, poetry, bird calls, a story, and electronic copies of the kit contents that can be printed and reused. We also received a book. This book was a hit with my preschooler as it was created using pictures of actual preschoolers pretending to do different "bird" activities.

In addition, the kit comes with two games: a memory game of 32 cards with the featured birds and a deck of 16 identification cards to help my daughter learn information about 16 different types of birds. We also received a recipe card for two bird-themed snacks (also a hit with my preschooler), fun coloring/activity sheets, and a set of plastic birds in primary colors for sorting and manipulative fun. Thankfully, this is all stored in a reusable plastic folder, or you can imagine how hard it would be to keep all of these materials neatly organized and useable for future fun.

My daughter and I had fun with the kit. It helped me to set time aside to work with her, which isn't always easy given my demanding schedule. The materials were of high-quality and interesting to her. So overall, I give this set high marks.

The one drawback I can see is the retail price. The Birds kit retails at $16.95. While there are homeschooling families with unlimited budgets, I would guess the majority of us are on a limited budget. Having said that, $16.95 for a few days of activities seems a bit steep.

Now, given the age of the target audience (preschoolers) and the fact that the majority of the materials are reusable or reproducible, I am guessing you could use this kit a couple of times throughout the school year without boring your child. And adding a few of the additional books and activities suggested in the Parent Guide would also help stretch the usability of this set. Both of these options would help make this a much more affordable option.

If you struggle to integrate your preschooler into your daily school schedule, I would recommend giving the PLAY WITH ME kits a try. You might just find this is the very thing your family needs.

Product review by Melanie Bunnett, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2007