An adventure box is the perfect way to help your children become excited about learning! I first learnt about adventure boxes from Heather, who uses them as summer adventure boxes. I liked the idea so much I began using them for a book unit or history unit. In fact, we have used adventure boxes for all ages, from preschool all the way up to teenagers. They continue to delight my children, who say it is like having a birthday multiple times a year!
What Are Adventure Boxes?
An adventure box is a box (or some other container) which is filled with goodies related to the unit your child is about to study. They are created not just with the topic in mind, but also the child or children who are going to use it. Its purpose is to spark a child’s imagination and to whet their appetite for the learning they will be doing over the next few weeks. It is also a useful method to keep all your bits for a unit study in one place.
Of course, the same principles can be used to create a hobbies related summer adventure box or a box for a long journey. However, I will be focusing on their role in homeschool unit studies, particularly history units. So, if you’d like to learn how to create your own adventure box, read on!
Does It Have To Be A Box?
Absolutely not! It can be a box (wood, cardboard, plastic…really anything!) but it could also be a basket, a suit case, a laundry basket or even a plant pot (yes, we used a huge plant pot for our Summer Shakespeare Adventure Box). Literally anything you can put stuff into is perfect! But, you could also use a shelf or a drawer. Be creative!
If it is a box, you could decorate it and it could be your specific adventure box box. I did this for our preschool box because it was a visual way to show the girls we were starting a new book unit. A suitcase might be perfect for history units, particularly if you are studying the history of another country. You could make some travel stickers from the place you are visiting, and some tags. If you have a cardboard box you could cover it with photocopies of things or people you will be learning about! The world’s your oyster!
How Much Should I Budget For Each Adventure Box?
As much as you want or are able! The bulk of our homeschool budget went on these boxes when I had five younger children. I wrote my own Unit Studies, so rarely needed to buy anything curriculum-wise. I have many money saving tips, which I will share below. Of course, you can go crazy! It’s totally up to you and your budget.
Money Saving Tips – Keeping the Costs Down
1. Shop Your Home
First, I would always shop the house. I have been collecting resources for donkey’s years so can always find something. From books to DVDs, Lego and PlayMobil (both of which can be flexible to use for different periods in history), art supplies, material supplies…well you get the picture!
2. Visit The Library
Next, I would go to the library. Actually, ‘I’ wouldn’t. I don’t do well with libraries on account of the fact one has to return the items. Our home is built with books. We often joke that the whole house would fall down at our feet if we removed all the books. This means it is very easy for a library book to become absorbed into the fabric of our house. Then I have to pay a fine. Often it would have been cheaper to buy the book in the first place! So that’s what I do. But for many, the library is a God-send.
3. Shop The Charity Shops
Shopping in charity shops is another tip which has saved me so much money (and the planet) over the years. Now, of course, just going to a random selection of shops to look for, let’s say, a child’s pottery wheel, may not be wildly successful. However, when the children were younger, we spent every Saturday trawling the charity shops. It became ‘our thing’. It was what the Stewart’s did! The children still love nothing more than going shopping en masse through a load of charity shops. And, because we did it frequently, I kept a sort of mental list of things I might need over the next couple of years. When I found something, I bought it and stowed it away for use in the future.
4. Shop Second-Hand on Amazon or Ebay
My penultimate place to go is on-line where, if you’re lucky, you can pick up books for nothing but the £2.80 postage, or children’s toys for a song. Amazon is also my go to place to buy the craft supplies which I make sure are available with every adventure box.
5. Shop The Specialist Shops
Lastly, it might be that you have a very special activity planned for your children which requires specialist knowledge/kit. If this is the case, you’ll probably need to hit the more expensive specialist shops. This is our last place of call, having exhausted all other options…I will just add here that Ebay often contain specialist sellers who are very reasonably priced.
What Can Go In An Adventure Box?
Anything you want! However, I always start out with some basics.
1. Craft Basics
My craft basics usually (but not always) includes clay of all sorts, paper mache mixture, good acrylic paint (including some metallic colours), decent colouring pens or pencils, clay tools and gaffe tape, felt and other materials. Along with our junk box, a child can pretty much create anything! Our adventure box is expected to last six weeks (the length of one unit study) so we often have stuff left over from one box which makes its way into the next. I also include scrapbooking supplies for their note pages. Artistic children tend to enjoy embellishing their notes.
This includes reference books such as an encyclopaedia or an atlas; non-fiction such as information books, activity books or biographical books; fiction books such as historical fiction set in the time or fiction written at the time, any great literary works (epics for example) and myths. I would also add colouring in books, sticker books, paper dolls (from the era being studied) and the like. Dover Books offer these at a very good price.
3. Reusable Items
Here, I am thinking an inflatable globe or small portable globe, a weaving loom or potter’s wheel. We use 18″ dolls which we sew clothes from the era studied – we use the same dolls each box. There are many items which could fall into this category. Dressing up items which have some flexibility in their use, and rugs and blankets. Board games or dvds are also great additions
4. Consumable Items
We are now moving into the more specialist items. These maybe specific items you would like to make available which will be particularly useful for the era you are studying. Or, they maybe items you wish a particular child to use based on their skill set or interests, or even on the goals you have for that child. This is the fun part for me! I love coming up with ideas I think each child will enjoy. It may be some papyrus sheets and hieroglyph stamps for the creative child, or a cuneiform pad to create poetry in for a writer, or a science kit linked to a scientist of the time…this is your opportunity to demonstrate to your child that you whole heartedly support their strengths and giftings.
If you want, you can involve the children. When they are preschoolers and elementary age all five of my children enjoyed the surprise of not knowing. As they became older and more opinionated, they enjoyed being part of the process. You know your children, be led by them. I have to admit to secretly loving pulling everything together and surprising them ❤️
When Do I Give the Adventure Box to the Children?
Each of our unit studies lasts about six weeks, sometimes more. This is about half a term. The children, therefore received a box every seven weeks, at the beginning of each unit study. I think if the unit was going to last longer (our medieval history unit seemed to go on forever!) I might divide out the box, and offer an adventure box at the beginning and half way through to encourage further interest. However, in general the children receive them at the beginning of each unit study.
My video on how we create adventure boxes in our homeschool:
I will be writing about ideas for how to create a Mesopotamia Adventure Box to go along with my Mesopotamia Unit Study, which I will link to here once its published.