Review: Plus-Plus Learn to Build Jewelry

I recently had the opportunity to review the Plus-Plus Learn to Build Jewelry kit with my first grader thanks to the Brilliant Minds program. While I did receive reimbursement for my purchase of the kit, all opinions are my own. The short story: the kit was a hit.

What Learn to Build Jewelry Is

Plus-Plus Learn to Build Jewelry ($25) is a STEAM kit with little pieces that are shaped like puzzle pieces. They allow users to create 3-D objects by connecting them together. The set is meant for ages 5+. The pieces are somewhat small, so if you have a child who still likes to put things in their mouth, you might want to skip it. The kit includes 300 glitter and bright pieces and 100 Gold pieces. There’s a white baseplate to help with building, string and elastic for jewelry, and a guide book.

My 6-year-old gal unboxing the kit

What We Thought of It

Miss 6 loved it. She thought it was a lot of fun to not just string beads but to first construct the pendants for the necklace. For the review, we did the first project in the book. At six she’s mostly able to build the necklace, but needed to be reminded as to how to make a square knot, and needed a little assistance with measuring the string.

This kit is great not only for developing STEM skills, learning how to put things together, and following directions, but it’s also great for developing fine motor skills. Not only did she need to be able to interlock the pieces to build the pendants she made, but she also needed to be able to keep the pieces she’d already put together in place as she added the new ones.

I like, as a parent, that the fun doesn’t end when we finish all the projects in the book. She can create other jewelry items, or she can do some open-ended building. It makes it a versatile STEAM kit, and while some of it is consumable (the strings for making necklaces, bracelets, etc.) the beauty of the toy is that like other building kits, it’s pretty open-ended and limited only by her imagination.

Using It for STEAM Education

As is customary on this blog, I’d like to offer some ideas for extending this kit beyond the lessons in the book and just letting your child explore with it if you’d like to use it in lesson plans or for further exploration.

  • Use the puzzle pieces as counters and/or math manipulatives. They can be great for sorting, talking about sets, exploring addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can also use them for talking about fractions.
  • Create a building/STEAM challenge. Can you build a structure that will support your favorite stuffie? Can you build something that might float?
  • Create an activity using the Plus-Plus pieces to make the child’s name or practice spelling words or reading list words.
  • Use the Plus-Plus blocks in a measuring activity.

You can purchase the Plus-Plus Learn to Build Jewelry kit on Amazon for $25.

What We’re Using for First Grade 2020-2021

First grade is approaching. We decided, after a strange end to kindergarten, that we would indeed homeschool next year – so we’ll have a 1st grader, a pre-kindergartner, and a preschooler at home. I’ve already gathered most of what we’ll use for next year. We won’t do every subject every day – and for some subjects, I’m patching in additional resources/topics that should be covered but aren’t by the main resource or spine we’re using. For this post, I’ll just be focusing on the main resource. (Note: some of these links are affiliate links, and if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sale, at no additional cost to yourself.)

First Grade Language Arts

Phonics and Literature

For phonics, we’ll continue on to All About Reading Level 2. I really like this program as it gives hands-on practice with letters but also allows students to build their reading confidence by having them put into practice what they’ve learned. Cards with phonemes and new words help build fluency. So far it’s been an excellent program for our family.

For literature, we’ll be focusing on retellings from ancient literature from around the world – Chinese folktales, Egyptian, Greek, Norse, Celtic, and Roman myths, etc. I’m still working out the complete list and schedule for those, but they’ll largely follow our history schedule. We’ll do some narration pages for what we read as well.

Spelling

We’ll finish up MCP’s Spelling Workout A and continue into Spelling Workout B. I like these books because they proceed phonetically, lessons don’t take long to complete, and they build on each other.

Grammar

We’ll primarily be using Evan-Moor Skill Sharpeners Grammar and Punctuation for First Grade. I originally thought we’d use First Language Lessons 1, but I felt like my gal needed more hands-on experience, and she responds well to colorful workbooks. I’ll work elements from FLL1 into the flow of our Grammar schedule.

Writing

For penmanship and handwriting practice, we’ll use Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade 1. My gal enjoys these books, and it doesn’t take too long to complete a page.

We’ll also use Evan-Moor Daily 6-Trait Writing for first grade. Again, this is a program I’ll wrap with another one – Writing with Ease Level 1.

Mathematics

For maths, we’ll be using Singapore Math’s Dimensions Math 1A and 1B as well as Singapore Math’s Math Sprints 1, Challenging Word Problems 1, and Process Skills 1. We’ll also play some math games like Mobi and do some math projects from Family Math and other sources.

Thinking Skills

I’m putting together an eclectic curriculum drawing from a variety of sources, mostly from Critical Thinking Press, but we’ll also learn chess and use some other critical thinking games.

Foreign Language

My gal wants to learn French, so we’ll work on learning the French alphabet and basic French vocabulary this year. This is another subject I’m still piecing together since I wasn’t completely thrilled with any one resource.

Social Studies

For history, we’ll be using History Quest level one – both the book and the study guide with a variety of additional resources. This is a great secular history resource and follows our classical pattern for history. We’ll be studying ancient history.

We’ll also study current events thanks to CNN 10, and use Evan Moor’s Geography Skill-Sharpeners to supplement the map skills picked up by studying ancient history. I’ll also supplement with materials to round out government and economics standards for first grade.

Science

We’ll study life science – animals (including evolution and dinosaurs), the human body, and plants this year. I’ll be using Pandia Press’s Life level 1. However, I’ll be rearranging the order and adding things in using their suggestions for additional reading. My first grader wants to be a scientist when she grows up, so I wanted to add more enrichment activities – one of the great things about homeschooling, right?

Art

I’m using Artistic Pursuits Volumes 1 and 2 in the K-3 series. Volume 1 covers building an artistic vocabulary and Volume 2 covers ancient art. While I really like that this curriculum has art history and art skills in one program, I’m a little bummed that it’s very western-focused. So, I’ll be patching in some non-western ancient art to round that out.

Music

My gal wants to pick the Violin back up, so we’ll look into that. I haven’t yet decided on what we’ll do for music history yet.

Other

We’ll work on coding, do some nature study work, and some STEM projects as well.

It all seems like a lot, but in reality, it’s not. Like I said, not everything will be done every day, and my first grader works through things pretty quickly – the bulk of time will still be play-based and project-based. She’s really excited about the curriculum.

What will you be using for 2020-2021?