Recently, I was looking for something special for my eight year old niece. My goal was to have some sort of gift mailed regularly to her so she could look forward to it each month. Remember when it was fun to get mail? I looked at book clubs, but found them to be ridiculously expensive in most cases. Just as I was about to give up, I ran across Kiwi Crate.
Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription service that provides hands-on creative activities for kids, engaging them in STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art and math) concepts. I liked the idea of sending my niece a crate that she could work on with her mom and/or dad, OR, better yet, bring to my house so we would have an activity other than watching movies and drinking chocolate milk. I did a cursory exploration of various reviews on their site and contacted them.
Kiwi was kind enough to send me three crates to try for this article – one for each of their age groups. Koala Crates are for ages 3-4. Kiwi Crates are targeted for ages 5-8. Tinker Crates and Doodle Crates focusing on art and design are suitable for ages 9 through 16+. The subscription service ranges from $16.95 a month for a year to $19.95 for a month to month commitment (or non-commitment, I suppose.)
The crates were impressive. Sturdy cardboard, cute graphics… they looked quite intriguing. It was all I could do to keep from opening them until our activity date. We’ll review in order of ascending age.
My friend, Annie, volunteered her two boys, Parker, 4 and Carson, 6 to explore the Koala Crate. Annie agreed that the branding of the crates was beautifully done. The materials were well packaged and organized, with nothing that was difficult to open. The activities in the crate consisted of an abstract sculpture project, a personalized smock craft, and color block painting. When asked about the level of engagement with the crafts, Annie reported, “Carson was really engaged with the pegboard using the pipe cleaners. He enjoyed the challenge of creating something imaginative and it required a variety of supplies, which made it seem more complex for him. Parker painted the entire time and it seemed to be the only activity he was interested in. I think it was just his mood that day.” Well, who hasn’t had that kind of day, I ask? Especially when you’re four.
Annie added, “There were helpful materials tips in the instructions. One thing that would be helpful would be to include a bowl of water to wash the brush between colors. It’s intuitive to know to do that on your own, but I didn’t think of it until Parker was already painting away and colors were bleeding.”
So, overall, would she recommend Kiwi Crates to a friend? “Absolutely! For kids who especially love creative expression, this was a really thoughtful box of goodies!”
I have to preface this by saying my niece and I worked on this activity one day after school, so Sarah had already had a full day of educational activities. I wasn’t sure if this would be asking too much patience from an 8 year old. However, she was engaged as we unpacked the crate and examined the contents. The sample was themed, “My Body and Me.” The materials were well made and everything we needed was supplied.
Together we read interesting facts from the booklet and made a functioning stethoscope which she used to check my heartbeat, her uncle’s, and the two dogs’. Luckily, Dr. Sarah found us all to be quite healthy. We then stitched together and stuffed pillow-like organs. The heart, stomach and brain were then attached with velcro to the human body poster. Lastly, we made X-rays. The X-ray project was the most complicated (for me). It involved photosensitive paper and vinyl “bones.” Once we figured it out, we had a great time racing from the sunny front window to my dark back room where we could see the X-ray results.
Through at least 2 hours of constructing and discussing, Sarah remained interested and even made notes in her activity booklet without prompting. I was told that once home, she pulled everything out of the crate again to show her mother and play more with the stethoscope.
The Tinker Crate was a rubber band race car. This is targeted at the 9-16+ age group. As Sarah is a tad younger than that, and I am engineering challenged, we had a little rougher time with this activity. That didn’t really bother us though. We just spent more time with our heads together looking at the instructions and pictures, trying to figure it out. Only one slight misstep led to a car that was too wide for it’s “body,” but we quickly resolved the issue. Sarah handled the construction parts while I read the instructions. I can see that for some, this would be a car they would “tinker” with, making it bigger or smaller, changing out the wheels, etc.
Next time we do an activity, I think putting Sarah in charge of the instructions might be a nice alternative. Plus, then I can blame her if it doesn’t work out right. (Okay, probably not.)
I’m actually excited about the opportunity to try more of these projects. Not only does it give us something to do together, it is educational without being “hit-over-the-head” educational.
Koala Crate (Ages 3-4): Each crate includes creative materials for multiple play-and-learn activities, a parent guide, and the “imagine!” magazine created especially for kids. Monthly themes include: Nature, Transportation, Reptiles, Safari and Baking.
Kiwi Crate (Ages 5-8): Each crate includes creative materials for open-ended activities focused on science, engineering, art, games and more, as well as detailed inspirational sheets, and an educational “explore!” magazine. Monthly themes include: My Body and Me, The Science of Magic, Paint Pendulum and Solar System.
Tinker Crate (Ages 9-16+): The projects are designed to help kids build their problem-solving skills and gain the confidence and curiosity to tackle problems where there’s no one right answer. Each crate includes a step-by-step video tutorial link, illustrated blueprint instructions, all the materials needed to build and tinker, and an educational “Tinker Zine” magazine. Crate themes include: Planetarium, Hydraulic Claw, Trebuchet, Slime, and Stereoscopic Viewer.
I understand new crates have been introduced for ages 0-2! If you want more information about the crates and available subscriptions, you can find them at kiwicrate.com.