Are these kids' science kits as fun as they look online?
We tried KiwiCo's STEM-inspired DIY kits to find out.
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If you have kids and you’ve scrolled the ‘gram in the last few years, you’ve likely been targeted with ads from KiwiCo. The monthly subscription service delivers hands-on science and craft projects for kids ages 0 to 16. Their ads—and Instagram feed—make the activities look legitimately fun as well as educational.
I’ve been meaning to sign up my kids, ages 5 and 7, for a KiwiCo subscription for at least two years but never managed to make it that far down my to-do list (#workingmomlife). When the company reached out to me, Reviewed's parenting editor, and offered to send me—okay, my kids—a few of the crates to test out, I jumped at the chance. I figured it was a great opportunity to see just how much fun a Kiwi Crate delivers and a great activity for my kids to do during the long summer months without camp.
What is KiwiCo?
Each month, kids receive a box—or “crate”—containing all of the supplies they need to create a unique STEM-based project (that is, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Inside each box are detailed instructions for the month’s project, and each Kiwi Crate includes a copy of “explore!” magazine, which has comics, games, and other suggestions for ways to extend the fun and learning with your project. Kids (and parents) can also access plenty of video tutorials on the KiwiCo site in case they get stuck or just need a little inspiration.
How does KiwiCo work?
KiwiCo is a subscription-based service, meaning that when you sign up, you decide the terms on which you’ll receive the boxes and how you’ll be charged for them. You may opt for a monthly subscription in which you're charged as each shipment is sent, or you may prepay for three months, six months, or 12 months, respectively, for a lower cost per box at each longer term of commitment. Your subscription will automatically renew at the end of your term unless you cancel, which you can do easily by logging into your account and selecting “cancel my subscription.”
The boxes are differentiated by age range and have cute names, such as “Koala Crate” for ages 2 to 4 and “Tinker Crate” for ages 9 to 16. My kids tried several “Kiwi Crates,” designed for ages 5 to 8. In addition, Rachel Murphy, Reviewed's Smart Home writer, put her 16-month-old to work testing the toddler-appropriate “Panda Crate”.
How much does KiwiCo cost?
The cost for a KiwiCo subscription depends on two factors: which crate you select, and whether you sign-up for a monthly membership or one of the multi-month packages. Prices start at $19.95 per monthly box (which is discounted to as much as $16.95, when you prepay for a year) and go up to $29.95 (or as low as $24.95 with a full-year term).
The boxes ship every month, save for the Panda Crate (the one for ages 0 to 24 months), which ships every two months. Shipping within the United States is included.
KiwiCo also offers an online store where you can purchase one-off boxes, but these cost more than one would pay with a subscription: $24.95 vs. $16.95 for the least expensive options.
What are KiwiCo boxes like in real life?
One of the first things I noticed and appreciated about KiwiCo is that the crates aren’t shipped inside another larger packing box, which would create recycling for both me and the earth to contend with. The self-contained crates clearly state what’s inside and are addressed to the child recipient—which could be problematic if you’re trying to keep a gift secret—but my kids loved seeing their names printed right on the box and were excited to “test out” their Kiwi Crates.
Despite a journey through the mail, our Kiwi Crates looked orderly when we opened them up. All of the pieces for the projects were contained in separate small bags, with the directions and “explore!” magazine nestled on top.
The first Kiwi Crate we tried was the "My Body and Me" crate, which included three different activities, all focused around kids learning about what goes on inside their bodies. The projects:
- Making our own stethoscope using rubber tubing, a plastic headband, and earbuds—and then listening to each other’s hearts
- Sewing stuffies of the heart, brain, and lungs and then attaching them to a hang-up map of the human body
- Creating our own “X-rays” using images of bones and light paper
All in all, it took about an hour and a half to complete all of the activities in the crate, and it was a great way to pass the time on a day when the kids didn’t have school and were “bored.” The multiple steps offered plenty to keep both of them busy (without any squabbling), and Rose continued to decorate the organ stuffies long after Noah had tired of the activity.
Our second foray into Kiwi Crate testing had us making "The Arcade Claw", which is a DIY version of the classic arcade game that takes your money and never (ever) picks up any stuffed animals. This Kiwi Crate contained three projects for us to complete:
- Building the Claw out of wood pieces and rubber bands
- Crafting pom-pom “prizes” out of yarn
- Turning our Kiwi Crate box into the game console
The Claw was the more difficult of the two crates that we tried, requiring more parental assistance overall. The kids found it challenging to figure out the angle and position for each of the wooden pieces and I had to cut the box with an Xact-o knife in order to create the game console. However, this Kiwi Crate provided lots of entertainment long after we were done putting it together and had played a few rounds of The Claw game. While the game console and pom-poms lost their excitement after a few days, the Claw itself showed up all the time in other forms of play.
The Panda Crate that Rachel tested, billed as the "Count with Me" crate, included a selection of sensory toys aimed at kids ages 11 to 18 months. The items that arrived in the Panda Crate:
- 10 counting cards, each with a touch/feel element to it
- “Poppy’s Surprise” board book about counting to 10
- Reversible canvas nesting baskets to practice sorting by size, putting things in order, and making comparisons
- Stacking cups, numbered from 1 to 10
- Cylinder blocks made from beechwood
- Wooden shape puzzles (a circle, a square, and a triangle)
Rachel felt that the age range was too broad in the Panda Crate—there’s a big jump in small motor skills and cognition between 11 and 18 months—but she liked that it had a nice mix of essential toys that weren’t plastic junk. Each toy comes with a card that explains the product, its purpose, how to use it, and how to clean it. In addition, each Panda Crate contains a brief educational booklet—this one was about building math sense, to tie in with the counting-to-10 theme.
Can kids do Kiwi Crates without help?
For the most part, my kids were able to execute the projects on their own, though they did need me to read the directions and help them with the more complicated aspects. I think that in another year or so, when Noah is 8 and a stronger reader with even more advanced small motor skills, the two of them will easily be able to execute the projects without much (if any) adult assistance.
But to be honest, I enjoyed helping my kids with their Kiwi Crates. If you’re not a “Pinterest Mom” (and I am decidedly not) but you still want to do crafty projects with your kids, KiwiCo is a great option. You don’t have to waste time figuring out a project to do, then wandering the aisles of your local craft store and shelling out a bunch of money for something that’s likely to end up being a “Pinterest Fail.” KiwiCo’s projects are pretty foolproof and more fun than the usual run-of-the-mill crafts. And while you could perhaps buy the “ingredients” for less money on your own, the out-of-the-ordinary projects and quality of the kits themselves are of great value.
If you prefer projects that your kids can do all by themselves so that you can drink hot coffee in peace, I would suggest not ordering KiwiCo until your kids can read well and are interested in doing projects independently.
Should you sign up for KiwiCo?
If you’re anything like me, the answer is a resounding “yes.” There’s something to be said for having a KiwiCo crate on hand every month, especially as we move into the snowed-in, Arctic Blast season of the year. I loved being able to grab one of the Kiwi Crates I had stashed on a shelf to banish the “we have nothing to do” whines, and they’re a far more creative—and educational—activity than playing on an iPad.
If you’re still hesitant to sign your child up for a KiwiCo subscription, might I suggest asking for one as a gift? It’s a great present from a grandparent or other family member, especially if you’re a parent who is trying to cut back on all the “stuff” around your home (ahem, me). Your kid will be far more pleased with a monthly activity designed just for them than yet another ugly sweater from Aunt Ruth.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.