Kiwi Crate Review: How does this STEM Box for Kids Rate?

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Do you ever look at all of the creative crafts and science experiments out on the web and think, I’d love to do that but I don’t have the time to find all the materials I need? Or maybe, like me, you live in a small town and don’t have access to every ingredient needed to complete an experiment you see online. KiwiCo has developed a wide range of educational and STEM-specific kits that you can purchase: these have all of the materials you’ll need, clear instructions for completing the experiment (or craft), and additional information for parents to help enrich their child’s learning experience.

I recently completed four KiwiCo kits with my toddler (she’s just about 6 weeks shy of 3) and we had a blast! I highly recommend checking them out, you’re sure to find something that you and your child can enjoy together.

I reviewed four kits: 

  • Colorful Chemistry: target age-range 5-8 years
  • Dinosaurs: target age-range 2-4 years
  • Starry Night: target age-range 2-4 years
  • Ocean Games: target age-range 2-4 years

My daughter and I both enjoyed all 4 kits and would recommend any of them. Our favorites during the initial activity were Colorful Chemistry and Ocean Games. But Starry Night and Dinosaurs also have some elements that are providing some long-term engagement and fun.

>> Click here to view more details at KiwiCo.com <<

Note: The Colorful Chemistry kit was provided by KiwiCo for review. The other sets were purchased by us.

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Colorful Chemistry

Review Methodology

I completed the colorful chemistry set with my toddler during an afternoon early on in our area’s stay at home orders. We opened the kit together and completed each of the experimental activities described in the instructions. 

What is it?

The colorful chemistry kit teaches your child about the scientific method, colors, and basic chemical reactions. This is a great option for toddlers to young school-aged children. I love that this kit works for a wide age-range. It technically falls under the Kiwi Crate group, which is aimed at 5-8 year olds, but you’ll see it advertised in the Koala Crate page (ages 2-4) and I think this is reasonable. My not-quite-3-year-old was really engaged, she was able to help measure out the ingredients, mix them, and pour the water to create the reactions. She isn’t quite ready for the more complex ideas around color mixing or the specific chemistry of the fizzing reaction, but of all the kits we tried this may have provided her the greatest personal challenge and satisfaction in terms of participation. 

KiwiCo Colorful Chemistry STEAM kit unboxed

Colorful Chemistry unboxed (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Short Version

The colorful chemistry kit is a fun and colorful experiment designed to begin teaching the scientific method, learning about colors and color mixing, and basic chemical reactions. The chemical reaction is created using a combination of baking soda and citric acid that bubbles and fizzes when mixed with water. The color mixing experiments and activities are created by adding red, blue, and yellow coloring to the mixture. I especially like using a colorful and memorable reaction such as this because it is something you can talk about with your child in other contexts and they are likely to remember. My daughter and I did this kit a few weeks before this writing, just this morning I referred to our experiment while reading an unrelated book to give her a tangible example from her own experience. 

Toddler exploring chemistry - Colorful Chemistry Kit in action

Colorful Chemistry in action: mixing colors. (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Pros

  • Clear and simple instructions: easy to follow with good illustrations and photos
  • There is enough material for completing the experiment twice or exploring lots of your own ideas in one sitting
  • The methods include mixing all starting components before initiating experiments, this was a great opportunity for my younger child (just shy of 3) to participate by measuring, mixing, pouring, and spraying “all by herself”, which she loved and found incredibly empowering
  • The three experiments and activities provided ensure a great experience and help illustrate some of the opportunities for creating your own experiments
  • The instruction book includes lab-book like sections for you child to write down hypotheses and results, giving them a chance to document their experiment like a real scientist
  • Completing the three activities took us an hour or so, a satisfying amount of time that also held a toddler’s attention. We abbreviated some of the parts, so older children could dig in a little deeper and get even more out of it.
  • The instruction booklet includes three additional experiment ideas; we didn’t get to these, but they’re a really thoughtful add-on and I like that they help encourage experimental thinking and some activities to do with the extra materials you might have after finishing the initial experiments.

Cons

  • I found that the yellow color wasn’t quite strong enough compared to the blue and red, so the color combinations including yellow didn’t work as well as others
  • Color mixing, in general, required a lot more active input than I initially expected: I had to keep mixing and adding water to get the color combinations to be obvious

Key Features

Introduction to the Scientific Method

Your child is asked to predict what happens when you add water to the citric acid/baking soda mixture and what colors will result from mixing red, blue, and yellow in combination.

Toddler filling in a science lab book from the colorful chemistry kit

Filling out the Colorful Chemistry lab book (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Introduction to Chemistry

Your child is instructed to carefully measure and mix the starting materials that create the chemical reaction.

Color Mixing Art Activity

One of the included activities uses the color mixing experiment to make a watercolor-like mixture to create a “painted” figure on a card (all materials included).

Mixing Order and Reaction Size

The last experiment encourages a bit more free-form experimentation to learn about how order matters in chemistry (e.g., water first vs. powder first) and how the amount of starting materials can impact the reaction size.

Toddler doing a chemistry experiment at home with a Kiwi Crate kit

Mixed up, fizzing colors (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Ratings

  • Design: 7/10
  • Features: 7/10
  • Educational Value: 9/10
  • User Experience: 10/10
  • Value for Money: 8/10

Verdict 

The KiwiCo Colorful Chemistry kit is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a true experimental experience for a younger child. It is versatile enough to be fun for any pre-school aged child, and likely many older children as well. The included materials and instructions clearly lead the user through experimental ideas like developing hypotheses, observing the results, and asking new questions. The activities and chemical reactions are fun and engaging for children (and adults!). And the kit comes with enough starting materials to complete the experiments twice, adding value to an already high-quality experience.

>> Click here to view more details at KiwiCo.com <<

A colorful chemistry experiment

Learning about chemistry with colorful chemistry (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Dinosaurs

Review Methodology

I completed this kit with my daughter during our usual activity time. We opened the box and followed the instructions to complete the three activities/crafts included with the kit.

What is it?

Dinosaurs is a Koala Crate (target ages 2-4) kit that focuses on activities, crafts, and educational information about dinosaurs and paleontology. 

KiwiCo Koala Crate kit unboxed - Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs unboxed photo including costume, fossil making kit, and matching game (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Short Version

The Dinosaurs kit includes three activities and crafts aimed at teaching your child about dinosaurs while also developing fine motor skills and matching. Children get to make a dinosaur visor and feet for some role play, learn about and make two fossils, and work on matching skills using the pairing game. The additional information provided includes some other fun activities such as making dinosaur soap and an introduction to ideas of timescale and how fossils form.

Pros

  • Includes three well-designed and high-quality activities
  • The materials are high-quality and easy to use, resulting in an end product that looks very much like the photos with the box, which is always a plus with young children
  • The clay fossil activity includes a lot of good learning outcomes such as matching the stickers to the cards, working with clay, and learning about how the imprint works, supporting some high-quality developmental tasks
  • The dino match game was a big hit with my child, she still pulls it out to play with, and has expanded her matching skills 
  • The informational booklet that comes with the package has interesting facts, illustrations, and stories that bring dinosaurs to life for children and introduce them to some of the really complex ideas around time, fossil formation, and dinosaur size

Cons

  • Educational components rely more on the reading materials than the activities, making the learning less engaging for younger children
  • I found instructions for the dinosaur costume a little confusing: it did not explain why there are two visors/heads but only one set of feet, it also did not clearly identify that there are multiple options for dinosaur teeth
  • The clay fossil activity was a bit more difficult than I anticipated: it took many tries (for me) to get a clean fossil imprint

Key Features

Dinosaur Dress-Up

The dinosaur dress-up activity includes a visor and dinosaur feet, with stick-on decorations for teeth and markings, and elastic to create a customized fit. The Felt is high-quality and the stickers are pre-cut. My daughter loved making her pieces and stomping around the house like a dinosaur!

Using the Dinosaur kit from the Koala Crate range

Decorating the dino costume feet (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

 

Decorating the KiwiCo dinosaur costume visor

Decorating the dino costume visor (bottom) (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Clay Fossils

The clay fossil activity includes air-dry clay and 3-D stickers that can be placed on provided template cards. Once the stickers are placed, your child can knead the clay and then press it onto the cards to create impressions of the dinosaur fossils. My daughter really loved placing the stickers and was able to do a great job matching them to the picture. I found it a little challenging to get the modeling clay the right size and shape to effectively make an impression, and it was sometimes hard to get an impression without sliding. This activity also includes information about how fossils are formed and found, which is fun to talk about while making impressions.

Fossil impressions from the dinosaur Koala Crate

Making the fossil impression cards (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

 

Completed dino fossils from a Koala Crate set

Completed dino fossils (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Dino Match Game

The dino match game includes game cards, coins with footprints that match the shape and color shown on the card, and a spinner. The game is simple but fun and interesting. My daughter enjoyed it and has played it several times since our first day with the kit. The one drawback on this is the small coin-shaped pieces, which tend to fly around a bit; they do include a heavy-paper pouch to store the coins, which is helpful.

Reviewing a Koala Crate dinosaur matching game

Dino matching game (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Ratings

  • Design: 7/10
  • Features: 6/10
  • Educational Value: 7/10
  • User Experience: 7/10
  • Value for Money: 7/10

Verdict

My daughter and I enjoyed the Dinosaur kit, but it was overall the least engaging of the sets we tried. As with the other sets, the craft materials are high quality and the accompanying directions and educational information for parents are also helpful, clear, and interesting. But I found the activities to be a bit too simple and finished too quickly compared with other sets. As part of a multi-pack, it’s a nice addition. If your child really loves Dinosaurs, they might find it more engaging.

>> Click here to view more details at KiwiCo.com <<

Starry Night

Review Methodology

I completed this kit with my not-quite-three-year old daughter, appropriately during April 2020’s super moon. We opened the box together, read the included magazine, and completed the three craft activities included with the kit.

What is it?

This is a Koala Crate kit (targeted for ages 2-4) with activities that teach about space. The kit includes 3 activities: creating a glow-in-the-dark moon, a meteor toss game, and a galaxy glitter bottle.

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Short Version

The starry night Koala Crate box uses three craft activities to teach your child about stars, the moon, and space and includes some accompanying facts, a short story, and additional activities in a magazine that comes with the kit. My daughter and I enjoyed creating the three crafts: the glow-in-the-dark moon has become the longest-lasting favorite, she calls it her dark of the moon and spent days carrying it around with her. The meteor toss is fun and effective, but with a young terrier in the house, we play this one at our own peril. The galaxy bottle was fun to make, my daughter loves to help measure and pour ingredients making this an exciting activity. The one drawback I found was it was too dark at first, after about a week the puffballs absorbed a lot of the color and you could see the objects move around more clearly, but I’d recommend using only a portion of the blue coloring to start (you can always add more later).

Koala Crate Starry Night for 2-4 years

Completed glowing moon (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Pros

  • The glow in the dark moon is simple and effective, but not too bright, my daughter loves this craft
  • The facts, story, and additional activities in the magazine are engaging and fun 
  • The meteor toss game is simple and quick to create and the tossing pieces are much more accurate and easy to throw than I anticipated, making it a successful and fun activity
  • The sparkly galaxy bottle is fun to make and a great opportunity for your little one to participate in measuring, pouring, and mixing 
  • Since the stars and moon are in our night sky, this one has a lot of really concrete real-world application and you can fall back to the activities and facts learned with this Koala Crate for years to come as your child learns more about the night sky

Cons

  • Creating the moon ornament takes some skill when placing the clay over the round plastic piece, and I found I had to help (or do) more than I intended. But in the end, my child was so happy with the result that this is a minor concern.
  • I found using all of the blue coloring for the galaxy bottle made it too dark: we could only see the silver glitter floating. After a week or so the color was absorbed into some of the pieces and the bottle was easier to see, but by then it had lost some of its excitement.

Key Features

Glowing Moon

The glowing moon is an ornament-sized glow-in-the-dark moon that you create with your child using air-dry clay, glow in the dark paint, and display with a cardboard stand provided with the kit. It took about 15 minutes to make the model (roll out the clay, wrap it around the ornament, create craters, and paint). This piece has been the most interesting for my daughter after completing the kits: she likes to see the moon around the house and especially in her bedroom.

Kiwi toddler activity - painting a moon from the Starry night STEAM kit

Painting the moon figure (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Meteor Toss

This is a really simple craft that results in a longer-lasting activity. Using foam balls, orange fabric, and rubber bands – all provided – you make two toss pieces that you aim at targets with space-related images printed on them (provided). It also comes with a spinner to make the game more complicated and fun for multiple people.

Meteor toss activity in action - from KiwiCo Koala crate

Meteor toss in action (beware enthusiastic terriers; Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Galaxy Bottle

The galaxy bottle is a sensory bottle filled with space-related objects and some fun elements like glitter and puffballs. You can use the meteor toss spinner to look for the space objects, or just shake it around to watch the pieces float.

A toddler sensory bottle from Koala Crate

Filling the galaxy sensory bottle (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Ratings

  • Design: 8/10
  • Features: 7/10
  • Educational Value: 9/10
  • User Experience: 8/10
  • Value for Money: 8/10

Verdict

Starry night is an engaging educational craft kit that teaches through creation and fun activities. I like that it incorporates science facts in an unobtrusive way: it may seem like your child isn’t learning much at first, but introducing abstract concepts like constellations, distance in space, and what happens to a grain of sand when it crashes into the earth’s atmosphere, is not easy. I think this kit does the job well and like that it gives your child a concrete experience to help them orient when learning about space.

>> Click here to view more details at KiwiCo.com <<

Ocean Games

Review Methodology

I completed this kit with my not-quite-three-year old daughter on a gloomy day during stay at home orders. We opened the box together (see unboxed photo), read the included magazine, and completed the two activities in the kit.

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KiwiCo toddler activity - Ocean Games

Ocean games unboxed including ocean sort, ocean creature mosaics, and a story book (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

What is it?

Ocean Games is a Koala Crate (target ages 2-4) focused on developing early math skills through matching and sorting.

Short Version

The Ocean Games Koala Crate uses games, a craft, and a short story book to introduce matching and sorting concepts in the context of ocean life. The kit includes a fishing game with high quality felt pieces and a marine mosaic craft project. The magazine includes a lot of useful information about how sorting and comparing relate to developing math skills, and provides some ideas for additional activities that can be completed during every-day life (e.g., when sorting laundry and putting away dishes).

Toddler fishing game - a great STEM activity that promotes fine motor skills

Fishing game (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Pros

  • The ocean sort fishing game pieces are made of high-quality felt, a nice wood fishing pole, and a playmat that can be folded up to securely store the pieces
  • The marine mosaic is fun and colorful, with an attractive and long-lasting end result
  • The Koala Crate magazine includes high-quality information about the importance of sorting and categorizing, along with ideas for a lot of additional activities you can do, including activities in every-day life 
  • The storybook that comes with the kit is engaging and fun
  • The fishing game is effective and offers a lot of opportunities to sort, count, and identify ocean animals in different combinations that make it interesting and long-lasting

Cons

  • I would have loved a 3rd ocean animal included in the marine mosaic craft (perhaps a starfish, since that is the third animal included in the ocean sort game)
  • The ocean sort game fishing pole uses hook and loop to grab the fish, it can be difficult to pick up pieces on occasion and a magnet could have been a more secure grabbing option

Key Features

Ocean Sort

The ocean sort game includes a generous number of sea felt sea animal shapes in three colors and two sizes (large and small), including a fish, turtle, and starfish in each shape and size. It also includes sorting cards to help make a game of selecting size, shape, and color to teach sorting and matching skills. I love the clever way that the fishing mat becomes a storage pouch with handles. 

Ocean Sort from KiwiCo - a sorting game that helps toddlers develop their memory and logic skills

Ocean sort (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Marine Mosaic

The marine mosaic includes two ocean animals – a fish and a turtle – with a clear sticker and crepe paper squares. Your child can make a stained-glass type mosaic by sticking the crepe paper to the stickers. When held up to the light, the colors show well and the stained glass craft is fun to look at. My daughter loved this craft, and knew exactly what to do without any instructions: as soon as we opened the box she got to work removing the sticker backing and placing her crepe paper squares. I had fun watching her work on it and really liked that it required very little (or no) adult input. 

Ocean mosaic - a sea-themed STEAM activity for toddlers

Jumping in to make her ocean mosaic (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

 

Ocean mosaics - toddler craft proudly on display

Finished and displayed ocean mosaics (Photo by Allison Ebbets)

Sorting and Matching information

More than some others, this kit includes a lot of educational information for parents about sorting and matching activities. I found the information instructive, high-quality, and useful. Sorting and matching are extremely important in early math development, so it’s great to have this information at hand, along with a wide range of simple ideas for activities and crafts to do with your child that encourage these skills.

Ratings

  • Design: 9/10
  • Features: 8/10
  • Educational Value: 10/10
  • User Experience: 9/10
  • Value for Money: 10/10

Verdict

Ocean Games is an excellent set of activities and crafts that focus on teaching sorting and matching skills, while also developing fine motor skills and a lot of fun discovery. For me, this was the best value for money, considering educational value, fun, and longevity, of the four kits I tested.

>> Click here to view more details at KiwiCo.com <<

Allison Ebbets