Kiwi Crate is a monthly STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subscription box service based in California. Its name comes from the national bird of New Zealand (the Kiwi) and they currently offer four levels covering 3 age groups: koala crate (3-4), kiwi crate (5-8) and for kids between 9-16 they have a doodle crate (art and design) and a tinker crate (science and engineering).
Kiwi Crates aren’t specifically for coding, but they aim to develop the creative, thinking, problem solving and building skills kids need. Learning to enjoy making things and getting the satisfaction completing projects is a process that helps kids develop the patience and perseverance needed for more complex tasks later in life. From a parent’s point of view, knowing a great box is in the mail each month is a fantastic way to keep ideas coming when you don’t have time to think things up yourself.
About the Founder
The story behind Kiwi Crate is an interesting one. Its founder, Sandra Oh Lin, has an MBA from Harvard and held senior management positions at EBay and PayPal. The business launched in 2011 and annual sales now exceed US$10 million. She has since raised several million dollars in venture capital funding and now has more than 40 employees. Five years ago with two young children, Sandra would go out and buy creative supplies then invite her friend’s kids over for group play. After enough suggestions that she should turn it into a business she did, and she is now regularly featured in business magazines as one of the leading entrepreneurial women in the US.
I like buying a product from someone with a great story who could themselves be a role model for my kids.
What’s in the box
The first thing you notice is that the overall design is great. The box is cute and the contents are well packaged (it’s not just thrown together) making them attractive to eager little eyes. Each box typically comes with two main activates and one smaller activity, plus a copy of the Kiwi magazine explore! or Imagine! (depending on the age).
Targeted at pre-schoolers, the focus here is teaching colours, shapes, emotions etc through nature based arts and crafts, ably guided by our friend Kellen the Koala. An example of content might be soft materials in a bag coupled with instructions to make a series of butterflies or using various materials to build a tree then using motor skills to balance ‘leaves’ on top. The materials are usually pre-cut and have self-adhesive so they take a lot of the harder work away for kids this age.
The Imagine! Magazine includes a story and games like spot the difference, find the hidden object and mazes.
Now for kids aged 5-8, our companion becomes Steve the Kiwi and the contents of the box become suitably more challenging and diverse. The magazine is longer and has sections covering: read, draw, play, explore and make. Like the Koala box, it includes 2-3 activities with everything you need inside.
The box itself also changes, with the main game of the month actually mentioned on the outside. This is a nice touch as it helps to get the kids excited before you’ve even opened the box. Recent themes have included making a pinball machine, make your own arcade and creating a fizzy chemistry lab.
What’s nice is that each month is different in theme, but also in skills applied / learned. For example, making a pinball machine required pinning small plastic pins into a plastic board, then using rubber bands to create jumps and hooks. The chemistry game included plastic cups for experiments between A and B, using hot and cold water, and baking soda to compare results. The instructions are quite thorough so it’s a good test for reading skills, and usually requires a bit of parental assistance. Most importantly, you can see it developing a love of learning in front of your eyes.
As kids grow up, they can transition to the more advanced boxes anytime ad they receive a graduation certificate which is a very nice touch.
A regular subscription is US$19.95 per month (free shipping within the US), or US$18.50/month for a 6 month subscription or $16.95/month for 12 months.
I like buying a product from someone with a great story who could themselves be a role model for my kids. In the case of Kiwi Crates, I can imagine Sandra and her family dreaming up great projects then carefully putting together all the pieces to assemble the box. Some people have commented that for $20 you can go out and buy arts and crafts stuff yourself, but many parents don’t have the time (or imagination). Investing in something like Kiwi Crates tells your kids you care about their play time and helps to instil good family habits as you spend time learning together.
Like any subscription box this gives you creative play ideas on a regular basis
Cute and easy to follow packaging
Anything arriving via mail is hugely exciting for kids
You need to help guide your kids through the instructions (I would argue this is good as it means you are spending time together)