What’s in the box!?
Just countless hours of entertainment, crafting, and learning …
At least that’s what KiwiCo, the maker of the Kiwi Crate and a number of other related products, promises.
So, how does it stack up? Read on, we dive in deep to these subscription boxes for kids.
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In the age of YouTube channels and kids’ apps, it can be difficult to find entertainment options for your kids that don’t involve a screen and keep them active. KiwiCo is one of a number of companies that wants to change that.
The concept is simple: you sign up to receive a monthly box full of activities that are both fun and educational. Your kids can get creative and learn something in the process. At the same time, you’re on the hook for a regular subscription fee that keeps KiwiCo in the lab producing new boxes.
KiwiCo has maybe the most popular of these kids subscription boxes, so we decided to give it a test run. We tested the namesake Kiwi Crate with a 4-year-old girl, along with 5-year-old and 7-year-old boys. While we were at it, we also tested the company’s Koala Crate, designed for smaller kids, with a 2-year-old boy.
Does this product actually “inspire young innovators”? Let’s dive into our Kiwi Crate review and find out.
Before we start, a quick qualification. Kiwi Crate actually used to be the name of the company, which offered only a single subscription box. When they branched out, the company renamed to KiwiCo to keep its box name the same. We know, it’s confusing. To keep it simple in this review, ‘Kiwi Crate’ will only refer to that one subscription box. Anytime we talk about the company or all of its products combined, we’ll reference it as KiwiCo.
What is a Kiwi Crate?
It’s a box full of creative activities that ships monthly, focusing on children between the ages of 5 and 8. Think of it as one of those healthy meal subscriptions, but with toys for your kids instead: you sign up once, specify the box that’s appropriate for your kid’s age, and do nothing but wait to receive the box in the mail.
Every box you receive contains one Maker Project, which can range from building an arcade to creating glowing jellyfish and glowworms. The box also has some additional instructions for tinkering that go beyond the core project, along with a magazine that carries on the same theme. Emails and online tutorials help you and your kids dive deeper into the project.
You can sign up for a single month or longer 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month intervals. The longer the time period, the more money you save over time.
What is a Koala Crate?
The nature of the activities in these boxes leads to them being beneficial only for a very specific age range. Not to worry, though: KiwiCo offers alternatives for other ages, as well. The Koala Crate is designed for your toddler or pre-schooler between the ages of 2 and 4.
The box itself is themed with options like Ocean Games, Doctor’s Visit, Rainbows, and Camping for any given month. Beyond the creative activities in that theme, it comes with a parent guide to help your little one learn, a magazine with stories and games that relate to the theme of the box, and online resources to dive deeper into the topic with your little one.
Things to know about Kiwico and its crate
Enough with the introductions. You can read all of the above on the maker’s website or any other review. It’s time to dig into the specifics we found as we tested the Kiwi Crate. These are some initial takeaways:
- This kit requires your full attention as a parent, at least until your little one is 8 or 9. The activities are not likely to be something your kids can do on their own, so be prepared to help.
- Each Kiwi Crate comes with a ton of small pieces. That means you can’t take your eyes off your kids as they work through it unless you’re prepared to search for these pieces across the house, yard, doghouse … The activities work best when they have your full attention and you can complete them in a controlled environment.
- Assembly can be difficult when you have smaller siblings that aren’t quite ready yet. John’s 5-year-old son Calvin’s biggest hobby is sitting next to his big brother Oliver to annoy him. That made it tough to really focus on building, plus some of the items (batteries, marbles, etc.) need an extra watchful eye at all times to stay out of small hands and mouths.
- The projects you and your kids build are not built from materials meant to be around forever. But that’s ok; it won’t clutter up your house with it, and KiwiCo offers good ideas on how to recycle or reuse most of the materials.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the subscription beyond the box itself. KiwiCo’s emails do a nice job of adding to the fun through other DIY projects and ideas you and your kids can pursue.
- It’s definitely entertaining, even beyond the first time you build the project. Our 7-year-old ended up taking his project apart again to play with the coolest of its pieces.
Is this a subscription?
It definitely is, even though the company shies away from calling it that. Here’s why: when you sign up, even for a single month, it will automatically renew (and charge you monthly fees) unless you manually cancel it.
There is another option: KiwiCo has an online store in which it sells its crates, and a number of individual activities, without any commitment or automatic renewals. That increases the price and adds shipping costs.
At its core, though, this is a subscription service that’s designed for you to keep getting boxes every month. One way to save a bit is to sign up for a single month and cancel after the first box.
Our Kiwi Crate review: The awesome, the wish it was different, and a verdict
Time for some judgment. You might have already noticed that we have plenty of good things to say about KiwiCo and the crates we tested. Is that enough to actually give it a buying recommendation? Keep reading to find out.
Beyond the general idea (creative activities with your kids are just fun!), here are some specific things we especially enjoyed about the Kiwi Crate:
- The manuals and instruction manuals are well done. They’re easy to follow, both for you and for your child.
- The cartoons and stories in the accompanying magazine are great. Oliver especially liked reading them once the building was done and he was looking for something else to do.
- Each box actually contains more than one project. You can reconstruct things to make different projects, and the online resources last even longer. This is much more than a one-and-done.
- The new ideas you get in every monthly box are just great. It never really feels recycled or just a different twist on the same thing. Everything is new, interesting, and exciting.
- The projects are fun for adults, too. I helped Oliver put some of his projects together and was surprised by how fast the time went by.
- You don’t have to worry about breaking individual pieces. The projects are designed so that you can replace them with common household items if that happens.
- The Kiwi Crate actually spans a whole range of topics. This is not just arts and crafts; it’s science, and education, and a lot of other activities that all combine to a fun project.
- You feel your kids learning. This is not a lego set that has your kid mindlessly follow instructions. We could really see and feel our kids learning, and we actually learned some things in the process.
- The customization is pretty impressive. Paul’s daughter Kenzie, for instance, spent a lot of time decorating her projects when finished. Oliver didn’t, but still found plenty of other stuff to do.
The wish it was different
It wasn’t all great, of course. We did run into a few issues as we tested these boxes and built the projects with our kids:
- It can definitely get overwhelming. The pieces are pretty small, and there are tons of them. Keeping track and making sure you get everything right puts some stress on the parent.
- The projects are recyclable, but you still can’t help feeling wasteful. Once the project is complete, chances are your kid will stop playing with it. I will say that there were a couple of exceptions to this, like the light up lantern box and the arcade crate, both of which got many uses after we built them.
After looking at those two lists above, it’s probably not a shocking revelation to say that we really liked the Kiwi Crate. It’s a great way to spend time with your kids, building things together and learning something in the process.
You don’t have to be the creative force here. Even if you don’t have time to be that hardcore crafter dad or mom, you can build along with your kids and let their creativity flow freely. You get everything you need in a box, even the stuff you wouldn’t have around the house–no running around and frantically buying arts and craft supplies needed.
Our (mini) Koala Crate review
The general concept of the Koala Crate is the same as its older sibling, so most of the awesome and wish it was different from above still applies. In testing this out with Calvin, our 2-year-old, we still found a few unique things that are worth highlighting here:
- There are far fewer pieces to this box, and they tend to be less breakable. That’s great for an age range in which ripping and eating random things can be the source of great fun.
- Neither of our kids likes to sit still (probably not a shocker for anyone with kids in this age range). Unfortunately, that also means Koala Crate can be harder because it does require patience and focus that can often elude toddlers and pre-schoolers.
- Prepare to work a lot. For this crate to be fun for Calvin, we ended up having to have everything set up and ready to go before we started the activity with him, so you’ve got to find time for that in addition to actually with your kid time. You will need to read the instructions ahead of time if you don’t want to completely lose your kid’s interest.
- From a pure learning perspective, it was difficult to tell if Calvin was really getting anything out of it. He seemed to have fun, but he was too young to really display those signs of learning KiwiCo likes to point to.
What KiwiCo crate is right for my child?
Beyond the Koala and Kiwi Crate, KiwiCo has also expanded its line to focus on other age ranges and activity types:
- The Panda Crate (ages 0-2) is designed for those early learning and brain development skills.
- The Atlas Crate (ages 6-11) focuses on helping your elementary schooler learn about geography and culture.
- The Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+) is full of art and craft projects.
- The Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+) helps your kids build STEM projects like a trebuchet or a hydraulic claw.
- The Maker Crate (ages 14-104) is essentially an at-home art and design workshop every month.
- The Eureka Crate (ages 14-104) includes in-depth, advanced science and engineering projects.
Your kids’ ages will dictate which of these make the most sense. Especially until they turn 9, go with the suggested age ranges and maybe even play it a little conservatively to make sure they’re ready for the activity. For those younger ages, each crate option tends to cover anything from arts and crafts to science and early engineering.
At older ages, it makes sense to look at the specific crate and compare it with interests. We didn’t review these older options in detail, but there might be a situation in which you have to choose between two areas (like the two science options above) that sound really similar on the company’s website.
How much are Kiwi Crates?
The base price for the Kiwi Crate subscription is $19.95, and they often run free shipping promotions that keep that price steady. Longer subscriptions decrease monthly costs:
- Monthly: $19.95 for a single month.
- 3-month subscription: $19.95/month for three months, or $59.85 total.
- 6-month subscription: $18.50/month for six months, or $111.00 total.
- 12-month subscription: $16.95/month for 12 months, or $203.40 total.
You can also buy each of the crates in the company’s online store, but that increases the price to $24.95 plus another $4.95 in shipping.
It’s not cheap, but the time we got out of it was well worth it. The kids (especially the older ones) seemed to love it, and we got some good parenting time out of it as well. Turns out, sometimes you actually do want to find out what’s in the box.