Kiwi Crates a Fun Way to Open the World of STEM to Kids

Kiwi Crates a Fun Way to Open the World of STEM to Kids
Photo by Jef Rouner
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Monthly crates, boxes of themed gifts and products, are all the rage. My wife gets Sephora Play and Me Undies. I have friends who subscribe to various geek and horror services. Lately the one that’s been the biggest hit in my house is the Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate is a STEM learning service designed for children ages five through eight. Each month explores a different aspect of science or engineering, complete with a small magazine that further elaborates on the concepts in age-appropriate language. I don’t think my daughter has ever been more excited at something in the mail than she is by her Kiwi Crates.

What kind of projects do we do? Well, this month was all about light and colors. The image you see at the top is a basic, handmade lamp that she and I constructed out of a jar, some cardboard, vinyl stickers and three colored lights. As you turn it, the colors reflect in different ways to mimic the sort of popular night lights that you buy for babies. Sadly, there aren’t any mechanical components. Every project thus far lacks motors that would truly take them to the next level, but they are still good, basic conceptual toys that are fun to build.

A pinball machine we built
A pinball machine we built
Photo by Jef Rouner

Oh, that one also came with the basic workings on how a movie theater projector operates. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the sort of photographic equipment that would do the final effect justice, but my daughter was fascinated by the way light can turn black and white images into color.

Other projects included constructing a wooden claw that could be used to play a rudimental claw-grabbing game. It came with an additional craft, letting you make tiny aliens out of googly eyes and yarn. She still uses the claw to retrieve fallen stuffed animals from behind her bed.

All the projects are very simple, with instructions somewhere between those of a LEGO set and a Wikihow article. It is important to actually read them, as the pictures sometimes do not do full justice to the necessary actions, but even that is a handy learning tool. My daughter CAN read a full grade level above her school level, but she’s developed a nasty habit of assuming her first visual impression of something is all she needs to know about it. A few mistakes here and there that could have been avoided by a careful reading of the text is an invaluable teachable opportunity.

By far my favorite project so far has been the homemade pinball machine. Again, it’s a very simple concept, but still a functionally identical version of the earliest pinball machines that lacked the lights and mechanicals that we’re all used to these days. She’s still playing with it three months later, a virtual eternity for a seven-year-old.

The service runs roughly $20 a month, with discounts for buying longer subscriptions up front. There are also versions designed for kids as young as three and as old as 16, so I imagine we’ll be giving Kiwi Crate our money for a very long time. There are still not enough girls in the STEM fields, and a chance for my daughter to express her interests in the privacy of her own home, assisted by my wife and me, has been a wonderful experience. If you’re looking for the perfect rainy-day learning project, I can’t recommend this one enough.

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