Discovering Spring – Flower Press and Life Cycles Box (ExperisenseNZ review)

I love the ExperisenseNZ Life Cycles box which I purchased for $27. I was inspired by our annual Spring unit on seasonal cycles, growing food and flowers in the garden, and observing garden mini-beasts. We were thrilled to watch the hard work we had done earlier in the year, creating new wildflower beds to support our favourite pollinators, burst into colourful bloom.

We wanted to preserve some of our flowers and were excited at the idea of buying a flower press to create seasonal art and gifts. A classic press seems to cost around $24 so I was thrilled to get the ExperisenseNZ kit which comes with a flower press and a number of additional activities.

What is the life cycle of a sunflower?

We love sunflowers with their stately and colourful beauty. It’s also fun being able to harvest their seeds; either to dry and sow again, or, to feed to the birds in Autumn.

The kit comes with a laminated life cycle wheel for discussing the sunflower’s life cycle stages. It also comes with a generous amount of sunflower seeds and some compostable pots to get you started.

Tip: Seedlings make great Christmas gifts!

What is a butterfly life cycle?

We made marbled paper and then followed the instructions in the kit to make a beautiful butterfly life cycle. Our wall poster shows the stages from egg, to caterpillar, to cocoon (or pupae), to butterfly.

Tip: Spring is a great time of year to consider growing Swan Plants to watch the Monarch Butterfly life cycle in action!

What is a ladybug life cycle?

What I like about the kit including both Butterfly and Lady Bug life cycles is that the two insects look quite different to each other in their stages. They also differ in what they eat! For instance, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar will eat a huge number of milkweed leaves; whereas, a Ladybug larve will voraciously eat aphids, tiny worms, and insect eggs.

We liked the rainbow foil print on this life cycle so much that we decided to laminate it and add it to our resource collection (rather than use it for a paper plate craft).

How to press flowers

We very much enjoyed using our flower press! We used our pressed flowers to make beautiful bookmarks.

Tip: Gather a variety of flowers on a sunny dry morning. Check flowers for dewdrops (moisture will impact the drying process). Avoid flowers that are very bulky i.e. cut the tips from lavender or choose rose petals rather than a whole rose. Remember that wild flowers, like oxalis, can be as beautiful dried as garden grown.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

ExperisenseNZ

#1 Exploring Maths through Art

#2 Exploring Space through Art

#3 Exploring the Human Body through Art

#4 Exploring Science through Experiments

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

#3 Discover France

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

Christmas gifts: How to make pressed flower bookmarks

Pressed flowers are a wonderful way of making gifts from the heart. They are also a wonderfully creative way for children to make personalised Christmas, birthday, or thank you gifts for friends, families, and teachers.

Materials

  • Flower Press
  • Fresh flowers to press
  • Coloured card
  • Glue stick
  • Laminator and laminating pouch
  • Hole punch, ribbons, beads

Tip: For extra fun, think about making your own beautiful marbled paper for the bookmarks!

Directions

  1. Gather a variety of flowers on a sunny dry morning. Check flowers for dewdrops (moisture will impact the drying process). Avoid flowers that are very bulky i.e. cut the tips from lavender or choose rose petals rather than a whole rose. Remember that wild flowers, like oxalis, can be as beautiful dried as garden grown.
  2. Follow the instructions with your flower press to layer flowers between the drying sheets and screw the press tightly shut. I like to store mine in the hot water cupboard to help the drying process (which can up to two weeks).
  3. Gently take the layers of the flower press apart and carefully remove the dried flowers. I like to lay them on a flat wooden tray. We use gentle hands but you may want to use tweezers.
  4. Cut coloured carboard or cardstock to your desired size; we like to have a variety of colours to choose from.
  5. Enjoy the creative process of arranging the flowers!
  6. Once you have decided on your arrangement, you will need to fix the flowers in place. If you are going to use a laminator (as we did) then all you need is a glue stick – a gentle glue is all that’s needed as it’s simply to keep the flowers in place while the laminator pouch feeds through the laminator. Alternatively, use a strong fast-drying craft glue that will dry clear.
  7. We arranged several bookmarks in each laminating pouch and then fed each A4 pouch through the laminator. This helps to protect the delicate dried flowers (and preserve them from future moisture).
  8. We then cut the completed laminated sheets to size. We liked some of the bookmarks plain; with others, we cut holes with the holepunch, threaded through ribbons, and tied beads to the end.

EXPERISENSE NZ REVIEW: Exploring Science Homeschool Box

Lava lamp experiment

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SCIENCE EXPERIMENT HOMESCHOOL BOX?

This kit is all about having some scientific fun with experiments and adding in artistic flair. I love adding a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning! The box provides seven learning activities to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a guide that outlines how to conduct each experiment and also provides information on the scientific principles being demonstrated. It’s a great way for kids to build on prior knowledge, as well as asking new questions!

The ExperiSense NZ Biology Box sells for NZD$27 online; I’ve bought and reviewed a number of their boxes with this one being received free in exchange for an honest review.

How to make your own lava lamp

Have you ever looked at a lava lamp and wondered how they work? Well, this experiment will let you make your own temporary lava lamp! We loved it to so much that we did it twice.

Fundamentally, it comes down to the fact that oil and water do not mix. This is because they are different densities (and oil will actually rise up to float on top of water – which you can see happen in the experiment). As you slowly drop food dye into the oil, watch how the droplets retain their own separate form (“immiscible” was our cool new word of the day). Once water is added, the food dye will slowly dissolve into the water but differences in density mean the oil will rise to the surface.

The magic happens when carbon dioxide gas is created by introducing a fizzing tablet! The chemistry being demonstrated means that as the solid tablet dissolves, bubbles of water-and-gas raise to the surface. As the carbon dioxide gas dissipates, density changes causing the bubbles to sink. FYI – in a real lava lamp what you are watching is caused by thermodynamic changes (i.e. the application of heat).

In our first experiment, we used 1/4 tablet, red + yellow food dye, the oil provided, and the cup provided. In our second experiment, we used 3/4 tablet, a recycled glass jar, our own kitchen oil, the blue dye provided + some red dye.

Extra Activities

The lava lamp experiment looks at both density and states of matter. You may want to explore these further with simple experiments such as:

Why do things float or sink? A great way to start is in natural environments, such as a river or beach, by gathering up materials such as driftwood, shells, rocks, and mangrove pods to experiment with. At home, consider experiments with buoyancy such as why an orange will float (unless you peel it!).

How does water demonstrate states of matter? I love using water to demonstrate how something can so easily change forms between solid > liquid > gas. A fun experiment relating to buoyancy is to freeze water in a bag (food delivery boxes can be great sources of pre-formed ice) and create an iceberg diorama in a sink or bucket; have fun seeing what toys can balance on the iceberg before it melts!

Oil and Water Painting

We really enjoy making marbled paper using shaving foam; this was our first time using oil. We used a large plastic tray and simply recycled our lava lamps (with some extra colours dropped onto the surface of the oil). We chose to use our own paper and dye, in addition to the card stock provided, and made lots of beautiful art work.

Tip: Have layers of cardboard and paper towels beneath your art so that it can absorb the excess oil. We waited until the next day (once the dye was dry) before layering the artwork between layers of paper towels and popping in hot water cupboard to finish drying.

Magic Trick: Once the paintings are completely dry, the oil will have changed the appearance of the paper but any ‘virgin’ paper will still appear white. If you hold the art up to a bright light then not only can you see your beautiful colours clearly but any ‘white’ corners will disappear and smokey ‘shadows’ will appear in their place instead!

How to make a rainbow

The kit comes with a very small prism that you can use to split light. As light enters the prism, it bends, and the different wavelengths will create a spectrum of colours as they exit. For us, the light exited onto the opposite wall and we found creating some shadow helped us see it more clearly. We lined up the prism with the sun after catching a wonderful rainbow that was refracting through our fish tank!

The kit also comes with a second rainbow experiment where a bendable ‘mirror’ is placed in a glass of water to reflect and refract light. We found this one a bit tricky but we did achieve a little colour splitting. Miss 6 actually most enjoyed casting shapes of reflected light onto the shadowed ceiling!

Extra Activity

Want to combine rainbows AND learning about the density of different liquids? Check out this fun experiment to make a sugar rainbow!

How to experiment with static electricity

The kit comes with a balloon, templates, and craft paper to make your own ‘jumping bunnies’ or frogs; we also had fun designing our own creatures in a variety of sizes. Rubbing the balloon energetically on clothes creates a temporary static charge which allows your creations to ‘jump’ or ‘dance’.

Extra Activity

Want to see and feel another invisible force? Pop one end of a straw partially into a balloon and secure the neck with a tight rubber band. Blow down the straw and watch the balloon inflate (just like a lung!) and then feel the air exit again out the straw! Talk about how some natural forces we can’t see (like gravity, or air in motion) but we can observe their effects on the world around us.

How to make magic tea

Beautiful colour changing butterfly tea!

The kit comes with two experiments for exploring acids and bases. One is experimenting with litmus paper and the other is making butterfly pea flower tea. I find the tea has a light floral flavour and like to drink it with a little liquid honey. When you brew it, the tea comes out a stunning vibrant blue; the addition of a little freshly squeezed lemon juice (changing the pH level) magically makes it a purple-pink colour!

Tip: Wet litmus paper can leave a yellow mark on benchtops (easily removed with Chemco) so it’s a good idea to place the strips on a piece of white card.

Tip: Hot water will have a more dramatic effect (than cold) when added to a teaspoon of baking soda (alkaline) or a teaspoon of baking powder (acidic).

Extra activities

Explore natural colour changing properties further by using a red cabbage to make a magic colour changing potion! Collect your magic molecules, make a potion, and use the rest to make your own litmus paper!

After watching how baking powder dramatically foams up when a little hot water is added, try making these light and fluffy scones and imagine how the baking powder helps the dough to rise when combined with the heat of the oven.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Exploring the Human Body through Art

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – France (Deluxe Box)

So many ways for kids to explore France and French culture!

What is in the France crate?

There are all kinds of fun activities to do in the France Crate including making a Tour de France cyclist, making your own ‘stained glass’ facade of Notre Dame, cooking, activities to try, and learning a little about France!

You begin by opening your travel mail from Milo and Anya to find out about their latest travel adventures! Miss 6 enjoys seeing them posing for selfies in the photos of France.

There is a passport sticker to add to our Adventure Passport and various cards about France to add to it as well. These range from a country map and cultural information, to activity cards with things to do. You can learn about famous places in France, learn about Impressionist art, have a go at mime, play the game escargot, and bake Gougères.

We did all of the activities in the box and had a lot of fun with them! Miss 6 especially loved doing mime work! We also added to the activities with additional resources from Twinkl and our local library; some of our favourites were: “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been? I’ve Been to Paris and Guess What I’ve Seen…“, “Katie Meets The Impressionists“, “The Magical Garden of Claude Monet“. We enjoyed learning more about the Impressionists – like Monet, Renoir, and Degas. We also liked having a go at making our own impressionist paintings while talking about using art to express or inspire emotions.

Our Deluxe Box Book was “The Way to the Orsay Museum” by Hyo-Mi Park. It’s a lovely picture book about a mother and daughter travelling through Paris and the sights / landmarks they see on their way to view Monet’s painting at the Orsay. We liked that the Mother discussed Impressionism and conveying meaning through encouraging the viewer to reflect on their feelings and responses. We also liked the Afterword with its information on France.

How to make your own Tour de France cyclist

We did a little extra reading about the Tour de France using Twinkl resources and had fun making our own cyclist. Miss 6 found it a little tricky holding and pulling the ends of the string to make the cyclist’s legs move so I tied a wee knot. We worked out it could hang easily from a door knob or picture hook and then she can concentrate on just moving the string.

How to make your own ‘stained glass’ window

Notre Dame in Paris is such a stunning cathedral. We enjoyed researching it and after seeing it depicted in numerous books, Miss 6 was keen to make her own. The craft involves lining up a special piece of ‘plastic’ with the cardboard frame and then using the particular paint provided to create your own ‘stained glass rose window’. I found that using blutak to ‘clamp’ the sides in several places helped to secure it for the painting and drying process (we did two layers of paint). Once it’s dry, you move the painting to the back (it will still be slightly sticky to the touch when dry), remove the backing paper to reveal the layer of double sided tape, and secure the two pieces together. You now have a beautiful piece of artwork to display!

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Exploring the Human Body

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring The Human Body Through Art Homeschool Box

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ BIOLOGY HOMESCHOOL BOX?

I purchased the ExperiSense NZ Biology Box for NZD$25 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about the human body. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a great book and ideas for ways to explore the content in the book (including most of the craft materials required). We added to it with a few great (and inexpensive) additions from Kmart: Factivity: Amazing Body Sticker Activity Book, Write & Wipe Wellbeing Book, and a poseable art mannequin for exploring movements and joints.

This is a great way for kids to ask questions like ‘What is in the human body?’ and ‘How does my body work?’. The kit proved to be fantastic value as the book alone retails for around NZD$20. It’s a well laid out hardback book, aimed at primary school aged children (KS1/KS2), with heaps of colour photos (as well as cool radiology and specialist pictures from hospital imaging).

What are the organs of the human body?

Miss 6 loves the Tinybop Human Body app so was keen to jump straight into having a life-size drawing of herself made on the paper provided. She then did a pretty good job of guessing where the internal organs (supplied) should get blu-tacked on and discussing what human organs do. Honestly, the two she wasn’t sure of (pancreas and gallbladder) I had to google myself to check where to place them. She’s pretty stoked that it’s hanging in the hallway along with other artwork from this box.

We also did reading about human organs in the book provided and did activities about them in our Factivity book. She also made up some pretty cool song and dance routines to demonstrate how organs like the human heart work.

The optional extension activity is to draw an additional system (such as the circulatory system or the nervous system) on the human body and talk about what organ systems these link to and how they support their function.

What does my skeleton look like?

We read about bones in the Human Body book and then did an x-ray activity in our Factivity book. One of the x-ray stickers was of a human hand – which perfectly tied in with our next craft.

The kit provides black paper, white paint, and instructions on creating your own radiology x-ray of a human hand; you will need to supply cotton bud sticks and strong craft glue. Tip: if you add water to the paint you will only need a little amount! Our first learning-by-doing part of the morning was realizing that thinning the paint too much simply has it oozing beneath the placed hand! Our second attempt went much better and we decided that using a smaller brush for flicking the paint also works better than a large brush.

There are lots of ways that kids can approach this activity. Miss 6 decided to have our ‘hand x-ray’ sticker in front of us and count how many bones should get placed for each finger. She was also fascinated by the negative space that our art created and we went on to create more body themed art along this theme.

We also used our poseable mannequin to explore the interplay between bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We had fun taking turns posing the figure while the other person tried to replicate it in real life. We also used it when looking at how to draw a person.

What is in human blood?

Human blood is made up of several components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. We’d already had fun learning about blood in our Factivity book – including exciting face-offs between red and white blood cells in a Tic Tac Toe championship.

The kit provided us with the materials needed to make our own sensory exploration of the human blood stream. We were supplied with both red and white water beads (Orbeez) which we used as red blood cells (pretending these were a mix of ones carrying oygen outward to the body, and depleted ones returning to get pumped to the lungs); red foam platelets for clotting, and wooden white cells for fighting infection. You’ll also need a container for soaking them in water; we had fun using our test tubes but as they grow dramatically we had most of them in a plastic tub.

We had lots of fun making this up and playing with it in the garden. We found the water beads were also useful for exploring other scientific principles such as: refraction of light; gravity, momentum, and incline surfaces; and applications of force. The last one included everything from experimenting with how much weight the water beads could support (i.e. like lily pads), the best way to crush them, how many could fit into various containers, and what size funnel they would fit through!

How to perform a simple magic trick

Squawking chicken magic trick!

Miss 6 enjoyed watching Disney’s Magic Camp so she was excited that the final activity in the box was a simple magic trick to help us explore amplification and hearing. We did a series of experiments to explore how the cup helped to amplify sound and really did get a chicken like sound (the secret being to have a highly waxed flattened strip at the end of the string and using a damp bamboo cloth). We also talked about natural environments we have visited the shape of the land has created a natural amphitheatre that amplifies sound.

Wondering what to do with those candles afterwards? We lit ours (parental supervision required) and discussed how the candle demonstrated changes to states of matter and what the causal factor was (heat). We also toasted marshmellows and created another magic trick – using paper, the melting candle wax, and dye to create simple batik art on paper!

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – Japan (Deluxe Box)

WHAT IS IN THE JAPAN CRATE?

Each Atlas crate includes a new sticker and country map for your Adventure Passport

There are all kinds of fun activities to do in the Japan Crate including making a game, a craft, cooking, drawing, and learning a little about Japan!

You begin by opening your travel mail from Milo and Anya to find out about their latest travel adventures! Miss 6 enjoys seeing them posing for selfies in the photos of Japan.

There is a passport sticker to add to our Adventure Passport and various cards about Japan to add to it as well. These range from a country map and cultural information, to activity cards with things to do. You can learn some karate, find out about cultural festivals, do some cooking, and learn to draw in kawaii (super cute) style. We did all of the activities in the box and had a lot of fun with them! We enjoyed learning how to make onigiri. Miss 6 loved the kawaii style so much that we picked up a copy of Mini Kawaii Doodle Cuties: Sketching Super-Cute Stuff from Around the World. It’s a handy addition to our World Studies library as it features food and monuments from around the world; i.e. for France you can learn to draw a kawii-style Eiffel Tower, macaron, and beret.

Our Deluxe Box Book was “I am Tama, Lucky Cat” by Wendy Henrichs. It’s a lovely picture book and we found the Afterword with it’s historical information and photographs really interesting for helping us learn more about why Manekineko (招き猫, lit. ‘beckoning cat’) are popular.

How to make your own koinobori

How to make your own koinobori

These carp streamers (or windsocks) are hung to celebrate Children’s Day  (こどもの日 or Kodomo no Hi), this is celebrated annually on the 5th of May. The carp represent courage and strength and this is reflected as well by the popular Japanese saying “koi no taki-nobori” (“koi climbing the rapids”). “The carp, evoking images of energy, power and courage, is a worthy symbol for overcoming life’s difficulties and achieving ultimate success.” [Mark Brazil].

I love how the everything is provided for the craft and, in true KiwiCo style, it is well thought out so that it appeals to a range of ages / abilities and no fiddly glue is provided. Children can customise their beautiful koinobori choosing from a colourful array of fabric ‘scales’ that are laid in an overlapping pattern over strips of special double-sided ‘tape’. There are many more scales than required to ensure plenty of choice and children are encouraged to explore their creativity by making each side of their carp different. Miss 6 finished one side of ‘Mr Carp’ then made him a bed, played with him, and added a row of scales each day to the second side so that he could slowly ‘grow’ and become older.

How to make your own Daruma Otoshi

Make your own Daruma Otoshi だるま落としゲーム

Daruma Otoshi is a traditional game played in Japan. ‘Daruma’ is the name of the doll and ‘otoshi’ means ‘to drop’. Taking the wooden mallet, you need to try and knock out the bottom wooden circle in such a way that everything above it falls straight down. If you can continue until Daruma drops, without it toppling over, then you win! The game can be played solo or with friends and is harder than it looks!

The crate comes with everything you need for the game. You get to design your own face from the range of stickers provided and there are plenty of spares 🙂

Tip: This ties in well with the physics of Kiwi Co’s Kiwi Crate Disc Launchers Box with its demonstrations of the law of inertia.

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Flavours of the World: How to make Japanese onigiri

Onigiri is delicious and easy to make!

One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that being in the kitchen can definitely be part of the curriculum! We’re studying Japan at the moment and one of the suggestions in our Kiwico Atlas Discover Japan box was to try our hand at onigiri.

At it’s simplest, onigiri is a fun gluten free snack that uses a sticky rice to create a treasure box sandwich around a delicious filling of your choice. They are wonderfully easy to make and can be as creative (or quick) as you like.

The key ingredient that you will need is Japanese Short Grain Rice. This is sometimes marketed as ‘sushi rice’ in Western supermarkets although this is actually a misnomer, the same rice can be used to make sushi but while sushi uses vinegar, salt, and sugar to provide seasoning, onigiri uses plain steamed rice and relies on the nori (dried seaweed) and filling for flavour.

Ingredients

Your choice of fillings; for instance:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Tinned tuna chunks + mayonnaise + cooked corn
  • Bonito flakes and soy sauce
  • Cooked chicken and avocado
All kinds of onigiri designs are possible

Think about what design you would like to use for your onigiri. If you want to keep it simple, use scissors to cut the nori sheets into smaller and shorter strips that you wrap around the base of the onigiri as a handhold. You can also get creative and decorate them into whatever you can imagine! There are fascinating videos on YouTube with plenty of ideas – be aware that fancier designs may utilize special tools to cut the seaweed and moulds to press the rice into. These can often be picked up cheaply online or from stores specializing in Japanese homewares.

Directions

  1. Cook your rice fresh and allow to cool slightly (it should be warm while making the onigiri). I like to use a rice cooker and make just enough rice for the meal.
  2. Prepare your filling while the rice is cooking.
  3. Have a bowl of water available to wet and wash your hands (the rice is sticky!).
  4. Traditionally, salt is rubbed onto both hands and helps to flavour the rice while you shape it. You then scoop some warm rice onto one hand, make it into a flattish nest shape, place 1-2 tsp of filling in the middle, then gently squeeze into a ball or triangular shape. Tip: If this feels a bit tricky, try lining a small bowl with gladwrap and laying the rice on top. Apply filling to centre, pop a little more rice on top, and then pull the gladwrap up at the corners (into a raindrop shape) and mould the rice (keeping the filling in the centre).
  5. You can then decorate the onigiri as you like.

Tip: You don’t need to use any nori but it does provide a pleasant umami flavour. You may prefer to simply dip your onigiri in soy sauce or coconut amino acids (an allergy friendly substitute). You may also like to sprinkle a furikake seasoning onto your onigiri; there are a range of flavours.

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Space Through Art Homeschool Box

Our own moon art under UV light!

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SPACE HOMESCHOOL BOX?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for your child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Space Box for NZD$28 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about space. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with craft materials to explore our solar system through five activities. It anticipates that you will also have access to books / resources that provide additional learning information and you may want to supplement with your own craft materials also (we did).

Exploring the Solar System

We spent a few days creating and painting our own solar system (comprised of: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune). The kit comes with paint (red, UV yellow, blue, green, black, white) but we also supplemented with our own paint, glitter, and tinsel. We loved experimenting with the UV flashlight that is included!

We then took one of our Kiwi Crate boxes; painted it black, added silver and iridescent glitter over white glue; and created a solar system background that was a perfect fit for helping our solar system to stand safely while being interacted with.

Exploring the Sun and Moon

Creating the sun

I’ll confess that we jazzed this activity up a bit with materials of our own! Miss 6 wasn’t keen on painting the iceblock sticks with the UV yellow paint so instead we used the yellow yarn and big wooden beads that were provided and then bulked it out with our own multi-coloured yarn and created a Pippins-style sash of additional beads 😀

What I liked about the big wooden beads that are provided is that they can be used to create a wonderful ring for then hanging your finished display in the window. Draw the curtains in the evening and – Voila! – you put the sun to bed.

We also used the globe we’d created with our KiwiCo ATLAS crate and a lamp (as the sun) to explore the Earth’s relationship with the sun and how this creates both night/day and seasons.

Agamographs are fun to do! Colouring in the alternating strips is a visual processing exercise and then there’s the fun of folding them to reveal the illusion. These kids crafts are inspired by the works of artist Yaacov Agam.

Craters of the Moon

Our own moon art under UV light!

There is a visual provided showing the phases of the moon as well as an artistic rendering of the moon’s face. Kids can then keep their own moon journal for a month to watch how the moon’s appearance changes in the night sky (note: this is a great winter activity when it’s dark earlier!).

They can also mix up their own gray paint and using the tinfoil provided stamp out craters on their own moon.

Tip: This moon craft looks awesome under UV light and the leftover dark grey paint (applied very lightly) makes wonderful hand prints – we picked up great ridge-line details forensics style!

Additional Resources

We paired this homeschool box with the Factivity Discover The Science and Secrets of Planet Earth – Book (exploring magnetism and gravity), Factivity Incredible Space Sticker Activity Book (lots of fun!), and a book about space.

WHAT AGE IS IT SUITABLE FOR?

I found it to be a really good kit for Year 1 and Year 2 (KS1) with minimal parental help required. Slightly older primary school kids (KS2) may still enjoy the kit and could always use the materials as a springboard for slightly more complex presentations, such as adding a foam base and some mathematical calculations for their solar system creation: like this.

Tip: Consider setting aside a set of messy play clothes for this space project. We used a lot of acrylic paints for ours and the paint clothes were beautifully coloured with hard work by the end of the week!

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

KiwiCo Review: Kiwi Crate for 5-8 year olds – KALEIDOSCOPE PUZZLES

Creative homeschool STEM fun with the Kiwi Crate Kaleidoscope box learning about reflections and symmetry.

WHAT IS IN THE KALEIDOSCOPE PUZZLE BOX?

The mathematics focus for this box is learning about symmetry. What I love about KiwiCo is how engaging they make learning about maths and how easy they make it for kids to understand. Both the comic strip and the projects explore symmetry and shapes hands on fun through art and mirrors!

The main engineering build for this box is making a kaleidoscope. We’ve made one with a kit previously but had issues with it coming loose and spilling it’s sparkling contents over the floor! KiwiCo have avoided this issue by having clear plastic wheels that get pinned on (and can get easily swapped out); there are two special sticker sheets provided with numerous colours and shapes so that kids can design their overlapping patterns.

The second project (art and maths) involves experimenting with the mirror book to see what shapes and patterns you can make by shifting the mirror book between 30′, 45′, 60′, and 90′ angles. Encourage children to identify the shapes that are being made (i.e. a square vs pentagram) and to count the number of reflections, points, sides, etc. The box also comes with pre-cut blank shapes and markers so that children can experiment with their own designs! It’s also large enough to accommodate small toys for extra fun!

The third project explores logic and visual discrimination by trying to replicate picture puzzle cards using the coloured shapes provided. There is a convenient travel bag included so that kids can also design their own puzzles or pictures on the go!

The Explore magazine also provides ideas for additional ideas for exploring symmetry – handy if you are homeschooling! These include such activities as kite flying, identifying symmetry in nature, making ‘symmetrical socks’, and getting in the kitchen. We opted for pizza for our kitchen activity – which also conveniently let us explore fractions and sharing (division)!

HOW DO I ORDER KIWI CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Kiwi Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Kiwi Crate kits is that they use a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics to explore a concept or idea. There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Mind you, this only works if you spot the package on the door-step first – children become quite adept at recognising the green Kiwi Crate box and screaming with delight at it’s arrival!

The boxes are sent randomly so there’s no way to know what will come in the future; however, you can log-in to your account at the start of each month to see what box has been selected. Your box history is kept which means that even if you cancel and then pick-up again the following year they can make sure that you aren’t sent repeats of boxes.

WHAT IS IN A KIWI CRATE?

The Kiwi Crate is aimed at ages 5-8 years. It comes with a copy of the Explore magazine which opens with a fun comic about Steve the Kiwi and his friends. [As a side note, these are made by an American company despite the use of our New Zealand native bird]. These comics are really approachable for younger kids and a great way of exploring the concepts being introduced in a relateable manner.

The Explore magazine provides a range of information on the topic, it might include some simple games or tricks to try at home, and provide ideas for additional crafts / activities using simple materials. It also has a sticker [unique to each box theme] to put on your Kiwi Crate chart.

The box also includes an instruction manual and the materials that you need to build the main craft. Generally, there are two activities to do – one that is more art related, and one that is more mechanical engineering. What makes the kits special, is how well crafted the engineering components are. They really are designed for the intended age group so that they can either build themselves or help assist an adult. There are handy visual images and checkpoints to make sure that things are aligned correctly. There is no super-bonding-fingers-together wood glue to use with these projects (which makes them great for highly sensory children); instead parts come with double sided tape finely engineered on so that you just need to remove the backing strip of paper.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Maths through Art Homeschool Box

Shapes and sharing

What is in the ExperiSense NZ Numeracy Art Homeschool Box?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Numeracy Art box for NZD$25 because it allows key numeracy and mathematics learning concepts to be explored in a fun way by using art. It’s fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs. I also purchased a geoboard for added fun!

The kit comes with a teaching guide for 12 different activities, most of the materials you’ll need for the activities (assuming you’ll have basics like scissors, glue, and felts at home), and a highly convenient plastic storage case!

What age is it suitable for?

I adapted the activities to suit around age 5 years (so Year 1 / KS1). The flexibility of the kit means it’s probably suitable for general primary school (KS1 / KS2) as you can adapt the activities to suit your needs. We did a little on ‘skip counting’ by 2’s but you could just as easily practice higher multiplication tables. There are worksheets for calculating area that we skipped at this stage in our learning. We completely changed the algebra and problem solving activity to tie in with our Amazon Rainforest unit and simply explored colour.

Tip: I loved some of the templates in the kit and simply photocopied them for current use and hope to revisit them in the future. Kits like these are useful because you can revisit them the following year and simply build-on with what you’ve explored in the time since.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art