Homeschool STEM: Kiwi Crate’s The Arcade

Homeschool STEM creative fun with the Kiwi Crate Arcade 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. Some kids love to take thing apart and rebuild them, some are highly visual, others need lots of play-based hands on learning to explore concepts, some love to listen to others talk, and some need to hear themselves explain in their own words.

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.

What is in the Arcade Crate?

We were thrilled to get this as our first crate as Miss saw THE CLAW at a friend’s house and post-demonstration was begging to be able to make one of her own. It is so well beloved that it has been carefully cared for and is still going almost a year later. In fact, it was used yesterday to ‘help’ unpack the rice crackers out of the grocery bags with a request that I open the proferred snack 🙂

This box is all about Arcade Games (like the vintage penny arcades found in amusement parks in the early 20th Century)! There are simple coin toss games that you can play with the magazine; there is the awesome wooden Claw to build that opens and closes and can be used to pick up all kinds of toys, there is a pom pom creature to make, and you can turn the box into an arcade machine and try to lift things out of it with the claw. The wooden U for making pom-poms is great and we have used it to make many more since! (I’ve made pom-poms with kids using cardboard templates, and using plastic kits from craft stores; I find this wooden U from KiwiCrate is the quickest and easiest to use, not to mention child friendly and durable!)

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.

Check out these KiwiCrate reviews:

Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

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

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

The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

Life in Lockdown – Decorate our streets!

Making homemade chalk is easy a great way to connect as a family!

Life in New Zealand has changed rapidly. Our borders are closed, domestic travel restricted, our schools and shops closed, and we are asked to remain at home in order to restrict the spread of Covid-19. Cars are now to be used only for essential travel (the doctor, pharmacy, or supermarket) and people may only leave their house to walk nearby. Social distancing is everything.

Our big field trip for today was walking to the top of the driveway and drawing pictures that the kids in the houses nearby can see from their windows. Creating chalk, with a few simple ingredients from the supermarket, has been both art and science. It’s also a way to share a little love and kindness with the community around us.

Why not bring a little colour to yours?

Life in lockdown: Share some love and decorate our streets!

How to make home made chalk

Ingredients

  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Food colouring
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Waxed paper / baking paper
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape or rubber bands

Note: Alternative ingredients include plaster of paris + tempera paint, or a 1:2 ratio of very finely crushed eggshell + flour.

Directions

  1. Prepare your moulds. Toilet paper rolls are a good size; I find a bread knife does a good job of sawing longer cardboard inner tubes into parts.
  2. Cover the bottom of your cardboard tubes with waxed paper and tape / elastic band into place. You then want to roll more waxed paper and slot it inside (you may need to trim to size).
  3. Pour cornstarch into a bowl and then add food colouring of your choice. Slowly add water and mix well. You want to add just enough water to create a very thick [viscous] mixture.
  4. Pour or spoon the mix into your moulds.
  5. Pop into a hot water cupboard (or somewhere warm to dry). You want as much of the water to evaporate as possible to dry before use (about 24-48 hrs).
  6. You can then removed from the moulds and let the kids have fun!

Tip

If you add too much water then it will have difficulty drying (and remaining contained within the moulds). Never fear! Treat it as a chemistry and physics lesson all-in-one for the kids. You have just created a non-Newtonian fluid 🙂 You can take your ooblek outside for messy play fun with the kids. Pour it into your hands and watch how it becomes a solid if you clench your fist but magically liquefies if you release the pressure!

Making Christmas Crackers (Bonbons)

How to make Christmas Crackers (Bonbons)

Have a Ka Pai Kiwi Christmas!

I posted last year about how easy it is to make your own Christmas Crackers (bonbons). I love that personalizing them means that you have full creative license to create different themes each year. Last year, we did a Christmas theme for the visual aesthetic and I hand decorated wooden beads (my daughter still has them!). This year I thought I would celebrate New Zealand’s summer with an ocean theme as well as changing the gifts inside to match Miss 3’s interests (she has autism and adores things in miniature).

Ingredients 

  • Cracker snaps
  • Cardboard tubes (inner tubes from paper towels are perfect,  just cut in half).
  • Your choice of cracker filling.
  • Blue crepe paper
  • Shells
  • Twine
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors
  • Super glue (or glue gun)

Note: Davids Emporium  sells cracker snaps for 30 cents each just ask at the sales counter.

For the inside, I did little plastic bags containing: Christmas joke, stickers, and a miniature Christmas cookie / Christmas pudding etc. These will inevitably get gifted to Miss 3 for her dollhouse 🙂  They are adorable and were a wonderful find in the button / crafts section, again at  Davids Emporium.

Directions

  1. Take a cracker snap and place it inside in your tube (it should stick out each end with a comfortable amount to pull on). Lightly sellotape it at each end to hold in place.
  2. Assemble your cracker filling and slide it into the tube. I put mine in a tiny sealed plastic bag.
  3. Roll the tube in crepe paper and tie at each end with twine;  make sure that you have enough paper at each end to cover the cracker snap that is sticking out & to comfortably pull it.  Super glue (or glue gun) on the sea shells.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adventures with Upcycling: Dining Room Table

Table restoration project

The table after it’s all been cleaned up. The oil, dirt, ink and everything else has been removed. It’s just the drill holes left that really mark it 🙂

So…for the last three years I’ve been eating my meals at an upcycled pink princess table. It’s beautiful, has white wooden legs, and matching white wooden chairs.  It is, as Goldilocks would say, ‘just right’. Of course, things being an issue of perspective, it’s just right if you’re aged 18 months to 4 years. As an adult, it meant sitting on the cold ’70s vinyl flooring which isn’t too bad in summer but was a pain in the arse in winter.

Over time, this requirement to sit on the floor (or perch on a low plastic foot stool) began to understandably pall. This was assisted by the fact that Miss 3 is very tall for her age (currently around 103cm) and prefers to stand / be in movement when eating (depending on what kind of sensory / ASD day she is having). The princess table had suddenly become a bit inadequate for her.

The quest began to try and find a table that would fit into our teeny tiny kitchen on our teeny tiny budget achieved by selling some old gardening stuff out of my parent’s garage. I lament my country’s lack of IKEA as I probably could have found something brilliant there! I scoured websites and secondhand listings for something that couldn’t really be bigger than 75cm square. It looked like I wasn’t going to find anything that would fit the space and our budget.

They say God moves in mysterious ways. Apparently, this includes ancient formica tables who’s retro orange perfectly matches the ’70s lino.  Driving along with Miss 3, I spotted an abandoned table by the side of the road not far from home. It would be exciting to suggest it had been shot up in some kind of Wild West saloon; the reality (based on the dirt and oil) was that it had been based in someone’s garage workshop before being deemed a waste of space.

One’s man’s waste is another man’s treasure (and other such common sayings). By dint of great effort (and demonstrating to Miss 3 the importance of perseverance, grit, and treating the car like a giant jigsaw puzzle), it was eventually carried home. More jigsaw puzzling finally squeezed it into the kitchen.

After the initial wipe down, it’s had multiple cleanings with Jiff, water, fly spray, and antibacterial spray. It looks much improved and the old wooden chair in the bedroom with clothes dumped on it, although a bit rickety, fits it just right. It turns out there’s a matching one, in unknown condition, squirreled away in the back of my parent’s garage; Mum had rung about it only this morning so it’s a happy coincidence to find a table to go with it!

I have to say I’m quite fond already of this dinged up orange table; it’s faced it’s challenges and come through as a survivor – just like us. It also allows me to sit with my laptop and a cup of tea while supervising Miss 3 in our rickety fenced little lawn; I don’t have the words to express what a dramatic improvement this is to sitting in the , doorway with a blanket wrapped around me to avoid shivering in the breeze!

I’m open to suggestions on how to proceed with the table. It’s clearly suffered some water damage underneath and I wonder how best to preserve it. I thought I’d set the dehumidifer running tonight. I wonder whether to get some sort of wood stain or polish to rub over it, or whether I should paint over it?

Thoughts?

Table restoration project

The under side of the table has clearly suffered water damage.

Table restoration project

Hmm, what to do about the underneath?

Rainy day play: Making a spider

Easy to make spider

Make a simple spider!

Kids love playing with craft materials. Why not spend a rainy afternoon making spiders, insects, or monsters; you could tie it in with a trip to the library to find some books for inspiration!

Materials

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Milk bottle lid
  • Googly eyes
  • Sellotape
  • Craft glue / glue gun
  • Scissors

 

Directions

  1. Cut your pipe cleaners to length and sellotape (or glue gun) them to the base of the milk bottle lid. Bend them to give them knees / feet so that it can stand.
  2. Glue on some googly eyes.
  3. Take the spider exploring!

 

Why not share with them 20 Fun Facts about Spiders for preschoolers or watch a short educational video clip about spiders aimed at preschoolers and kids.

How to make an easy and cheap instrument at playgroup (Musical Maracas)

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

What you need

  • Paper plates (small).
  • Felts, crayons, paint, stickers etc.
  • Wooden beads, sea shells, bells etc.
  • Stapler.

Directions

  1. Help your children to decorate the outside of the plates (don’t forget to write their names on!).
  2. Fold the plate in half (like an empanada) and staple along the edges. Leave a gap at the top.
  3. Hold it upright with the gap at the top. Help your children to drop beads, bells, shells etc. inside their musical instrument; one big toddler sized handful will be about enough.
  4. Staple up the gap, put on some music, and shake!

Note: This is a great activity to do on a rainy day or with a playgroup. For younger toddlers choose larger items to put inside and play with under supervision only; i.e. keep choking hazards in mind.

Making a magical felt crown

Easy sewing projects - making a felt crown or tiara!

Beautiful glittery felt crown

Making a beautiful glittery felt crown or tiara is an easy sewing project. You can do it all in an afternoon either hand sewing or using a sewing machine and glue gun. Toddlers will have fun choosing all the colours and decorations! Older kids can be supervised to make this themselves 🙂

Materials

  • Felt
  • Buttons
  • Chalk / dressmaker’s pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Optional: glitter
  • Sewing needle / sewing machine / glue gun

Directions

  1. Using your ruler and chalk, draw a pattern on the felt. You need the crown / tiara + two rectangles for straps. The straps bed to be long enough to tie at the back of your child’s head.

    Measure, draw, and cut your fabric

    Pieces of felt cut out for the crown

  2. Let your child choose decorations for their crown. You can choose whether to handsew buttons on (stronger) or hot glue gun them. Sprinkle on done rainbow glitter for extra magic! (The glitter will stick to the felt, at least for a while).
  3. Sew the straps on each side. You can either use a needle or a sewing machine.
  4. Ta da!

    Finished felt crown

    Beautiful crown ready to wear!

 

Making a drawstring bag

 

Making a drawstring bag

Making a drawstring bag for marbles

Making a drawstring bag is a fun and easy project to do with kids! I still remember the soft nubby green cloth of the drawstring bag of marbles my brother and I shared as kids. I wanted to make something similar for Miss 3 and gaining access to a sewing machine at kindy seemed like a great opportunity.

There is an easy project to follow in this book by Jane Bull, My Sewing Machine. I didn’t think to look so I actually designed my own project for this bag. My daughter’s sensory sensitivities mean she doesn’t like being in the same room as the sewing machine when it’s operating but she likes looking at the sewing book and she liked helping me with the pattern, cutting, and pinning.

Making a drawstring bag (for marbles)

Materials

  • Paper, sellotape, pencil
  • Fabric
  • Cord or ribbon
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Chalk / fabric pencil
  • Scissors (paper, fabric, pinking)
  • Safety pin

Tip: Shop around to find good prices for fabric. Sometimes you’ll find fabric in unexpected places – I bought a giant polyester fleece blanket for NZD$3 / USD$2. It was perfect for making a drawstring bag for marbles (though I wouldn’t use it to make a dress).

Design

I made up a design template using paper, scissors sellotape, and pencil. I could see there were two different ways of approaching the bag and decided to have the fold at the bottom and seams up the sides; this results in the cord being on on two sides (instead of one) which I thought would be easier for Little Miss.

Making a paper template

Making a paper template for the drawstring bag

Once I’d worked out the design, and order of sewing seams, I transferred the template into the fabric. My fabric pencil didn’t work on the fleece but chalk did 🙂

Fabric cut and pinned for the drawstring bag

Fabric cut and pinned

I kept my seams about 1.5cm from the edges, allowed plenty of space for the cord, and made sure the fabric was ‘wrong side’ facing out (not as important with this fleece but good practice).

Sewing the bag

I made sure the threads were all set up and then my sewing order was:

  1. Sew short end (for cord).
  2. Sew other short end (for cord).
  3. Loop silky cord through safety pin. Miss 3 loved helping wriggle the silver fish (safety pin) through the ‘tunnel’. We did that on both sides and then I tied the loose ends.
  4. Sew each of the long sides. I started with a curve at the bottom and then went up to the drawstring (enough to just go over that seam but not go over the cord). Then I turned the fabric around and did a small zig-zag back to reinforce.
  5. The nice thing with this fabric is that I didn’t need to hem or worry about fraying like I werewolf with cotton. I did use the pinking shears to cut the bottom corners off (being careful of the curved corners I’d stitched).

    Drawstring bag sewn (wrong side facing out)

    Inside the bag

  6. Turn bag right side out!

    How to make a drawstring bag!

    Drawstring bag for marbles

Bag of marbles

Next week we can go on a treasure hunt expedition to buy marbles for the bag we made!

Rainy day play: Make a fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Indoor fishing can be a great way to develop fine motor skills and imaginative play! You can buy fully stocked Gone Fishing kits or you can make your own. We picked up our fish very cheaply (as they were factory seconds) and then let our imaginations run wild with the materials we had at home.

The Fish

We were fortunate enough to pick up our fish cheaply. You could also use a saw or sandpaper and glue gun to fashion a vague fish shape from scraps of wood. The metal eyelet is the same as what’s used when stringing up net curtain cords.

We decorated our fish with: several colours of paint, glitter glue, googly eyes, coloured feathers, and plastic gems.

Tip: This is a great craft project for teaching your toddler patience. We worked on ours over about 5 days. We needed to do the base colour on one side and then let it dry overnight; flip it over the next day and repeat the same. You need more time to let things dry when you’re using craft glue but can speed things up by using a glue gun.

The Fishing Rods

You can make these with lengths of dowling. Use an electric drill to make a hole about 1cm from the top and thread some twine through that has a paper clip tied to the other end. Alternatively, you could glue gun the twine to the rod (if you don’t have a drill).

The paper clip is surprisingly effective; I can catch my fish with it and Miss 2 will normally ‘manually’ catch her fish but will also attempt to catch it without ‘helping’ the hook.

Our rods have multiple shades of paint and glitter glue on them (as well as plastic gems) and also needed drying each night in the hot water cupboard. I stood them upright in a small glass baby food jar (we have several that we use for crafts).

Winter Crafts: Painting Leaves

A wonderful winter activity can be going for a walk through the woods or local park and talking about how the trees change with the seasons (and how some don’t!).

Collect some leaves and pine cones on your walk and take them home to dry.

Tip: Putting then on newspaper or a towel in the hot water cupboard works well.

Once the leaves are dry they make a wonderful canvas for painting. Again, they dry well in the hot water cupboard and can be hung up for a few days as decorations.

Tip: You could try spraying them with varnish to help them last longer.