Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Homelearning: Subscription boxes - Green Kid Craft

Even with the decision to enroll her into formal education 2 years ago, I have always been sitting on the fence when it comes to the issue of formal schooling. The questions that always lurk at the back of my mind are "Are there more things to life than just textbooks?", "Does Dumpling find her learning meaningful?" and "Do the activities and lessons propel her interest and natural sense of curiosity?"

Frankly, even now that she's in Primary 2, these questions still linger. Granted that English is taught in a more meaningful manner (Stellar) where children acquire grammar rules and vocabulary through specially selected story books, but the idea of engaging children in meaningful hands-on learning (in my opinion) seems to be somewhat lacking.

Hence I started my research on subscription boxes last year where I ordered Green Kid Craft, Little Passports and Junior Explorer. Each was specially chosen to map an area of interest that Dumpling has. These boxes were not and are not sponsored but I thought that they are pretty neat for some of you who wish to do more and do something different with your kids :)

:: History

Green Kid Crafts prides itself on being a green company that focuses and provides education activities for children with their boxes which is very much STEM based but with a little something special - all the activities are craft based.

Green Kid Crafts is a mother’s invention, created by a working mom and environmental scientist who wanted to make the most out of the limited time she had to spend with her kids. Like many other parents, she wanted to spend that time connecting with her kids, not scrambling for ideas and shopping for supplies. 

Why Green you may ask? It is because they are eco-friendly and are committed to the following:

Its boxes are 100% recycled. We use recycled labels and envelopes for shipping.
It integrate eco-awareness into our box themes as much as possible.
It minimize packaging and printing and use recycled materials.
It bundles materials using plant-based, compostable clear bags.
It avoids craft foams and plastics.
It ensures supplies can be composted, recycled and/or reused whenever possible.
It gives back. At least 1% of sales is donated to environmental organizations through its membership in 1% for the Planet.

From a parent's perspective, it is definitely a box puts my mind at ease where I know that the kid is not exposed to any toxic paints and materials.

:: How it works

Each box comes with 3 - 4 activities and you can choose a "once off" boxes or a subscription box (based on 3 months, 6 months or a 12 months plan). Besides subscription basis, Green Kid Craft also offers Discovery themed boxes that features cool themes such as Robots, Ocean Science, Kitchen Science, etc., Creativity themed boxes and STEM science kits (there are some which overlap into the Discovery themed boxes).

So you then choose the "type" you want and then add to cart.

The kiddo has tried both the subscription boxes and the themed boxes.

:: How it looks inside 

These are from 3 different kits:

Each box comes with a "intro" card (see above) which shows you the final craft item. The activities are pre-packed into each bag and most of the things you need would be in there (except the odd and end items like scissors, etc).

:: What we like: the activities

Based on the subscription boxes I have researched on, Green Kids Craft is one of those that has the best value. With 3 - 4 activities and full color printed cards / instructional sheets, I find the price (from USD19.95) reasonable.

So, how is Science being explored in these boxes?

Some activities are more fluid where it is up to you to explore the topical interest.

For us, it is a lot of conversational points. From the leaf pendent (yes, the leaf and paint were included) and the decoration of a Fabric bag, we had a chance to talk about leaves and their roles, types of leaves, global warming (based on Dr. Seuss poster below!), etc.

One of our favorite activities was a chance to build this:

This was from one of our monthly subscription boxes and yes, all the leaves and fern and even the soil, were included in the pack. Considering that the box had to travel about 3 - 4 days to Borderlinx (which is where I ship it from) and then to SG, they did remarkably well :p

As the kiddo built this, she created her own "rainforest" and with a lid over this, it was turned into a self sufficient terrarium. Over the next few days, observations were made and she saw first hand the water cycle process. 

Another interesting experiment she did was this which was on sounds:

Our conversation went like this:
(Placed salt into the balloon and I blew the balloon up)

Me: why is there sound now?

Kiddo: hmmmm...

Me: what's the difference in the balloon?

Kiddo: You blew it up! Now there's air!

Yup! Sound needs (medium) air to travel 

When I asked her which is her favorite activity to date, she selected the Lava Lamp.

As you can see, the talking points are also included and these are printed on the experiment card (see bottom of the card in the picture below)

:: The shipping

This has to be the greatest concern for most of you readers who are not based in the US. I ship my boxes via Borderlinx. Borderlinx recently started an economy option for parcels from US to SG (there are certain size and weight limitations) but via this economy route, my shipping was about SGD17.

For Economy, the delivery takes longer (which I do not really mind - about 7 to 8 days so far as compared to the regular option which takes about 3 - 4 days but at about double the cost too). It is trackable BUT I realised that it does not involve a door to door delivery. The postman merely placed it in my letter box (found out after 2 days when I was trying to trace my box!).

On the whole, Green Kid Craft has been great in occupying the kiddo where she can be left to her own devices, craft and learn at the same time. The activities are usually quite simple and I personally feel that they are great for younger children (K1 onwards) if they are able to read the instructions on their own. Having said that, this will also suit children who enjoy craft and are new to Science concepts. If you are looking at specific Science inventions and concepts for your children, this will not be for you but if you are looking for a fun experimental box which encourages hands-on learning, I personally think that this box has great value. Based on the multiple awards that it has won, I don't think I am alone in thinking so.

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