Tinker Crate Subscription Box Review – November 2014
Tinker Crate is a brand new subscription for kids ages 9-14 from the makers of Kiwi Crate. Like Kiwi Crate, it comes with everything you need to complete multiple projects based around a central theme. Unlike Kiwi Crate, however, these projects are less craftsy and more based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning and enrichment.
My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).
The Subscription Box: Tinker Crate
The Cost: $19.95 per month (free shipping)
The Products: STEM-based crafts and DIY projects for kids, with supplemental learning kits, booklets, and activities. Projects are designed to enhace children’s critical thinking and problem solving skills through activities that are exciting and fun!
Ships to: Anywhere in the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and APO addresses
Every box comes with a copy of TinkerZine magazine, which includes articles about that month’s theme, as well as smaller projects and experiments. This month’s theme is Electricity at Work!
Because this is the inaugural box from Tinker crate, here is a peek at what you can expect inside the magazine. It looks really interesting and fun!
Also included every month is a set of tokens your child earns as he or she completes each activity. This is similar to the stickers that are included in every month’s Kiwi Crate.
This month’s big project is building a MOTOR! My son’s eyes got HUGE when he saw this!
Here’s a peek inside the “blueprint” at the instructions. It looks a little daunting at first, and it’s definitely a big change from Kiwi Crate, but they are fairly simple and straightforward.
This is the finished product, a working motor! If you flick the disc with the lightbulb on it, it will keep spinning for a long, long time. Eventually it does stop due to gravity and friction, but it’s still incredibly cool for a kid this age. The lightbulb is actually one of the tokens placed inside the disc (the “spool”), and on the opposite side of the token is a drawing of some flashes, so as it spins, it looks like the light bulb is emitting little flashes! So awesome!
This is the finished product with the top off so you can see the batteries and wiring.
Just as some background information, my son will not be 9 years old until March, so this was very much a hands-on project for me as well as for him. I decided to go ahead with Tinker Crate because my son has shown interest in science and technology, so I would definitely like to foster that during the years in which I still have influence over him. Also, he has tried Kiwi Crate projects before and we both feel that those are a bit young for him. Of course, individual children will vary. Another piece of background information is that I am, in fact, a science nerd, but I don’t have any real experience in engineering, even at this basic level. So this particular project was all new to me as well as my son. I am expecting that some projects will be easier for both of us than others!
My son loves the magazine and began poring over it immediately, so that was a big win. Any time a child voluntarily reads science and technology information, it’s a big win! It took us about 30 minutes to complete the MOTOR project, and as I mentioned, it was very hands-on for me as well as for him. I guess I also should say upfront that I absolutely don’t mind if the projects require a lot of parental involvement! Spending quality time together is one of the main reasons I get projects like these for my sons. That being said, if you are looking for a box you can hand to your kid and get them out of your hair for a while, this may not be a good match. We thought we had finished the project at about 20 minutes, but it didn’t work. This is always a bummer, especially with the little kids. I’m not sure exactly why it didn’t work at first, but we adjusted three things and then it worked perfectly. One thing is that my son had to use sandpaper to remove some of the casing off some wire, and it wasn’t completely clean, so we cleaned it up a little more. The second thing we did was to re-wire the spool so that the ends stuck out not just from opposite sides, but also from the front and back, if that makes any sense. This is something I suspected might be an issue from my scant knowledge of electrical engineering, but it might have just been a better way to carry the load of the spool on two thin pieces of wire, I’m not sure. In any case, the instructions were not clear about which direction the wire should begin and end on the spool. The third thing we did was flip the magnet over. Again, I’m not sure if that was the issue, but it was another place where I feel like better instructions would have come in handy. Once we got it working, everyone was delighted.
Verdict: It’s hard to say anything negative about a product that delivers so much for such a small cost, but for this project, I think the instructions should have been clearer. To be fair, the instructions do have an SOS section in which they provide a tip (sand your wire more), a link to a video that shows how to do it, and an email address if you are still having problems, but honestly, if I had to wait for a response from customer service, I am afraid my son would have lost interest in the project and possibly decided that building a motor was too hard for him. If I had problems with this project, then I can imagine some mothers and fathers with less STEM background than myself might be pulling their hair out by the end of the big project. Also, I am curious to see in the future if Tinker Crate will continue to have one big project and several smaller projects. As much as I love the quality time of doing a project with my kids, I think I like the idea of letting my son try some of the smaller projects on his own, so this format might work out well for us. Overall, this was time very well spent with my son, learning and discovering together (and having a blast). The materials are all included (except for minor things like scissors) and are good quality, and the magazine is completely packed with information. I am definitely looking forward to next month’s Tinker Crate!