Markybox is an educational art activity box curated and designed by artists and childhood education experts, made for kids and parents. They include professional grade materials and detailed instructions, and enough materials to complete each project twice. Marky also supports free family programs at museums and funds art teachers across the nation with their "Marky Gives Back" program.
This box was sent to us for no cost to review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes)
The Subscription Box: Markybox
The Cost: $30 a month, with discounts for longer subscriptions. (Or, buy non-subscription boxes starting at $40 each)
The Products: Professional grade art supplies + instructions for a project to share with parents and kids
Ships to: U.S.
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This is our first time reviewing Markybox. My son is too young for their "ages 4+ with adult supervision" recommendation, but I was interested in Markybox as a former art student and thought I might be able to enlist my 4-year-old niece to help.
One thing that I liked about Markybox right off the bat is that they send materials to do each project twice, so the adult can effectively try it out before doing it with their kid. (Also great if you have two kids!)
This month's project is casting from a mold of your own hand:
I previewed the instructions first. First, we need to make a mold using the included Aginate Powder, then we'll cast it in Hydro-Stone, and finally paint the finished product.
I was happy to see I wouldn't really need to add anything from home - I just needed a measuring cup, water, and a pair of scissors.
Markybox included two premeasured bags of each of the Alginate Powder and the Hydro-Stone, so it's easy to do the project twice. Everything was packaged well, with these bags inside of a larger sealed bag, so everything arrived intact with no spills.
All the items are is nicely color coded and clearly labeled too, which is a big help when doing projects with kids.
I really liked this touch: Markybox included fold-up boxes with liner bags for mixing up your Alginate and Hydro-Stone in. This means I don't have to supply my own bucket, and cleanup should be a breeze.
They also included a brown paper work mat to protect your table - perfect since I didn't have any cardboard or newspaper around!
Marky also included dust masks (so important when working with plaster and powdered products!), stir sticks, paint, a paintbrush, knife, and popsicle stick.
I decided to try the project myself first to see if it was age appropriate for my niece.
I set up in our bathroom, which happened to be the perfect workstation! Here's everything I needed to start mixing up the Alginate Powder.
I poured half my water in and then added the powder. I was a little worried that the box wasn't big enough, but after I stirred a bit more and added the rest of the water, everything was looking good, so I stuck my hand in:
Can you tell I took this photo with my phone, using my left hand? 😉
We've been watching a lot of Star Trek lately, so I was inspired to try a Vulcan salute... but the box wasn't quite deep enough for my fingers to be extended and still cover up to my wrist. Oops! I tried a couple other things but eventually landed on a simple thumbs-up pose instead.
Then I waited 5 minutes for the Alginate to set. It stayed cool the whole time - I've done plaster casting before which gets really warm or even hot, so this was a nice surprise and definitely seems safer for kids.
When time was up, I poked the mold to make sure it was firm, then pulled my hand out slowly. It took me a minute or so to gently release and pull my fingers out. It could be tough for some kids to manage, but the material was rubbery and fairly elastic, so there'd probably be minimal damage to the mold even if you weren't super careful in taking your hand out.
There was no residue on my hand either - I'm really pleased about that!
I moved on to mixing up the Hydro-Stone in the next box. This stuff mixed much more easily than plaster in my opinion. It still took a little bit of digging around the bottom of the container to make sure there were no dry bits left, but after just a minute it was smoothly mixed and didn't seem to have any air bubbles.
So: I poured it in!
Marky advises you to pour just part of the Hydro-Stone in first, then rotate it around in your mold to prevent air bubbles from forming. It was fun to watch the Hydro-Stone cover everything inside the mold!
After getting it good and coated, I poured in there rest, tapped to help get air bubbles out, and let it sit. Markybox doesn't give a specific number of hours, so I just left mine until I could get back to it about 5 hours later.
Then, you use the included knife to start carving the mold away, until...
Ta-da! Looks like I had an air bubble in my pointer finger, but otherwise, the level of detail in this cast was remarkable! I definitely think kids would be excited about being able to inspect all the details, like the lines in their palms and knuckles.
I painted it up using the included bronze paint, too, and the finish looks very much like a bronze casting. Marky included a popsicle stick to stir the paint as well as a brush, so I love that again I didn't need anything from home.
Verdict: Casting is so much fun! I really enjoyed my Markybox experience. The products included were definitely high quality - as long as you mix well and keep your hand still, the alginate produces a really high-quality mold, and it's easy to work with compared to other molds I've made in the past. I liked the little touches (like not needing my own bucket) that helped make it easy to do, too. And, this is a cool finished object, something unique that I can see a lot of parents holding on to as their kid grows.
Value-wise, this Markybox was a better value than I'd expect for an art activity box, too! You can buy similar casting kits including alginate, casting material, and containers for $22 to $25 on Amazon. Since Markybox included material for two projects, plus paint, tools, and great instructions, I definitely feel like I received well beyond the $30 price of this box.
As far as the age recommendation goes, I think you really have to keep in mind your own ability and your child's personality on the younger end of the 4+ age recommendation. A 4 year old could totally do this project with adult assistance, as long as they have the patience to sit for 5 minutes without moving, and they wouldn't feel claustrophobic while the alginate sets up. I'm not sure if I can do this particular project with my 4 year old niece, but I know a 10 year old who would be REALLY excited about this!
What do you think about Markybox? Would your kids be excited to do this project?