Koala Crate is the toddler subscription box offering from KiwiCo, featuring 2-3 fun DIY projects designed for hands-on learning and fun every month! KiwiCo offers boxes for different age groups and this is a review of the $19.95 a month Koala Crate, for Pre-K kids ages 2-4.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we review boxes.)
Opening The Box
Ah yes, the Koala Crate Music box. This is a KiwiCo staple that has been on offer for many years (here's our 2018 review of it). We are a family of musicians, and I personally come alive with a good mother-daughter DIY project, so this box is so our speed. My daughter, Lorelai, is about three-and-a-half years old and the type of kid who is able to sit and focus for a project. Koala Crate is for the 2-4 age range, and is expected to be completed with a parent's help, so we were rarin' to team up for this box.
Here's What's Inside
This booklet shows step-by-step instructions for how to do each of the three projects. They're definitely meant for adults to read, but they also include images so I was able to include Lorelai in the instruction-reading process so she had some sense of how that works, and could loosely follow along. On top of the how-to-make instructions, they also give a couple of suggestions for play. I think this touch is exactly the type of thing that sets KiwiCo apart from other subscription boxes for kids.
The second little paper booklet that's included is this "Imagine!" magazine. It shares a couple of simple fun facts about instruments and genres of music, a cute tale of three animal friends making music together (these same 3 friends are in every "Imagine!" story), a DIY project idea for families to make using materials that are easy to find around the house, some music-themed book suggestions, and more.
Lorelai and her dad have been occasionally doing word searches together before bed, to practice identifying letters, so she was really curious about this activity. You draw a line from each costumed cow to their coordinating shoes, and there's a number and a letter associated with each. At the bottom you fill the letter that coordinates with each number to answer the punchline to a joke. The joke part was a little above Lorelai's head, but she loved practicing following the curvy lines to connect each cow to its shoes!
The first of three projects to be included in this box is a wooden xylophone. Here are all the materials you'll use: a cardboard half-box, rubber bands, slats of wood, dot stampers, mallets, and little sheets of paper that can be used to write your own "sheet music." With my help, Lorelai was able to be very involved in this DIY, and it was really fun to see it come together.
While the concept is really cool, we had a minor disappointment with the process and one with the finished product. Our first frustration was with the dot stampers. We did a bunch of practice stamps on paper first so that Lorelai could have her technique down for "go time," but the ink parts weren't very cushiony, so we got a couple of partial circles—most noticeably the blue one. It was tempting for me to stamp the wooden slats on my own, but that was the most fun part for the kiddo, so I released my own expectations and let her do her thing. She wasn't bothered by the partial circles, just me, haha.
As for the final product, the difference in tone between each bar was super subtle. Lorelai received a glockenspiel from her grandparents at age 2, with its bright, loud, sound, so by contrast this xylophone was a little underwhelming for her. But we encouraged her to make some of her own little ditties with it anyway.
My final piece of feedback for this instrument is that if there are families out there with a baby sibling crawling around, the mallets are going to end up in a mouth with astounding frequency. They seemed to be glued together pretty securely, so my hope is that it isn't really a choking hazard, but it caused me to tuck them away for a little while. This feedback is totally a side note, as these projects are meant for children who have likely grown out of the putting-everything-in-their-mouth phase.
All that said, the DIY project itself was really fun. Getting the tone bars woven into the rubber bands was really a great fine motor skill activity for my kid!
Here are the parts used to make the little tambourine. I can't get over how cute the koala shape is! The elastic band gets woven through the holes with each bell strung onto it, and the metal stoppers hold it in place. I love that this is a mess-free project, and again, it's a great way to work those fine motor skills.
Here's Lorelai giving her tambourine a little jingle! I feel like this is an annoying thing to say, but we also have higher quality tambourine-like instruments in our home, which Lorelai loves using to shake along while her dad plays music, so this little guy ended up being lovingly gifted to the baby. Of course, it's another one that a close eye needs to be kept on, because the bells could conceivably come off if the elastic band were to come loose, but it's reasonably secure.
DIY Dancing Streamer
Finally, we're given another mallet and a long ribbon and are to revisit the dot stampers to decorate a little ribbon dancer. I was all about my ribbon dancer as a kid, so I was pretty pumped about this one.
Here Lorelai is practicing her stamping technique to try to create fuller circles. She also had fun rubbing the ink pads of the blue and pink stamps together to create purplish dots. The directions say to let the fabric dry overnight, but we just let it sit for a few minutes and it seemed dry enough for us. We slid it onto the third mallet and used the little yellow foam stopper to hold it on. It was fun for Lorelai to wave around something she herself decorated! In the end, her play silks won out, as they were a little more flowy for her. But it was interesting to explore the differences in movement between the two.
Lorelai and I have now tried about five Koala Crate boxes, and we love the process of unboxing, organizing our materials, and working together to complete the projects. Sometimes the finished products get played with a ton; other times, like with the DIYs in this Music box, the process of creating was more fulfilling to us than the actual things we made. But, you know what? I know a bunch of families who subscribe to Koala Crate, and I feel like we're the only ones who feel this way about the Music box! For another perspective, and some more detailed process photos, check out Lacey's take on it. (Lacey and her husband are also musicians, by the way.)
Value - Was This Box Worth It?
The Cost: $19.95 a month + free US shipping. Save with longer subscriptions.
Value Breakdown: Koala Crate costs $19.95 per month, meaning each of the three DIY projects breaks down to $6.65. That's not including the little extras, like the brief story, DIY how-to using your own materials, and on-theme info they offer. I feel like that deal can't be beat. Working together, following instructions, using our hands, and ending up with some new items for creative play mean this box fills several needs and lots of time together. The projects are unique, well-engineered, made out of quality materials, and they're educational.
Despite the fact that this wasn't our family's favorite Koala Crate, we still have unfettered enthusiasm for the subscription and get so excited when the yellow box arrives on our porch! We may not have been the best audience for long-term play with these DIY instruments, but we still had a heck of a fun time making them.
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Other Things You Should Know
Can I still get this box if I sign up today? From KiwiCo:
Crates are assigned each month based on availability and your crate history – not all subscribers receive the same theme each month
What do you think of this month's Koala Crate?