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
Some parents out there who follow our kids subscription box reviews may know that my fellow reviewer Becca had already explored this box with her two sons (see her review here) last year. But I somehow missed her review and didn't realize there was a camping-themed Koala Crate. I love camping and we've taken Lorelai camping several times in her three-and-a-half years of life, so we were thrilled to see what this box meant for the 2-4 age range would hold.
Here's What's Inside
This booklet is always included in Koala Crate and shows step-by-step instructions for how to do each of the three projects. The how-to is 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 always give a couple of suggestions for play. I think this touch is a good example of what sets KiwiCo apart from other subscription boxes for kids. I noticed on the back of the pamphlet they suggest making a bracelet for your child out of duct tape, and going on a nature walk, having them stick findings to their tape bracelet. I can't wait to do this throughout the spring and summer and notice together how the growth around our home changes.
Also included each month is the "Imagine!" magazine. We always enjoy the sweet, short story they provide on the box's theme, featuring three familiar characters: a koala, a parrot, and an alligator. After the story there are some small activities, which are typically simple mazes, connect the dots type games, find the difference, counting, things like that. For this box they give a little DIY for how to make a blanket tent in your home, and they give nature-themed children's book suggestions. We love having specific titles to look for at the library.
Our first task in the "camping" box is to make our campfire! This felt kismet to me because I have actually tried to engineer my own paper fire for pretend indoor campouts with Lorelai before, cutting out two pieces of paper, cutting slits in them, and fitting them together perpendicularly. I think we adults were more excited about it than Lorelai was, because it was fun to have figured out, but required more imagination than she was willing to give that day to help it along. For this fire we're provided with some foam pieces, a crisscross cardboard piece with one sticky side, small squares of tissue paper, and, the magical part, a battery-operated tea light.
Creating the fire was such a unique activity. They suggested crunching each tissue paper square around the end of the provided dowel rod, then using the dowel to stick each to the cardboard cross. I was pretty impressed watching it come together, noticing how that technique gave the "flames" a varied look. After doing the dowel technique a good few times, Lorelai ended up just adding the rest of the flames by hand so she could fill in the open spaces. I helped her bend the sides of the crisscross down and insert them into the foam circle. She added the sticker "stones" for visual enhancement. She was most delighted to place her newly made fire pit on top of the switch-on tea light. For those who haven't already discovered this, a flameless candle is a reliable way to surprise and delight a toddler!
Now that the fire has been made, we're to repurpose the dowel as a stick upon which to roast marshmallows and a hot dog. Pictured above are two marshmallows, two graham crackers, a piece of chocolate, a hot dog bun and hot dog, and a squirt each of mustard and ketchup. All are cloth: felt and ribbon. The marshmallows and hot dog each have an opening so that they can be placed on the stick. (We found a second stick outside so that I could roast along with her.)
This is our first Koala Crate wherein one of the projects is simply supplies for play. And, honestly? We were both pretty pumped about it. While the activities they provide are always wonderfully age-appropriate, sometimes Lorelai gets frustrated with the patience and help they require to make them something lasting. Both good lessons that are important to continually work on together, but this little activity felt like a freebie. If I were being super nitpicky I would say that an extra set of s'mores supplies and one more hot dog would make this kit go even further for us, because while we parents and her grandparents are incredibly willing to take Lorelai's lead with playing with this set, it's a little more contentious with her peers. I can't speak to four-year-olds, but I have witnessed many two- and three-year-olds wanting the same things at the same time and an extra set would alleviate that.
The last spread here is a small canvas backpack with all the felt stickers needed to add a bear face and a pocket. I could melt from the cuteness!
This activity required some patience from me this time around, because Lorelai really wanted to create the bear face completely on her own. As someone who loves crafting and DIYing myself, it was hard not to get involved and help her "succeed" in making the face look just like it did in the example shown in the instructions. But, really, it is important for me not to project ideas of perfectionism onto my children, so this was a good opportunity to practice that. In the first photo above you can see that she added the nose and eyes, but then click over to the second photo and you'll see the eyes needed to be relocated to make room for the ears. The ears definitely required adult assistance, because the concept is to fold the sticker in half so that two sticky sides are touching, and there are no do-overs for that one. If it's at all off-center, sticky things will attract lint forever. Ours aren't perfect but they do the trick!
And, wow wow wow, are any other parents obsessed with the fact that the final activity acts as storage for the first two? I mean, she has been carrying this thing everywhere, putting all the loose parts in dutifully after each campout, and there's even room for her favorite small stuffed animal. The fire gets a little squished in there, but we're making it work. The backpack's straps aren't adjustable and fit a little snugly, but they do fit. The front pocket may require some fortification stitches, as its edges have begun to peel back when she tries to put certain things in it, which is no problem for us. Long live this backpack!
We have adored just about every Koala Crate box we've tried, but the "Camping" box easily tops our list! The DIYs are super age-appropriate and low-pressure, the creative play opportunities are thrilling, and as a family who loves camping in real-life, this box is giving us the opportunity to reenact some of Lorelai's fears of loud nature sounds outdoors at night so that she can feel more at ease the next time we sleep in the woods. As I mentioned above, my feedback for this particular box is that I would've loved a few extra felt food pieces for sharing, and the backpack's front pocket might need to be stitched on to stay in place, but both are easy solves for our family. We have already played with this box every day for over a week now, and I can see it continuing to be exciting for a long while.
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. This month one of the "projects" was felt food for campfire play, so it's sort of like a $6.65 toy plus two projects. There are also fantastic extras, like a little story with familiar characters, extra DIY ideas using materials you probably have at home, and some little games and things inside the magazine. Month after month, I am so psyched about the quality and longevity of Koala Crate boxes (also the scarcity of plastic if you do decide it's time to recycle the pieces). We adore completing these projects together, and they always hold my three-year-old's interest for quite a long time.
Plain and simple, this was our favorite Koala Crate yet. Being nature people, these projects gave us an opportunity to bring some golden outdoor activities inside. Plus, what kid doesn't love toy food? I especially appreciate that this toy food is baby-friendly for when little sister crawls over.
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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?