They. Are. Awesome. And perfect if you (like me) are dreading the after-Christmas influx of crappy toys. (Really, we don't have the room.) Instead of _____ (fill in the blank with annoying toy), how 'bout the relatives get your littles something that is not only super-crazy-fun but also helps to keep you sane during the dark days of winter? A win-win if ever there was one, Mamas.
We received our Wonder Box first. Both boys freaked out - it was like Christmas came early. Wonder Box sent us the Once Upon a Time box. This box contained three projects:
1. A Story Cape - you draw (with the included fabric crayons) on the provided cape
2. Build Your Own Puppet - they included all of the supplies shown below, as well as a bottle of glue
3. Story Cards - you use the hand-drawn cards to make up a story together
Wonder Box is geared to the 3-6 year old crowd, but Pax (age 2) was also loving it. Which is something that I wasn't counting on (silly me). So there was only one cape, one bottle of glue, one puppet...but enough other supplies that we could make it work.
But here's what I really appreciated: Everything worked. Really, really well. The fabric crayons were nice and dark on the fabric. The glue bottle was easy to squeeze (even for Pax). The assortment of puppet-making supplies was varied enough to be exciting.
In terms of longevity...the puppet didn't last long. Not surprising, for felt and glue. And both boys were totally uninterested in the story cards - I put them away for another day. But the cape? That Pax scribbled on and Raines drew a "dreadful tank" on? That baby is still in play:
You can order one month's worth of Wonder Box here for $25, or three for $60 (always free shipping and they don't do that annoying auto-renew).
Like Wonder Box, Kiwi Crate has various subscription packages, for identical prices (the individual Kiwi Crate is $20 + $5 shipping...so $25 total, just like Wonder Box). There are a couple of key differences, however:
A. In addition to the monthly box, Kiwi Crate offers specialized boxes. These include a nice supply of holiday-themed boxes, as well as a space hero box (geared towards boys) and a fairy box (for girls). Additionally, they offer mini crates ($5-$12) that can be used for birthday parties, etc.
B. The biggest difference? Kiwi Crate offers a sibling option, for an additional $8 per crate. And Mamas, it is $8 well spent.
We were sent the December box, with the sibling add-on. It contained:
1. Penguin bowling - decorate cardboard penguins, then set them up and bowl with the balls provided
2. Aurora postcards - decorate thick postcards with watercolors and oil pastels
3. Ice Experiments - use the included silicon tray and booklet to perform a set of experiments on ice
Like Wonder Box, I loved the high-quality materials. The scissors (two of them!!) were Fiskars - the only scissors worth buying, in my opinion. The watercolors (two packs) were Sargent, the oil pastels were Pentel. As someone who is insanely picky about her art supplies (even her kid's art supplies) I loved that both Kiwi Crate and Wonder Box are committed to high quality products.
The boys were mad about penguin bowling. I was surprised at how long they spent decorating the penguins - with mainly stickers and a black marker. Although, to prolong the process, I busted out colored pens and crayons to keep their creative juices flowing.
Can you tell which penguins are Pax's?
The postcards were also a big hit. Which wasn't surprising - both of my guys love to paint. Raines is currently having trouble sending the postcards however, because he "loves them too much". Christmas is doing a number on him, poor thing. The emphasis on getting ("what do you want from Santa??) is just overwhelming. Pax studiously worked to turn his watercolor pad into one big mess of brown. But you know, playing is learning, so that's OK. Thank goodness he had his own set. R would've freaked out.
In terms of longevity...we now have a couple of pairs of scissors, balls, silicon ice molds, watercolors and a set of oil pastels that will last a loooong time. And those darn cardboard penguins, now the bane of my existence, are still providing a ton of fun.
(Happily) Sadly, they are becoming slightly bent and broken down, so their days are numbered. Such is the life with two boys under 5.
Which Box is Best?
So here's the deal: If you have more than one kid, Kiwi Crate's sibling option is pretty hard to beat. Not that you can't work it with only one box, but the extra materials makes your life a lot easier (Wonder Box, are you listening?).
The main difference between the two boxes (and this is just my opinion, obviously) is this:
Wonder Boxes seem to be geared more to academic learning: our box focused heavily on reading preparedness (storytelling)...and other boxes are heavy into science (I'm totally intrigued by the box that has you grow your own greenhouse in a balloon).
Kiwi Crates, on the other hand, has some of that as well, but their focus tends to be more art/exploration related. Even their science-heavy crates (grow your own garden, for example) contains at least one art-based project (decorate a pot with colored clay).
For someone like me, who is trying to entertain both an almost-5 year old and a 2 year old...the extra dose of open-ended exploration provided by Kiwi Crate is crucial. While Raines did love his Wonder Box, Kiwi Crate did a better job of providing fun for both Raines and my littlest guy (who, admittedly, isn't in their target age range). It really depends on your goals as a parent.
But Mamas, you can't go wrong. Both Wonder Box and Kiwi Crate will inspire creativity and provoke your kid's curiosity in really fun ways. Just go with your gut. These boxes 'o fun are perfect for rainy (or super cold) days, or - even better - extended stays over the holidays. You bet your bottom dollar that I'll be ordering one (or more) over the holidays. It'll keep the crazy boys a bit calmer at Nana & Grandpa's. And that, my dears, is priceless.
ps. I was sent, gratis, a box 'o fun from each company to try. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. I just love, love, love these products.
pps. Want more gift ideas? How about some high-quality musical instruments for kids (we did this last year - click the link for pics of our rockin' Christmas morning), our hands-down favorite blocks and building toys (don't forget about these gorgeous blocks), or these toys you've probably never heard of?