At-home resources for kids and parents during Covid-19

To our KiwiCo community:

As parents, we share the same concerns about the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus, and the impact it will have on our families. Here at KiwiCo, we asked our team to work from home. Many of us have children who will be home with us for the foreseeable future due to school closures.

We know a lot of you are also trying to find a new normal, including keeping your kids busy at home. So today, we’re launching a resource hub for parents to help support learning at home, with loads of stay-at-home educational activities for every age, tips from teachers on effective remote learning, and kid-friendly content that connects science with their daily lives. To start with, we’re bringing you an explanation of the science of handwashing, to help kids understand why it’s so important. We’re going to be adding new content and resources to the hub regularly. We’ll also be switching up our newsletter to bring you helpful resources more frequently, and you can follow us on Instagram for daily updates.

Please take care of yourself, and reach out if we can help. We’re here to support you and your family during this time. We’re in this together.

Founder & Mom of 3

30 Children’s Books That Inspire Creativity, Inclusion & Resilience

With all that’s going on in the world, it isn’t an easy time to be a parent — wondering how exactly we explain it all and lead by example. Books are windows into different perspectives and experiences. They can help kids (and adults) develop curiosity, empathy, and courage. We collected a list of books that exemplify KiwiCo’s mission to inspire kids to channel creativity, celebrate inclusion, and embody resilience so that they can build a better tomorrow. 

We’ve linked all the books to Amazon, but we encourage shopping local if you are able to!

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison | Ages 0-3

Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things — bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come.

Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight! (Baby Loves Science) by Ruth Spiro | Ages 0-3

Accurate enough for experts, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the science of vision, light, and color. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two as well.

Hey, Baby!: A Baby’s Day in Doodle by Andrea Pippins | Ages 0-3

Follow a baby throughout the day, from napping to snacking to playing — and everything in between! High contrast, lively illustrations combine with gorgeous, colorful photographs to showcase the warmth and tenderness between a mommy and her baby. This affectionate look at babyhood is sure to appeal to new parents and grandparents, who will recognize their own little one in the pages.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss | Ages 0-4

This classic story about a little boy who plants a carrot seed isn’t just a simple tale about how to care for plants, it also provides a valuable lesson on patience and persistence. Even when the little boy’s mother, father, and older brother show doubt that his carrot seed will grow, the little boy just knows that one day — after all the watering, weed pulling, and waiting — a carrot will pop up!

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers | Ages 2-3

Every day, everywhere, babies are born. They’re kissed and dressed and rocked and fed — and completely adored by the families who love them. With an irresistible rhyming text and delightfully endearing illustrations, here is an exuberant celebration of playing, sleeping, crawling, and of course, very noisy babies doing all the wonderful things babies do best.

M Is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose | Ages 3-6

This empowering alphabet book that teaches kids their ABCs. Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed | Ages 3-8

A beautiful picture book for sharing and marking special occasions such as graduation, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, Rafael López | Ages 4-7

Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.

One Family by George Shannon | Ages 4-8

This deceptively simple concept book celebrates family and community, while also offering young readers a chance to practice counting. Each spread features an increasing number of people who form a family. From babies in buggies to white-haired elders holding hands, families stretch across generations and races.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires | Ages 4-8

For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes.

King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan | Ages 4-8

This lively, contemporary story introduces readers to a centuries-old festival and the traditional sport of kite fighting, and to a spirited, determined young boy who masters the sport while finding his own way to face and overcome life’s challenges.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê | Ages 4-8

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens — with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris | Ages 4-8

This is the uplifting tale of how the author’s aunt and mother first learned to persevere in the face of disappointment and turned a dream into reality. This is a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom | Ages 4-8

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.

From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom | Ages 4-8

A children’s picture book that incorporates lush visual storytelling with poetic language to tell the tale of a magical gender variant child who brings transformation and change to the world around them with the help of their mother’s love. This unique children’s book honors timeless fairy-tale themes while challenging gender, racial, and body stereotypes.

One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi | Ages 4-9

A reward of one grain of rice doubles day by day into millions of grains of rice when a selfish raja is outwitted by a clever village girl.

I Am Martin Luther King, (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer | Ages 5-8

Even as a child, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shocked by the terrible and unfair way African-American people were treated. When he grew up, he decided to do something about it — peacefully, with powerful words. This lively, New York Times bestselling biography series inspires kids to dream big, one great role model at a time. You’ll want to collect each book.

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World by Matt Lamothe | Ages 5-8

In Japan, Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda, Daphine likes to jump rope. While the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days — and this one world we all share — unites them. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as mirrors reflecting our common experiences.

Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch | Ages 6-9

Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned — and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel Laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba | Ages 6-8

When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw | Ages 6-9

Shane Burcaw was born with a rare disease called spinal muscular atrophy, which hinders his muscles’ growth. As a result, his body hasn’t grown bigger and stronger as he’s gotten older ― it’s gotten smaller and weaker instead. This hasn’t stopped him from doing the things he enjoys (like eating pizza and playing sports and video games) with the people he loves, but it does mean that he routinely relies on his friends and family for help with everything from brushing his teeth to rolling over in bed.

The Magnificent Makers #1: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith | Ages 7-10

Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one. This book includes two science activities kids can do at home!

You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything by Matthew Syed | Ages 7-10

Practical, insightful and positive, this is the book to help children build resilience, embrace their mistakes and grow into successful, happy adults.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford | Ages 8-12

Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro-Puerto Rican man named Arturo Schomburg. His life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora in order to bring to light the achievements of people of African descent. When his collection became so large that it threatened to overflow his house, he turned to the New York Public Library.

El Deafo by Cece Bell | Ages 8-12

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Raymond Obstfeld | Ages 8-12

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people’s pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people’s lives.

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez | Ages 9-12

When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up.

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko | Ages 9-12

San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people… but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city — a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore | Ages 10+

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with LEGOs. Lolly’s always loved LEGOs, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper | Ages 10+

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom — the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it — somehow.

Want more books like these? Check out these awesome lists: 

2020 KiwiCo Look Back: A Year of Creativity & Resilience

It’s been a long year of unexpected challenges and changes, but through it all, the pint-sized problem solvers in our KiwiCo community have inspired us with their creativity and resilience. As we hunkered down at home at the start of quarantine, we shared a series of fun challenges as a way to stay connected with one another. With each challenge came clever, colorful, and curious creations that not only made us smile but also pushed us to work harder and think bigger. Thank you for sharing these moments of delight and wonder with us! As we round out 2020, we’re celebrating the creativity of our kid community and looking forward to another 12 months of inspiration in 2021. 

Mega Marble Run

To find your child’s marble run, check out the time code table of contents here!

If you want to launch your own mega marble run challenge with your family near and far, you can follow our instructions here. Share your creations with us on Instagram by tagging us with @kiwico_inc!

Cheer Up Your Neighbors with Chalk Art

Earlier this year, our community was asked to explore sidewalk chalk art and creativity after our chat with a professional street artist who offered expert tips. We loved seeing the delightful, inspiring artwork that came back to us from neighborhood sidewalks from all over. Check out some of the submissions!

Isla (10) from Tennessee, USA
Ann (11) from Tbilisi, Georgia
Emmaline from Rhode Island, USA

Write a Haiku About Staying at Home

Many of us naturally grappled with mixed emotions throughout the year, but we were so impressed by the continued resilience of kids from all over the world. As a creative exercise, our in-house poet and editor gave kids tips for writing haikus about hard times and we found such inspiration from these reminders to stay positive. Here are a few the haikus we received:

Coronavirus / Let’s make the best out of it / Stay safe Be happy
Noah (12) from Belgium
Everything is closed / Because the virus is here / I am still happy
Eléonore (6) from Switzerland
I walk on the street / wear a mango ice cream mask / oh it tastes so good
Carina (5) from California, USA

Draw an Undiscovered Dinosaur

Kids around the world channeled their inner paleontologist, dreaming up dinosaurs to discover. For drawing tips, we turned to the illustrator of one of our favorite books (Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug). From the friendly T. Rexotopsaur to Mr. Hot Dog, we think all the imaginative drawings are dinomite!

Emma (9) from Texas, USA
Vera (5) from California, USA
Colton from California, USA 

Make Foraged Art

Some of the most beautiful quarantine creations came, not from crafts, but from nature! We talked with the author of Foraged Art, Peter Cole, to find out ways kids could make masterpieces with materials supplied by Mother Nature. Here are some of the awesome artworks we received:

Leonardo (3) from Western Australia
Sophia (4) from Florida, USA
Emilio (5) from California, USA

The Making of KiwiCo’s Mega Marble Run

We’re so excited to share this epic community project with you! During quarantine, we challenged kids to build marble runs at home and then share them with us. The goal was to connect our community around the world one marble run at a time. In just a month, we ended up receiving over 700 marble runs from kids in over 20 countries. After lots and lots of editing, we’re capping the challenge off with an awesome hour-long video! 

To find your child’s marble run faster, check out the time code table of contents here!

The marble runs are incredibly cool and fun to watch, but what we love the most are the messages of hope and the moments of delight that came with them. It’s community projects like this that inspire us to keep pushing for a bigger and better tomorrow!

Thank you so much for participating in the Mega Marble Run Challenge! With the amount of videos we received, we weren’t able to address all the missing information or complications we would have liked to (e.g. expired videos sent over iCloud, videos with low resolution, or names or ages missing from emails). If you don’t see your child’s name there was likely a hiccup with the video file. We’re so sorry if your video didn’t make it in, but there will be many more fun challenges to come!

If you want to launch a mega marble run challenge with your family near and far, you can follow our instructions here. Share your creations with us on Instagram @kiwico_inc!

KiwiCo’s Favorite Montessori-Inspired Toys for All Ages

A Montessori toy is a toy that fits into the Montessori Method’s philosophies: Children have an innate desire to learn and they learn best through experiences in their environment. The Montessori Method believes that the materials and toys in a child’s environment are very important in this learning process. 

Montessori toys are designed to:  

  • Foster play-based learning. This leads to a lifelong love of learning by making learning fun. 
  • Encourage independence. Montessori toys can be manipulated without adult help. This creates opportunity for independent discovery and builds a strong sense of self esteem. 
  • Be open-ended. Montessori toys can be used in many ways to encourage imagination, creativity, and experimentation. 

At KiwiCo, our projects fit really well into the Montessori philosophy because we believe that children are born scientists, and playtime is their laboratory. It’s our goal to create opportunities for hands-on learning that is so fun it keeps you coming back for more. Check out our favorite Montessori-friendly KiwiCo toys for children ages 2-11. 

Our Favorite Montessori toys for 2-4 year olds

Between the ages 0-3 a child’s brain develops to 80 percent of its adult size and by the time a child is 5, it’s 90 percent developed. These early years are so important because we’re not only building the foundations for future learning, but because children find learning satisfying and oh-so fun! Below are some of our favorite child-led projects that fuel a love of learning! 

Colorful Chemistry

Bubbly chemistry experiment

Get ready for some bubbly and colorful chemistry! Learn about the scientific method, put together a bubbly chemical reaction, perform color mixing experiments, make some colorful art, and see everyday chemical reactions in action.

Vet Starter Kit

Veterinarian pet kit for kids

Discover the important work that veterinarians do through hands-on play! Check up on a favorite stuffed animal with handy vet tools,  explore animal organ and muscle systems, and play a “find the fracture” using an x-ray lightbox and a set of animal cards. 

Astronaut Starter Kit

Astronomy astronaut kit for kids

Blast off into STEM learning with this astronaut starter kit! Build and launch a pair of model orbiter spaceships using the power of pumps, paint a set of model planets, and then construct a miniature solar system that really spins. Plus, learn amazing facts about the ins-and-outs of space travel!

Pop-up Felt Play Mat

Discover pretend play for on-the-go fun! This pop-up felt play mat comes with pop-up buildings, signs, and a bridge, plus a boat, two cars, and little wooden people. Pop open the play mat for hours of open-ended fun, then when you’re all done, flatten the pieces, store them, and convert the mat to a tote to bring along for another day of open-ended, imaginative play!

Little Artist

Introduce your little one to the world of art with painting and sculpture projects! Create your own color block painting. Design an abstract sculpture with colorful beads and shapes, and personalize an art smock for all your future art projects.

Dinosaur Costume

Jump back into prehistoric times with dinosaurs! Make your own dinosaur costume to stomp around the house, create clay fossils, and challenge your friends to a dino-themed footprint matching game. It’ll be a roar-ing good time!

Our Favorite Montessori toys for 5-8 year olds

While the younger child seeks comfort, the older child is now eager to encounter challenges. But these challenges must have an aim. – Maria Montessori 

Montessori toys are just as important for children as they get older, but their interests and needs change. Montessori toys for older children should challenge them as well as provide an invitation to experiment and ask questions about how things work in the world around them. Below are some of our favorite question-sparking projects! 

Basketball Catapult

How do you become a pro basketball star and catapult launcher? With practice —- and with physics! Engineer an adjustable catapult and play a spirited game of basketball. Learn about the science of sports, and experiment with different angles and arcs until you’re a hoop superstar.

Pom-Pom Hedgehogs

Make a fluffy pom-pom pal! Wind up yarn to create hedgehog friends, then bring them to life with felt, stickers, and pipecleaners.

Young Chemist (3-Pack)

When one science project isn’t enough, get three!

Crystal Chemistry Garden

Craft a colorful chemis-tree and garden. Then concoct a chemical solution that’ll make your garden grow fun and funky crystals over two days.

Wrap Rockets

Build a pair of wrap rockets then watch them shoot through the air and snap around their targets. Then play a target practice game and learn about snap buckling and the science behind your snappy rockets.

Crystal Chemistry Tree

‘Plant’ and decorate a tree with ornaments and ribbons. Then use science (and some everyday chemicals) to grow snowy crystals overnight! 


Conduct a series of egg-themed experiments that show physics, chemistry, and biology in action. Color eggs using chemical reactions, create sparkly eggshells through crystallization, and more!

Pinball Machine

Design a pinball machine, launch, and play for hours, all while playing with angles and momentum to learn about pinball physics! Plus, try your hand at geometric artwork to decorate your game board.

Froggie Lab Dissection

Play pretend with a plush Froggie friend that you can “dissect”! Open Froggie up and explore the major internal organs that you and Froggie have in common — heart, lungs, stomach, and more. Then play a diagnosis game to figure out why Froggie isn’t feeling well. 

Light-Up Anglerfish Puppet

Build a hungry, gear-powered anglerfish that really chomps, then play a game to fill up its belly. Plus, design a submarine seek-and-find art piece full of hidden creatures that you can only see when you shine a flashlight on them!

Metamorphosing Butterfly

Discover butterfly metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly with this cuddly, transformative friend. Place your caterpillar in its chrysalis, then help it change into a beautiful butterfly!  

Flying Squirrel

Explore the lives of flying squirrels with a launchable plush toy! Practice launching your squirrel, play a flying for food game, and learn about predators and prey in the animal world. 

Our Favorite Montessori toys for 9-11 year olds

As homework piles up, it’s easy to forget that hands-on fun is still most kids’ favorite way to learn. Hands-on experiences with real life learning is a great way to break up screen-time and homework with some seriously satisfying projects. Below are some of our favorite projects for older kids. 

Explore World

Where in the world are you? Build a real spinning globe and learn fun facts about this Earth we call home. Then explore your world map and master basic navigational skills. 

Explore Australia

Take a trip down under — to Australia! Build a hopping wooden kangaroo and craft a colorful coral reef art piece. Get inspired by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers and make your own fiber dog sculpture, play kolap, a strategy game from the tropical island of Mer, and whip up a yummy batch of Anzac biscuits.

Explore India

Experience India! Use colored sand to make a festive rangoli, play Snakes & Ladders, mix up some homemade henna and try your hand at some mehndi designs, and learn about yoga. Wash it all down with a cool glass of mango lassi you made yourself!

Explore Indonesia

Explore the ins-and-outs of Indonesia! Design and paint a canvas tote inspired by Batik bags, build a racing komodo dragon, learn to dance the Tari Piring, a traditional dance performed while balancing plates,and explore Indonesia’s rice agriculture. Then go bananas for a classic Indonesian dessert — ooey-gooey pisang bakar (grilled bananas) topped with chocolate sprinkles!

Explore Italy

Travel to Italy —- from home! Build a spinning pizzeria automaton, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, harness the calco process to make eye-catching art, play rota, an ancient Roman game that’s a little like tic-tac-toe, and visit vibrant Venice. Then whip up some healthy, homemade bruschetta. 

Bubble Machine

Mix vegetable oil and liquid watercolor, then set up lights and engineer a bubble pump to build your very own bubble lamp. Plus, learn about the unique interaction between oil and water that makes lava lamps so lavable.

Chalkboard & Glow Slime

What’s even better than ooey-gooey slime? Slime that you can write on and slime that glows in the dark! Create chalkboard slime and doodle on it with chalkboard art markers. Then make a batch with glow powder to create glow-in-the-dark slime.

Spin Art Machine

Make art with science! Engineer a spin art machine with a working motor. Then add some paint to make eye-catching art using centrifugal force! 

Volcano Slime

Mix together chemical solutions to make your own fizzy, oozy slime that “erupts” like a volcano! A hands-on way to explore kid-friendly chemistry, acids and bases, and the science of polymers.

Discover the Magic of Engineering for Holiday Fun

This holiday we decided to put our creative problem-solving skills together to surprise Santa with a little engineering magic. Watch the video below to see our Christmas creation!

Curious to see the full story? Take a look!

If you’re feeling inspired, you can make a Rube Goldberg machine like this one with materials you have around your house! A Rube Goldberg machine is a crazy contraption that’s engineered to perform a simple task after a series of chain reactions. KiwiCo product designer Andy bravely took on the complicated challenge of building the machine you saw in the video by connecting a bunch of different KiwiCo crates.

How to Make a Rube Goldberg Machine

Step 1: Select a simple task for your machine to complete.

We wanted our Rube Goldberg machine to take a photo of Santa, but your machine can accomplish a completely different task. If you’re making a Santa-inspired machine, you can have your Rube Goldberg dunk cookies in milk or ring a bell. If not, the sky’s the limit! You can have your machine do things like turn on a light, pop a balloon, or shut a door.

Step 2: Collect your materials.

Andy used materials from eight different KiwiCo crates to build our Rube Goldberg machine. Here are a few of the ones we used:

Kiwi Crate Balloon Cars

Walking Robot

Pinball Machine

Andy also used books, paper, cardboard, wooden sticks, string, and tape. If you don’t have a bunch of KiwiCo crates at home, no worries! You can use materials you already have like cardboard tubes, water bottles, dominoes, marbles, or toy cars.

Step 3: Come up with connections & triggers.

Before building the Rube Goldberg for the Santa video, Andy had to figure out how each crate would complete a mini task to contribute to the chain reaction that ends with a photo of Santa.

For example, a Kiwi Crate Balloon Car knocked into a book with a roll of tape on the top. When the roll of tape fell, it pulled a string, which connected a circuit and turned the Walking Robot on. The book, tape, and string were the triggers in this first part. The Walking Robot then knocked over a book (another trigger) which launched a marble in the Pinball Machine.

The Pinball Machine marble went down a ramp and pushed another marble through the Kiwi Crate Roller Coaster Science loop and into a small cardboard box that pulled a string attached to the Atlas Crate France Cyclist.

The cyclist pedaled down a string, knocking off a wooden stick at the bottom which triggered a catapult with a marble in it. The marble launched into a book which then pulled on a string attached to the Tinker Crate Biomechanical Hand. The finger on the Biomechanical Hand is the trigger that took the picture of Santa!

Andy says creating robust triggers is the trickiest part of making a Rube Goldberg machine since It only takes one faulty trigger to make the whole thing stop!

Step 4: Test, test, and test again.

Testing is a huge part of our design process at KiwiCo, and this project was no different! Andy had to do hundreds of tests before the entire Rube Goldberg machine worked. If your design isn’t working out, keep experimenting with different connections and triggers until you find what works.

Once Andy built and tested the Rube Goldberg machine in our KiwiCo office, he had to send the parts to Los Angeles where a bunch of folks had to rebuild it for the ad! To see the finished contraption in action, watch our full holiday ad here!

30 Awesome Activities to do Over Winter Break

It can be tricky to keep kids busy during winter break — especially if you’re spending it in quarantine. To help, we pulled a mix of some of our favorite KiwiCo projects and DIYs. If you see a crate project you like, we recommend ordering right away so you get them before your kids go back to school!

STEAM Experiments 

Colorful Chemistry Ages 3+

Add a little color — and a whole lot of science — to your day! Learn about the scientific method, then put together a bubbly chemical reaction in your own fab chemistry lab.

Milk Swirl Experiment Ages 4+

Dip a drop of soap into milk to create a color explosion in your kitchen! Watch our video to see us make the colorful experiment from start to swirling color.

Crystal Chemistry Garden Ages 5+

Craft a colorful chemis-tree and garden using felt shapes and liquid watercolors. Then concoct a chemical solution that’ll make your garden grow fun and funky crystals over two days.

Bouncy Egg Experiment Ages 5+

This easy eggsperiment is great for children to do on their own! When you let an egg sit in vinegar, a (safe) chemical reaction takes place and creates new compounds. The result? A bouncy egg! If you want more activities like this with all the materials included, check out our Eggsperiment crate in the KiwiCo Store!

Oil + Water Chemistry Ages 5+

Oil and water may not mix, but kids and chemistry definitely do! Set up your very own fab chemistry lab, and conduct a series of hands-on oil-and-water experiments.

Hot Ice Hand Warmers Ages 8+

Keep your hands warm with this hot ice experiment you can do at home! OK, so it’s not really ice, but it really does keep your hands warm. And it’s an easy (and safe) experiment you can do in your own kitchen.

Plant Light Maze Ages 8+

Have you ever noticed how plants grow toward the light? Build this simple light maze, and watch the plant grow around the obstacles to reach the light! Try experimenting with different mazes and see how the plant reacts.

Volcano Slime Ages 9+

Get ready for some ooey-gooey, educational fun. Mix together chemical solutions to make your own fizzy, oozy slime that “erupts” like a volcano!

Pumping Heart Ages 9+

Is your kid curious about how the human heart works? Build this pumping heart model to learn about the right atrium and ventricle!

Vortex Lab Ages 14+

Build a magnetic mixing machine and spin up a chemical cyclone! Contains everything you need to try 4 chemistry experiments exploring the science of solubility, diffusion, and oxidation-reduction.

STEAM Craft Projects

Salt Dough Dinosaur Fossils Ages 3+

Mix up a few simple ingredients and for some prehistoric play! If you like this activity, check out our Dinosaurs Koala Crate in the Kiwico Store for even more fun. 

Cardboard Castle Ages 4+

Upcycle your holiday gift boxes or KiwiCo Crates into a castle with a drawbridge! Make the castle shown here, and then Invite your friends over to help make designs of your own.

Animal Bath Bombs Ages 5+

Dip your toes into bubbly bathtime chemistry with animal-shaped bath bombs you make yourself! Learn about acid-base reactions and the science of molecules while mixing up a colorful chemical concoction.

Melted Crayon Art Ages 5+

Melting is a natural process that we can see every day: the ice in a glass of water, the butter on bread right after it’s toasted, the candles on a birthday cake. Try to melt some crayons into a work of art!

Crystal Ombre Soap Making Ages 7+

Make a splash — with soapy science! Craft and customize two kinds of colorful, crystal-inspired soaps. Then take a deep dive into hands-on learning, and explore mineral science.

Egg Geodes Ages 9+

Have you ever grown your own crystal geodes? Try this egg experiment and grow your very own borax crystals in a shell! Experiment with different borax concentrations and see how big your crystals can grow.

Marbled Paperweight Ages 9+

These pretty rainbow rocks are perfect for brightening up your desk! With just some nail polish and water, you can transform an ordinary rock into your own marbled paperweight.

Punch Needle Pillow Ages 14+

Explore textile art, with a project that packs a serious punch! This fun and time-consuming project will teach kids how to design and create their very own punch needle pillow.

STEAM Challenges & Games

Monster Mash Up Ages 3+

This creative and collaborative activity is endlessly entertaining and a huge hit with both kids and grownups (honestly, I often play this without kids present). Challenge your family to think out of the box and see what kinds of creatures you can create together!

Simple Scavenger Hunt Ages 3+

Who says scavenger hunts need to be complicated? This activity can be done with items you already have lying around the house. To connect with family far away, Zoom them in and play together! 

Pinball Machine Ages 5+

Design the board, launch, and play, all while discovering pinball game physics! Build this pinball machine kit, designed just for kids, and play with angles and momentum. Plus, try your hand at geometric artwork to decorate your game board.

Box Toss Ages 5+

Inspired by the game of Corn Hole, this simple tossing contest uses recycled cardboard boxes (or KiwiCo crates!) Set up in the backyard and see who gets the most points. For tossing objects, try whiffle balls, ping pong balls, or even walnuts!

Balloon Cars Ages 5+

Customize two balloon cars and get ready to roll with your own at-home race day! Build out your cars and then, experiment and tinker with the wheels and balloon to see how fast they can go.

Basketball Catapult Ages 5+

Aim, shoot, and score with this physics-friendly crate! Engineer an adjustable catapult and play a spirited game of basketball. 

Craft Stick Chain Reaction Ages 7+

Chain reactions are amazing displays of energy. When everything is set up right, one little tap can cause a cascade of action, like a single domino knocking over a chain of thousands. Try this experiment with your family and see how long you can make the craft stick chain!

Cannonball Launcher Ages 7+

Build a launcher that uses elastic power to shoot foam cannonballs. Learn about the science of potential and kinetic energy — all while putting your cannon construction skills to the test.

Baking Soda-Powered Boats Ages 7+

This project is a KiwiCo community favorite. You can build a few boats with different kinds of containers and race them in your tub!

Egg Drop Project Ages 9+

This classic eggsperiment is sure to bring some eggcitement to your house! Challenge your kids to come up with a way to protect the egg! You can also make this activity into a competition and have each family member create their own egg drop contraption. 

Light-Chasing Robot Ages 14+

Light up a love of electronics with this light-chasing robot! Wire up the motors, add the switch, and assemble your robot — all while exploring the science behind circuits and sensors

How to Teach Your Kids to Receive Gifts Graciously & Genuinely

Every year, as I shop for the tiny humans in my life, I reminisce on Jimmy Kimmel’s video montage of kids opening “terrible gifts” (e.g. Canned beans, bruised fruit, and my personal favorite, a half-eaten sandwich). Most of the kids react as you’d expect — an Oscar-worthy meltdown. But every couple of videos, there’s a rare little one who expresses pure joy after receiving a slightly browning banana or travel size deodorant. As parents, these are the tender (and hilarious) moments we love to see from our kids. So, how do we help teach them to receive gifts graciously and genuinely even when they don’t like what they get?

“Role play is actually a great way to play together and build skills. Sharing moments that are kind of contrived allow children to bring their whole selves to the table in front of you and then allows you to help coach them through,” says Maryam Abdullah, a developmental psychologist and Parenting Program Director at the Greater Good Science Center.

Like a lot of skills, grace takes practice. And with kids, practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it helps. Maryam walked us through a gift-receiving role-playing activity that you can try in the lead up to a holiday or birthday.

Gift Receiving Role Play Game

Step 1: Invite your child to collect the mail with you.

  • Explain to your child that some gifts from family may come in the mail this year since we can’t gather together.

Step 2: Share the role play game. 

  • You can say something along the lines of, “Let’s pretend that [insert family member] sent you a gift today for [insert holiday]. And let’s think of three things that could possibly be.”
  • Maryam says this is where parents can get playful by suggesting gifts like a dinosaur, pet rock, or even a slightly browning banana.

Step 3: Ask your child what they would think about receiving any one of the gifts.

  • Try to turn the focus onto the gifter. You can do this by talking about your child’s special relationship with them and why they may have picked out a particular present. This will help your child think about the thought behind the gift rather than the gift itself.

Step 4: Ask your child how they would feel about receiving any one of the gifts.

  • Talking about how something makes us feel helps us better understand and manage our emotions. This practice will especially come in handy in unpredictable real-life situations.
  • If your child isn’t feeling so gracious about their pretend gifts, use it as an opportunity to discuss the importance of empathy. Talk about the way their words may make the gifter feel. Then, practice positive things your child can say after they receive a gift they may not have wanted. 

Step 5: Ask your child what they would say to the gifter after receiving any one of the gifts.

  • In addition to saying “thank you” to the gifter, your child can show genuine gratitude by sharing how receiving the gift made them feel. By doing this, your child will both experience and express gratitude.
  • Since many families won’t be together in person this year, Maryam suggests kids share gratitude via video chat or with a personalized thank you card, drawing, or poem.

Along with role play, you can also help your child by involving them in your gifting process. This way they can experience the excitement of finding a gift and understand the thought that goes into it. And as always, one of the best ways to help your children practice and express gratitude is to lead by example! You got this.

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D. is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors. If you want more parenting tips, check out the Greater Good Magazine!

10 Engaging Activities to Bring the Family Together

We’re spending a little more time at home this holiday season than in years past, so we are all in need of fun activities that the whole family can enjoy. When you’re ready to give the screen a break, rally your tiny troops and try out a few of these games, DIYs, and projects!

Play & Pretend Together

Monster Mash Up

This creative and collaborative activity is endlessly entertaining and a huge hit with both kids and grownups. (Honestly, I often play this without kids present.) Challenge your family to think out of the box and see what kinds of creatures you can create together!

Pretend Campfire (with S’mores!)

Bring your favorite summer activities indoors with pretend play! You can take this activity to the next level by building a family fort to pair with your campfire. And if you’re craving the real thing, make some s’mores in the microwave.

Simple Scavenger Hunt

Who says scavenger hunts need to be complicated? This activity can be done with items you already have lying around the house. To connect with family far away, Zoom them in and play together!

Build & Experiment Together 

Craft Stick Chain Reaction

Chain reactions are amazing displays of energy. When everything is set up right, one little tap can cause a cascade of action, like a single domino knocking over a chain of thousands. Try this experiment with your family and see how long you can make the craft stick chain!

Cranberry Catapult

We love catapults around here at KiwiCo. Launching things is endless entertainment! Cranberries make for the perfect ammunition, but challenge your kids to try out different items and see who can launch them the farthest!

Egg Drop Project

This classic eggsperiment is sure to bring some eggcitement to your house! Challenge your kids to come up with a way to protect the egg! You can also make this activity into a competition and have each family member create their own egg drop contraption.

Baking Soda-Powered Boats

This project is a KiwiCo community favorite. You can build a few boats with different kinds of containers and race them in your tub!

Share & Make Together

Tree of Gratitude

The holidays are a great time to practice gratitude. Share moments of goodness with your family and hang them on your gratitude tree! For more gratitude activities, read our blog post here (link).

Homemade Dough Gift Tags

Send your gifts off with a tender touch. Have each family member make their own unique gift tag for someone special in their life.

Terra Cotta Winter Village

Create your own winter wonderland! Challenge each family member to decorate a house and then combine them into a cute village. 

5 Ways to Practice Gratitude with Your Kids

This time of year, we’re frequently reminded to give thanks for the good things in our lives. But when decorations come down and school starts back up, the prompts to practice gratitude fade away. So how can parents encourage kids to recognize goodness year-round? To find out, we collected tips from gratitude guru and fellow parent Maryam Abdullah. 

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D. is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.

1. Discover what gratitude means to you

Gratitude can be a difficult concept for adults to grasp — let alone little ones. Maryam says gratitude is really about recognizing goodness outside of ourselves. Goodness can be big things, like happiness, love, family, and health. It can also be small things, like hugs, green lights, and ice cream. It’s up to you to decide the goodness you want to recognize. Once you understand how gratitude aligns with your own values, you can start talking about it with your kids.

2. Share how goodness makes you feel

Practicing gratitude doesn’t always have to be a formal act of recognition. It can be as simple or easy as thanking your child for a hug or kiss. Maryam says since children aren’t necessarily able to verbalize things, parents should show their kids how to practice gratitude by doing it themselves.

“Parents can start demonstrating gratitude with babies before they speak their first word. And then once they become verbal, I think it’s important to practice saying thanks to one another as a family. And not just saying thanks but actually describing how you feel.”

Talking about how goodness makes us feel can help us better understand and manage our emotions. Here’s an example of how parents can share their gratitude after a moment of goodness.

Goodness: Your neighbor came by and dropped off some tomatoes. 
Recognition: I feel so thankful that she’s our neighbor and that she’s someone who shares with us. I feel so happy to be able to receive these gifts from her.

3. Ask your kids about their gratitude

Kids aren’t always great at describing their feelings. Maryam recommends sparking conversations based on four parts that make up the gratitude experience which are outlined by Andrea Hussong, a professor of psychology and neuroscience, and GGSC parent initiative advisor.

What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful.
How we THINK about why we have been given those things.
How we FEEL about the things we have been given.
What we DO to express appreciation in turn.

Asking Notice-Think-Feel-Do questions is a simple way to scaffold your child’s understanding or perception of something that’s good in their life.

NOTICE: I noticed that grandma brought you this new book.
THINK: What do you think about that?
FEEL: How does that make you feel?
DO: Is there something you want to do, to show them how you feel about receiving this new book?

The Greater Good Science Center has more helpful information about Notice-Think-Feel-Do questions here (link)!

4. Encourage your kids to document their gratitude

Along with prompting conversations, Maryam tells us parents can encourage their children to practice gratitude on their own through activities or rituals. Here are some easy ideas she shared with us:

Gratitude Journal: Recognizing goodness in writing can be a ritual in the morning when they wake up or in the evening as a reflection about how the day went.

Photo Essays: If writing isn’t the right activity for your child, they could take pictures of things that they’re grateful for and build up a library of photos of the good things and gifts in their lives.

5. Practice turning gratitude into a habit

Each time you demonstrate and talk about gratitude with your kids, you’re helping them build valuable skills for their emotional toolbox. Maryam suggests trying to work gratitude into your family’s daily rituals with activities.

“At the dinner table, have each family member talk about three good things they experienced that day. This can spark conversation between parents and children in ways that may be just really sweet and tender. It also could be a way for parents to get a glimpse of what’s meaningful to their child.”

Creating good habits is easier said than done. So be kind to yourself through the process!

“Sometimes, as parents we may feel like our kids haven’t figured out all of those steps and that’s okay. I think that’s something we as parents need help remembering too. This is something that they’re still learning, and the more they practice, the more that skill will get stronger.”

For more fun activities, check out this KiwiCo post:
10 Awesome Gratitude Projects for the Whole Family

We want to give a special thank you to Maryam Abdullah and the Greater Good Science Center! If you want to learn more about gratitude and other ways to increase your well-being, check out the Greater Good Magazine.

GGSC recently released a new book called “The Gratitude Project” that delves deep into the neuroscience and psychology of gratitude and explores how thankfulness can be developed and applied. You can purchase the book directly from the publisher or on Amazon.

What Are Montessori Toys?

Child using a pretend stethoscope from a Montessori play kit.

Montessori is an educational approach that was developed over a century ago by an Italian physician named Dr. Maria Montessori. Through scientific study, she developed a method of education designed to teach the “whole child” by supporting cognitive, physical, linguistic, social, and emotional development. 

The Montessori approach is based on the idea that children have an innate desire to learn. It’s why babies try to grasp at things without being told to and why your toddler demands to inspect every single ant hill they find. In a Montessori education, a child learns as much from their environment as they do from the adult they interact with.

Continue reading “What Are Montessori Toys?”