Letterbox Lab provide innovative children’s science kits as subscription boxes.
Two different versions:
The Explore Box (£7.99 + 89p postage) is for kids aged 6+ and contains a least an hour’s worth of fun science.
The Investigate Box (£21.99 + £2.57 postage) has more experiments and more items of collectible lab equipment with enough to keep a junior scientist busy for 3 or 4 hours.
Both kits have full-colour illustrated instructions and online videos to make it easy to do all the experiments.
On to the actual review!
My lovely helper is my daughter, Little C, age six. I was sent an Explore Box, which is perfectly designed for her age group.
It’s a lovely slim box which fits through the mailbox.
The design is great fun, and very appealing to little people!
Plus bonus fun trivia on the box!
Hmmm, a promisingly lumpy paper bag, something that looks a bit like a magic wand, and a mysterious toothpick taped to the box lid.
This month’s theme!
The instruction booklet is very good. A contents and activity list, plus advice for parents.
The pages for children are very well laid out, with cute little characters to guide them through the activities.
This month’s theme was how to make magical effects with science!
The first activity was intriguing. Levitation you say?
Now then, if you remember your science classes you will remember learning about static electricity.
Remember doing this? It also used to work very well using a nylon school jumper…
After tracing, cutting out, and sticking the little characters, we could use the balloon to make the little figures dance!
As well as the tracing paper figures, a couple of feathers and polystyrene balls were also included. We didn’t have much luck getting the balloon to pick up the balls and the feathers.
But when we rubbed the magic wand with the fur…
And the figures!
Big C totally got in on the action.
This was a ton of fun, and even though we couldn’t pick up the feathers, the polystyrene balls were much more satisfying to make stick.
The next project was a bit of a two-parter.
First we needed to paint the inside of the box lid with two layers of glow-in-the-dark paint (included of course).
Now, they suggested we try the other two projects while the paint was drying. However we were under some time constraints, and the following weekend involved a school campout and a stomach bug, so it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later we were able to get back to the box and finish up.
The painted box lid was safe, and we decided to do the last two activities in the booklet first.
I’m sure you’ll recognise this illusion from childhood. Often it was a two-sided disc with the cage and an animal or bird on each side. It had strings you could use to spin it and make the two images appear as one.
This example used that mysterious toothpick to spin the pictures together.
Of course you can’t actually take a picture of the the optical illusion itself! But you see the general idea.
The last project was flowers you cut out, folded, and dropped into water to watch the petals open.
This project wasn’t really as good as the others. It was tricky to drop the folded flower absolutely flat onto the water (even I messed it up once!) and the white flowers weren’t very exciting. The effect was sort of interesting, but Little C wasn’t desperately impressed.
I have, however, saved the best for last.
Remember the box lid painted with glow-in-the-dark paint? This is what it was for.
We tried it in Little C’s room because she has blackout blinds so the the room can be really dark.
First we tried the suggested hand:
I used my phone flashlight to shine on the lid for 20 seconds.
Then we flipped the box lid shut, shut off the lights and…
How cool is THAT! It really worked!
Of course we decided to experiment with different shapes.
First, Little C chose to try one of her bunnies:
Not a real bunny, of course. This is Humbug.
And Humbug’s shadow!
Last one, a really distinctive shape…
Yes, it’s a fidget spinner! As an extra bonus the fidget spinner also glows in the dark.
What a fantastic experiment.
All in all I thought this was a great set of experiments and activities. It’s very nice to have some bits to keep, such as the magic wand and the fur, and for the most part the experiments were very effective.
The standout activities were the magic wand and shadow capture. I think they were the most ‘science-y’ as they were concerned with static electricity and the direction of light.
The cage spinner thing was quite nice, but it was actually a little awkward to spin correctly to produce the illusion. And the flowers were OK, but I think they would have been more fun if the paper had been coloured or patterned. As they took a little time to open (and if you folded it awkwardly, as Little C did for one it didn’t open properly) so it wasn’t particularly rewarding.
Two of the projects didn’t have quite the same ‘wow’ factor, but the levitation and shadow ones were excellent, and could be repeated many times.
Theme-wise, I think the idea of doing ‘magical’ things using science is great, especially the static electricity levitation.
Overall it is still a great deal of fun, and there is definitely a lot to learn from it. The booklet is laid out really well, and the language and explanations are simple and clear without being babyish or patronizing.
For under nine quid including P&P this is good value. As I said, everything is included which makes it a very low-stress endeavor for the supervising adult. There is enough knowledge in the booklet to make it worth keeping, and if you chose to stretch this out over several days you have a wonderful ongoing learning process. You might find you learn a few things too!
For children who are curious about the world around them and how things work, this is a great thing to add to their knowledge while having fun! Hopefully at least some of what they learn will ‘stick’, so when these things come up in science class they will already have some knowledge there to help them.