Meet the Amazing Guides for Camp KiwiCo!


Come join us this summer at Camp KiwiCo! We’re creating four different sessions of hands-on activities, videos and content, each geared for different age groups. The camp is brought to you by  our awesome creative team who is super excited to bring KiwiCo’s expertise and enthusiasm to your kids!

We know that this summer may look different than expected this year.  To bring learning, delight, and fun to kids at home this summer, we’re launching Camp KiwiCo, where our team of experts has developed some amazing content that will teach kids to build, innovate and create cool projects! When it comes to cool projects for your own summer camp, you’re in good hands — every one of our awesome KiwiCo guides has years of experience of designing super-fun engineering, art and science projects under their (tool) belt!

All the content for Camp KiwiCo (DIY activities, videos, and printables) will be FREE and available to anyone, starting June 22, and this content will remain accessible all summer. 

Now, it’s time to meet our awesome Camp KiwiCo Guides!

Andy 

What do you do at KiwiCo? I help design products for all of the KiwiCo Crate lines (and sometimes make videos too!) I’ve been at KiwiCo for quite a while, so I’ve worked on Kiwi Crate, Tinker Crate, Atlas Crate, Eureka Crate, and more. Now, I get to spend time assisting all the other designers across all products!

What did you study? I got a B.S. in Engineering with a specialization in Product Design from Stanford, with a special focus on what’s called “human-centered design.” I studied everything from engineering and sciences to art, design, manufacturing, and business. 

Tell us about some of your favorite projects you designed: One of my all-time favorite projects is hydraulic claw. I love how the claw uses water to create mechanical motion. Another of my favorite projects is the trebuchet. (I am a bit of a medieval nerd.)  

What will you be doing at Camp KiwiCo? I will be hosting a number of videos that explain the science behind some of our cool camp projects.  I’ll also be hosting a couple of super-fun STEAM challenges, where campers will create cool stuff like this marble run challenge!  

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? I love rock climbing, hiking, swimming, and trying new foods. In quarantine, I’ve been enjoying spending time with my wife and my dog, taking lots of walks, brushing up on guitar, and playing puzzle games!

Fun fact: I was the crawdad-fishing king at summer camp growing up! My secret? Gummy bear bait 🙂

Mason 

What do you do at KiwiCo?  I am a product designer for the Kiwi Crate line.

What did you study? I have a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Tell us about one of your favorite projects: I made a really fun maze that uses water droplets. The maze has a hydrophobic floor (which means it’s “afraid of water”), which allows a water droplet to roll down it like a marble. The walls of the maze are made of felt, which sucks up water droplets like a sponge! When you’re using the maze, the challenge is to tilt it and steer the water droplet to the center, so it doesn’t get sucked into the felt walls.

What will you be doing at  Camp KiwiCo? I’m hosting the STEAM challenge for Deep-Sea Discovery Day. (We’ll be challenging kids to draw their own deep-sea creature!) For Tinker Camp, I’m also hosting the hydraulics challenge.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? I like to practice mixed martial arts, but since the quarantine started, I’ve been going out for long runs.

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? I always loved meeting people and making new friends.

Fun Fact: I can solve a Rubik’s Cube

Rebekah

What do you do at KiwiCo?  I’m a product designer for the KiwiCo Store. I get to work on all sorts of new types of crates, some of which are waaay bigger or waaay different from our subscription crates, like the Froggie Dissection Lab (don’t worry, it’s a plush frog — not a real one!) I get to figure out how to make stuff, which has been my favorite thing to do ever since I was kid.

What did you study? I have a BFA in Industrial Design from the University of Kansas. Before landing in  product design, I bounced around in fine arts, architecture, and robotics clubs!

Tell us about one of your favorite projects: I loved working on our Marble Run crate. It took a lot of testing to find the right materials, but I was very happy with how the track pieces turned out. For that crate, I prototyped (tried out) a half-dozen hooks and hangs and knobs, but nothing was working. Then, instead of trying to solve the problem with shape, I tried experimenting with materials. Rubber to the rescue! With the higher friction coefficient (science really is useful, kids!), the pieces were able to fit simply and snugly onto the board.

What will you be doing at Camp KiwiCo?I’ll be showing kids how to make things, from automatons to crank-powered, cam-driven machines!

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? What I like to do in my free time changes constantly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My only true hobby might be learning new hobbies. During the quarantine, I’ve been having a blast making bad art. It’s also been fun to plan mini-special occasions, like a black tie virtual hangout or a backyard picnic with flowers. Things are special when you make them special! 

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? Being bored. All my favorite childhood memories start with boredom and an empty afternoon. From building a fort to painting, making go-karts, exploring the woods, making “movies” or just hanging out, boredom made space for me to get creative. 

Fun fact: I lost my glasses in the lake at summer camp… three years in row!

Linda

What do you do at KiwiCo? I create projects that go inside the Atlas Crate line — which is all about teaching kids about new countries and cultures. First, I do a ton of research about the country I’m focused on, , and then I create awesome projects about the culture of that country! I love sharing details about what makes each of these amazing destinations special.

What did you study? I studied Visual Studio Art with an emphasis in drawing and painting at UC San Diego. I then started a business making eco-friendly window displays (which are eye-catching sculptures that go around mannequins in clothing stores).

Tell us about one of your favorite projects: I have two! One of my favorite projects was creating an air-powered snow globe for a crate about Canada — it shoots mini snowballs into the air when you press down on it! Another project I’m really excited about is the flying Scarlet Macaw I designed for an upcoming crate about Costa Rica. The macaw flaps its wings (though an automaton-like action), and my cat was licking its lips trying to catch it.

What are you working on for Camp KiwiCo? I am creating a castle fortress for a Kiwi STEAM challenge, a travel journal for the Atlas Camp, and an outdoor fort that will live under the stars for the Tinker Planetarium day!

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? I love to be active! I usually go for a run around my neighborhood, but sometimes I’ll find a fun Latin, Caribbean, or Bollywood dance class online to move and groove along with! Since shelter-in-place started, I have been teaching myself how to cook some Japanese and Korean dishes. My favorite has been bibimbap, a beautiful rice bowl from Korea loaded with all sorts of colorful toppings!

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? I loved going to surf camp when I was 10 and 11 years old. We would spend all day at the beach, surfing for most of the day, but we’d also take breaks to play games like “Capture the Chicken”… a version of Capture the Flag where you have to steal a big rubber chicken!

Fun fact: I can jump really high—over my own head!

Jane 

What do you do at KiwiCo? I am a photographer and videographer at KiwiCo. I take photos that go in the building instructions for our crates. I love that I get to work on every single crate that comes out! 

What did you study? I graduated from the University of Georgia where I studied Visual and Broadcast Journalism.  (I’ve been shooting photos and videos since I was eight years old.)

Tell us about one of your favorite projects:  I recently made a stop-motion video for our Monster Mix-and-Match Art Pack, which is a new project in our store! I shot the whole thing in my bedroom, using rolls of colored paper as the backdrop!

What are you working on for Camp KiwiCo? I’m teaching a class about how to make stop-motion movies!

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? When I’m not at work, I love to spend time outdoors hiking or biking! During quarantine, I have been learning fun dances, trying to keep my house plants alive, and watching sunsets!

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? During the summers when I was a kid, I went to Girl Scout camp and art camps. 

Fun fact: I got my first camera when I was in third grade!

Marisa 

What do you do at KiwiCo: I am KiwiCo Product Designer, and I work mainly on the  Atlas Crate line and new products that are exclusively available in our Store. I spend my days engineering cool toys, experimenting with fun (and sometimes messy) reactions, and brainstorming our next awesome idea. 

What did you study? I studied Product Design at Stanford University. I’ve always loved crafts, problem solving, and making things with my hands, so the PD major seemed like a great fit for me. 

Tell us about one of your favorite projects: One of my favorite projects, Monster Mix-and-Match, just launched. It’s creative, travel-friendly, and super cute. 

What are you working on for Camp KiwiCo? I’m a host for one of the STEAM Challenges called The Science of Sports!

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? I’m a seasoned summer sports camp veteran. One of my favorite memories is how fun it was to learn archery. Holding a bow and arrow is a lot trickier than it looks!

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? After work or on the weekends I like to paint, make jewelry, and work with clay. I also love to cook and have been experimenting with a cool water cooking technique called sous vide. 

Fun Fact: I taught synchronized swimming as a camp counselor in Japan!

Sandra 

What do you do at KiwiCo: I am the founder and CEO of KiwiCo.

What did you study? I have a degree in chemical engineering from Case Western University.  After graduating, I worked as an engineer at Procter & Gamble and a few technology startups and then went back to business school. Along the way I learned a lot about understanding customers, designing new products, and just solving problems! But I have to say some of my best training for KiwiCo was from my mom — who was an amazing, Macgyver-like maker herself, and inspired that same spirit in me. 

What are you working on for Camp KiwiCo? I will be supporting my kids, who are leading sessions for Koala Camp and Atlas Camp!

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? We’ve been having a lot of fun cooking with friends on FaceTime. (We pick a recipe and cook at the same time. So far, we’ve cooked everything from soft pretzels to scratch-made boba.) We’ve also been going on a lot of biking adventures.

What is a favorite memory of summer camp for you? I have such fond memories of summer camp. I just loved spending time with friends old and new, making stuff (like forming miniature animals from clay that we collected along the creek), trying new activities (archery was surprisingly fun!), and exploring nature… while dodging poison ivy.

 To join us, simply visit Camp KiwiCo. If you would like to add more to your camper’s day, you can order the specific KiwiCo crate that we’ve handpicked from our store to go with that day’s theme.



7 Creative Ways to Celebrate Special Milestones in 2020

It’s hard to believe that June is upon us already — and with it, a season of summer celebrations from graduations to Father’s Day to birthdays. While summer festivities normally consist of gatherings and family events, as with everything these past few months, our commemorations will look different than years past. But these are still special milestones to recognize, and with some creativity and planning, you can pull off a celebration to remember.

The most important aspect to throwing a meaningful celebration is to make it specific to the person you are celebrating. If they have a special interest, passion, or personality quirk, include it in the merriment! 

Continue reading “7 Creative Ways to Celebrate Special Milestones in 2020”

Live Animal Cameras to Watch at Home | Animal-friendly Feeds

Wild Animal Live Cameras

Discover what life is like for majestic wild animals with these awesome live camera feeds!

Interested in learning more about awesome animals all around the world? Check out Atlas Crate (ages 6-11), our monthly geography box that gives kids hands-on experiences with unfamiliar lands, people, and animals!

Cumbria Wildlife Cam

Continue reading “Live Animal Cameras to Watch at Home | Animal-friendly Feeds”

10 DIY Summer Camp Activities You Can do At Home!

Plan your own summer camp this year in the backyard with these cool outdoor projects! Also — be sure to join us at Camp KiwiCo for more options for a seriously fun, hands-on, creative summer!

For many kids, summer camp is a ritual to look forward to all year long —a time to play outdoor games, craft cool stuff, meet new friends, and maybe even sleep under the stars. For parents, too, sending kids to summer camp (sleepaway or not) offers the promise that kids will learn new skills and enjoy their independence.  While going to summer camp may not be in the cards for all of us this year, you can re-create some camp fun in your own backyard. With just a few materials found around the house, you can transform a summer day into a creative adventure. From building a water wall and crafting sun-print shirts, to making s’mores in a solar oven, here are some DIY summer camp activities to do at home.  

Sun-Print T-Shirts

Create your own camp T-shirts using solar power! Brush a white shirt with acrylic paint, place objects on it (while it is still wet!) and set out in the sun!  Eventually, all the paint gets drawn out from under the blocks, leaving you with unpainted shapes on a painted background. Play with plastic letters, leaves, and other materials to make your own camp designs. 

Learn more: Sun-Print T-Shirts

Camp Banner

Create a fun DIY camp banner using leaves from the garden. It’s the perfect combination of outdoor activity and crafting project that will transform your camp venue into a creative space that is uniquely your own! 

Learn more: Camp Banner 

Granola Bars

Make granola bars to take on the trail (or eat anytime.) This super-easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen is seriously fun for kids to make! 

Learn more: Granola Bars

Water Wall

Be the coolest house on the block with this DIY water wall. Just rummage through the recycling, find some outdoor wall space, and create this upcycled water wonderland for your wee ones. They’ll thank you for it with hours of play!

Learn more: Water Wall

Water Squirter

In addition to being a fun way to stay cool on a summer day, a squirt gun is also a great example of what happens when you apply pressure to a liquid. In this quick, fun experiment, learn how to make your own miniature water squirter using just two cups, a straw, and some clay! 

Learn more: Water Squirter

 Solar Oven

Create a  DIY solar oven and create classic s’mores using the power of the sun!  

Learn more:  Solar Oven

Nature Trail Walking Stick

A walking stick is useful on a nature walk. Wrap your sticks with colorful yarn to make it sticks extra special.

Learn more: Nature Trail Walking Stick

Plantable Paper

Mix up old scrap paper and with flower seeds to make plantable paper. Just plant the paper in a pot or in your garden, water daily, and watch it grow!

Learn more: Plantable Paper

 Water Bottle Lantern

Illuminate your backyard with this simple lantern made from a water bottle! This project uses refraction to disperse the light in all directions. This spreads the light out around your space, making it easier to see all around you.

Learn more:  Water Bottle Lantern

Green Fire Pinecones

Did you know that fire doesn’t always burn orange? In fact, there are a wide range of colors that fire can be. In this chemistry experiment, we’ll show you how to make a pinecone that creates green fire when tossed in your campfire (or fireplace)!

Campfire Chemistry

Watch a marshmallow grow to three times its original size with a quick and easy experiment using everyone’s favorite summer treat!

Learn more: Campfire Chemistry

For more ideas for a super creative summer, check out Camp KiwiCo! We’re creating four different sessions of hands-on activities, videos and content, each geared for different age groups. Each session is meant to cover five days, with a few hours of activities and content each day —  but kids can mix and match days and go at their own pace.

Virtual Museum Tours for Kids | 15 Awesome Explorations at Home

Museums have been preserving our most treasured pieces of art and history since 530 BCE. During that time, they’ve also had another super important role: sharing that knowledge with young visitors to spark learning. With so many museums closed, we identified 15 institutions that have brought their collections online and now offer virtual museum tours for kids.

Continue reading “Virtual Museum Tours for Kids | 15 Awesome Explorations at Home”

Announcing Camp KiwiCo: Our At-Home Summer Camp!

Announcing Camp KiwiCo: At Home Summer Camp

We know that this summer is shaping up to be quite a bit different than we all imagined. For many of us, all the plans we had made to fill our kids’ days and weeks for the next few months have been cancelled (much to the massive dismay of parents and kids alike!) And while we are fans of good, old-fashioned unstructured fun in the summer, many of the options for our kids — pools, playgrounds, beaches, even playdates — may be off-limits, in at least some parts of the country. We know that many parents (ourselves included!) will be desperate for some structured activities to bridge the gap between the inevitable moans of “I’m bored!” and to provide something fun (and maybe enriching!) for our kids to look forward to.

So to help bring some discovery and delight to all of our kids’ summers, we are excited to announce the upcoming launch of Camp KiwiCo! We’re creating four different sessions of hands-on activities, videos and content, each geared for different age groups. Each session is meant to cover five days, with a few hours of activities and content each day —  but kids can mix and match days and go at their own pace.  

All the content for Camp KiwiCo (DIY activities, videos, printables) will be FREE and available to anyone, starting June 22 (and will remain accessible all summer). If you’d like to add more to your camper’s day, you can order the specific KiwiCo crates we’ve handpicked from our store to go with each day’s theme. Those crates (one per day) are $24.95 each, or you can purchase a 5-pack of crates for a full 5-day session for $109.95.

What’s a day like at Camp KiwiCo?

Each day of Camp KiwiCo is structured around a super fun theme! Once camp is “live”, you will find all the content for each day on our site. A good way to start the day will be to watch the video from one of our “camp counselors” (aka, product designers) explaining that day’s theme. (This might be learning how to build a rocket on Kiwi Camp’s “Fun With Flight” day or taking a crash course in astronomy on Tinker Camp’s “Comets & Constellations” day.) Then campers can dive deeper into that day’s theme by doing one of the awesome DIY activities provided for the day, exploring the downloadable printable, watching the cool videos, and tackling the creativity challenge. And of course, you can supplement all of that with the KiwiCo crate we’ve curated to go with that day’s theme (just remember to order 7-10 days before you plan to start camp, to guarantee you receive it in time.)

Presenting our four Camp sessions:

Four Camp KiwiCo Sessions

Koala Camp (ages 3 to 4)

Play and learn preschool adventures: Enjoy a week of seriously fun & scientific backyard adventures — from rainbows & music to chemistry & camping! 

Kiwi Camp (ages 5 to 8) 

Explore science, art, and more: Delve into a week of discovery & delight exploring awesome arcades, fun with flight, deep-sea adventures & more! 

Atlas Camp (ages 9 to 16) 

Discover the world: Explore the world from your living room! Get an introduction to the seven continents and learn all about four fascinating countries with immersive hands-on experiences.

Tinker Camp (ages 9+) 

Engineer cool machines:  Spark moments of inspiration & fun all week long exploring robotics, hydraulics, movie magic, mechanical toys & astronomy!

Questions?

Do I have to do all five days? Or buy all five crates?

No — you can customize your camp experience in any way that works for you and your camper! You can access any of the content that interests you and purchase any of the crates you like.

Are the camp sessions live?

All the video sessions are pre-recorded, so you can access them at any time that is convenient for you — all summer long.

We’ll send out an update when content for Camp KiwiCo has launched, so be sure to follow us on social or share your email address with us. We’re super excited to share a “whoa, awesome!” summer with you and your kiddo!

Memorial Day Fun | Our Favorite Backyard Activities

The long Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer (at least mentally!) for most of us. This year will likely be a little different from how we would typically spend the long weekend (no neighborhood BBQ or pool party for us this year) — but it’s still a great time to have some serious backyard fun! With that in mind, we created a list of our favorite outdoor games to play, crafts to make, and foods to eat outdoors. All of these projects can be created using simple materials and ingredients that you may already have at your house. We hope these projects make your Memorial Day even more memorable! 

Flying Object Fun!

DIY Bow and Arrow

Make a bow and arrow! Create a target and hold an archery competition to see who can hit the bullseye.  Experiment with different sizes of arrows to see how far, you can make them fly! 

Learn more: DIY Bow and Arrow 

Balloon Rockets

Create your very own balloon powered rockets and see how far they can travel.
Experiment with different balloon shapes and sizes to experiment with the travel speed.

Learn more: Balloon Rockets

Rubber Band Helicopter

Learn about helicopters by making a rubber band powered flying toy! The two propellers on your rubber band helicopter are able to fly thanks to the same principles that keep real helicopters aloft. Make a couple of different versions to see which one lifts higher into the sky! 

Learn more: Rubber Band Helicopter

Giant Bubble Wand

Make a giant bubble wand and a bubble solution for giant bubbles using a few household ingredients!  Take turns to see who can blow the biggest bubbles!

Learn more: Giant Bubble Wand

One-of-a-Kind Bubble Bottle

Little kids will have a blast with this bubble bottle. Add liquid food coloring to make a rainbow of colors!

Learn more: One-of-a-Kind Bubble Bottle

Games to Make and Play

Stick Quoits

Quoits (pronounced k(w)oit)  is an old English game that involves throwing metal, rope or rubber rings. To make your own set, craft the rings using sticks (for a much safer version.) Then set up and play–whether you are at a lake, in the woods or in your own backyard.

Learn more: Stick Quoits

Cornhole Game

Cornhole is a game that has been around for years!  The goal is to toss bags (orginally filled with corn kernels) into plywood holes (hence the name cornhole!) The game is more popular than ever, and world tournaments abound! It’s simple to make your own cornhole game using a cardboard box. 

Learn more: Cornhole Game

DIY Bean Bag Toss

This bean bag game is easy to assemble–you’ll be having fun in minutes! Children can help make bean bags; paper plates make great targets! 

Learn more: DIY Bean Bag Toss

Paper Plate Ring Toss

Design, paint, and create your own game of ring toss! This easy-to-make afternoon activity provides hours of fun–both indoors and outdoors!

Learn more: Paper Plate Ring Toss

Outdoor Arts and Crafts

Red, White, and Blue 3D Stars

Get ready for Memorial Day weekend with this banner of 3D stars. These DIY stars are super simple; As you create each point, the 3D stars will come into form. You can experiment with different layers, sizes, and shapes!

Learn more: Red, White, and Blue 3D Stars

Mini Piñatas

These adorable mini piñatas are made from paper cones but you can also use party hats. If you don’t have glue, clear tape works just was well. Fill each mini pinata with candy or flower seeds! Then take turns swinging the stick to see who can break them open! (Flower-filled cones may lead to blooming results!)

Learn more: Mini Piñatas

Painted Rocks

Transform backyard rocks into bugs and other animals. This simple art project is fun for little kids! 

Learn more: Painted Rocks

Chalk Art

Cheer up your neighborhood with chalk art! Create paint with three simple ingredients, then draw, paint, and write welcoming wishes for all your neighbors to enjoy! (Need more inspiration – check out these amazing chalk paintings and learn the expert techniques of Tracy Lee Stum.)

Learn more: Chalk Art

Festive Picnic Food 

Frozen Banana Ice Cream

Creamy ice cream made with just one ingredient. Yes, that’s right — just one ingredient, and no ice cream maker needed!

Learn more:Frozen Banana Ice Cream

Mini Fire Pot S’mores

Recreate the fun of summertime camping with mini fire pot s’mores! Nothing’s more convenient than roasting marshmallows using a simple terra cotta pot. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a summer night treat in your own backyard.

Learn more: Mini Fire Pot S’mores

Fruit Pops

As a healthy alternative to store-bought popsicles and ice cream, make your own fruit pops. Provide different berries and just for kids to make cool flavors!

Are you interested in STEM, STEAM, and receiving hands-on projects each month? Check out our crates at KiwiCo! 

KiwiCo Editors’ Picks for Your Kids’ Summer Reading List

Now, more than ever, is a great time to discover (or rediscover) the joy of reading. Whether you and your kids are looking for ways to fill extra hours at home, find some balance vs. screen time, or simply escape for a little while to an alternate reality (aren’t we all!) – a good book can deliver on all those things. Great reading requires great books.  To help provide recommendations for our Summer Reading List, we asked our KiwiCo Editorial Team for their favorite books by age. Our editors review hundreds of books each season to handpick selections to pair with our monthly crates, which we send as part of our Deluxe subscription. (PSA: you can upgrade your subscription – for any line except Maker and Eureka – and get a book delivered every month selected to complement that month’s crate theme!). Since our crates are designed to spark curiosity, learning and innovation, we love books that do the same. 

For little ones, we love beautifully illustrated board books for kids to chew on. Have a reluctant reader? We’ve found that elementary age kids LOVE nonfiction and graphic novels. Does your kid love hands-on activities? Keep your kids busy with crafty DIY workbooks all summer long.  

Below is a list of recommended books curated by our editors. We’ve organized the list by age group but some of the ages overlap.  Each age group includes STEM and STEAM learning titles and all of them are seriously fun! 

When you upgrade your KiwiCo subscription to Deluxe, we’ll choose a unique title to extend the fun and learning of each month’s crate topic! Most importantly the age level of the book corresponds to your child’s literacy to help expand your child’s reading skills.

Books to Read to Babies (0 to 24 months)

Being read to in early childhood helps babies develop language and listening skills and stimulates their imagination. Our editors recommend durable boardbooks that babies can chew on–both mentally and literally–with illustrations and ideas that engage and delight parents and babies alike.

  • My First Little Library by Alain Gree. Created with adorable illustrations, this little library includes essential volumes for your baby’s first books:   My First Book of Colors, My First Book of Animals, My First Book of Numbers and My First Book of Letters. The back cover of each book doubles up as a puzzle!
  • Play? by Linda Olafsdottir. Phil and his buddy, Puff, a stuffed puffin, do everything together. They hide and jump and crawl and growl! This sweet and spare picture book captures the delicate negotiations and simple joys of play.
  • Unseen Worlds by Helene Rajack. Discover a hidden universe of microscopic monsters right before your eyes. Unfold each page to reveal stunningly detailed illustrations bursting with jelly-like amoebae, predatory centipedes, ravenous mosquitos and more mites than you could imagine.
  • Music is… by Brandon Stosuy. From music writer Brandon Stosuy comes an entertaining new board book that introduces the many moods, styles, and senses of music to the youngest audiophiles by transforming our sense of hearing into a visual experience. Music is for everyone, and music is for you!
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. A box is just a box… unless it’s not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a small rabbit shows that a box will go as far as the imagination allows. We love this book both for its simplicity in illustration and text and for the way it fosters creativity and imagination.

Books for Kids 2 to 4 Years Old

Filled with beautiful illustrations and engaging themes about the world around us, we look for books that spark meaningful conversations between young kids and their parents. Picture books can help young children transition to independent reading. 

  • Tiger Walk by Dianne Hofmeyr. A tiger and a little boy embark on a magical and life-changing adventure, as the tiger helps the boy to overcome some of his biggest fears.
  • Before you were Born by Deborah Kerbel. This touching and evocative story about welcoming a baby to the world is a love letter to young children, tenderly expressing the joy and promise a new life brings.
  • Tiny T Rex by Jay Fleck. This little dinosaur has a HUGE problem. His friend Pointy needs cheering up and only a hug will do. But with his short stature and teeny T. Rex arms, is a hug impossible? This book teaches an important lesson about overcoming obstacles.
  • Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. Rodney is a rat who can’t say his “r’s” and the rodents tease him mercilessly. But his bravery against a bully makes him the hero of this book! Children will cheer as Rodney triumphs over all!

Books for Kids 5 to 8 Years Old

We recommend books will help kids expand their independent reading ability while learning about STEM-related topics through storytelling, nonfiction, biographies, non-fiction, and more. These books are meant to inspire curiosity, creativity, and learning about the world.

  • Acrobat Family by Anouk Boisrobert. Up and up they go, watch the family of acrobats balance on top of each other to create a magnificent show! This charming, collectible pop-up teaches valuable counting skills and the joys of working as a team.
  • Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey. Sun and Moon have always held their own places in the sky, but after a lifetime of darkness Moon wants to trade. Sun agrees, but only if first Moon takes a careful look at his night, before making his final decision. Beautifully illustrated with mixed-media art, this tale is a story of discovery and appreciation.
  • On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne. This beautifully illustrated book uses Einstein’s story to connect science and creativity.
  • Tree Lady by H. Josheph Hopkins. This wonderful biography of an activist scientist will inspire kids to become inventors.
  • Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey. From the beloved author of the Curious George series; this is an accessible guide to stargazing.
  • The Quest to Digest by Mary Corcoran. This playful picture book introduces readers to the science of the human digestive system. Humorous text and colorful illustrations follow an apple’s journey at each stage of digestion through the human body.
  • Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry. In this funny story about kindness and friendship, Stick and Stone join George and Martha, Frog and Toad, and Elephant and Piggie, as some of the best friend duos in children’s literature. We loved the illustrations in this book and how the story highlights the meaning of friendship.

Books for Kids 9+

These middle-grade readers, graphic novels, and STEM project books inspire creativity, delve into history, and offer creative activities for kids to make and do.

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. This New York Times bestseller and Newbery Medal–winning book is vividly brought to life as a graphic novel with stunning illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile.
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Inspired by the author’s childhood experience as a refugee—fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama—this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madelein L’Engle. Two kids embark on a journey through space and time, from universe to universe, to save the world. The novel offers a glimpse into the war between light and darkness, and goodness and evil, as the young characters mature into adolescents on their journey.
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang. This series introduces computer science concepts in graphic novel style and is very cool, especially for reluctant readers. 
  • The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Rosemary Mosco and Dylan Thuras. Full of illustrations and engaging facts, this book will fully immerse kids in countries around the world.
  • The Beginner Art Book for Kids: Learn How to Draw, Paint, Sculpt, and More! By Daniel Freeman and Korri Freeman. This creative compendium is the latest and greatest in art books for kids, packed full of imaginative art projects and inspiration for budding artists.
  • Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Laura Lyn Enz and Jodi Lyn Wheeler-Toppen. For the creative who is stuck at home, this book includes seriously scrappy projects that kids can make using what they already have in their house.

Are you interested in STEM, STEAM and receiving hands-on projects each month? Check out all of our crates at KiwiCo!

Cheer up Your Neighbors with Sidewalk Chalk

Expert Tips for Experimenting With Sidewalk Chalk

No matter what you plan to draw or create with chalk — a fun game, an inspiring message, or even a vibrant, complicated 3-D painting — making art on the sidewalk is a great way to connect with the people around you. You can make chalk art on your own, or work on a larger creation with your neighbors while maintaining 6 feet of separation.

 Chalk art is fun to do anytime, but it’s extra special now-when many of us have a little extra time for creative expression and can appreciate the time outside. And what could be more fun than creating a colorful  work of art—one that brings joy to your neighbors and, over time, fades away, so you can start work on a whole new beautiful creation? We chatted with street artist Tracy Lee Stum, author of The Art of Chalk Art, about her process. Along the way, she shared her tips for making cool community creations.

KiwiCo: Tell us, why is chalk art a great way to cheer up a neighborhood? 

Tracy Lee Stum: Something magical happens when you make art in the street. Artists tend to work in isolation, but once you start creating art in a public space, you get energy and support from the people around you— there is this wonderful exchange. Street art invites participation. Especially when the images that you’re creating require people in the pieces to bring them to life. Making street art is a kind of live performance.  

KiwiCo: Chalk art seems to be very popular right now. Can you tell us why?

Tracy Lee Stum: Chalk art is going crazy right now because people can’t go anywhere. It’s been wonderful to see so many social media posts of kids drawing on fences, walls, and sidewalks. Kids are making art in their neighborhood. It’s great, and I love it.

Parents and kids are looking at what they can do where they are, with whatever they already have at home. Many kids have chalk (or they’re already familiar with it!). It’s nontoxic, inexpensive, and temporary. And because people are staying close to home, that means that neighborhood streets and driveways are convenient canvases. Luckily, chalk works really well on pavement!

KiwiCo: How did you discover sidewalk chalk art?  

Tracy Lee Stum: I literally stumbled upon chalk painting by accident while walking by a street painting festival in Santa Barbara. Every year, the event organizers host an exhibition for the artists, known as I Madonnari  in front of the Mission as a benefit for the Children’s Creative Project.  Seeing over 200 people drawing masterpieces on the pavement with chalk impressed me so much that, the next year, I ended up participating. 

KiwiCo: What chalk art projects would you recommend for beginners? 

Tracy Lee Strum: Learning how to manipulate the chalk on the pavement takes some time, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun. There are so many projects that anyone can do with chalk, no matter what your age or skill level is.  

Hand-lettering

Art by Trisha Wong

Writing messages in beautiful letters drawn by hand—a.ka. “hand-lettering”— is an easy, fun way to spread cheer. Little artists might share words of joy and kindness. For some great hand-lettering inspiration, check out artist Trish Wong’s beautiful designs.

Character-based Creations 

Art by Miel Lappin

Another fun project for kids is to draw characters. They can find images in books or online, print the images, cut them out, and then trace them on the ground. For younger kids, parents can do the line drawing for the little ones to fill in. 

Forced Perspective

Create a shape or scene, stand or lie down in the right spot, and make yourself part of the art! Take photos for a fun perspective. 

3D

Art by Tracy Stum

More advanced artists may enjoy working in 3D.  While it may seem like magic, it is actually a lot of engineering. The geometry is set up so that it only works when you stand in at a certain point, with your camera at a certain location the optical illusion is revealed.  (For 3D how-to videos and project instructions check out Tracy’s website.)

KiwiCo: How might a group of neighbors host their own sidewalk chalk festival?

Tracy Lee Stum: Creating a neighborhood chalk art quilt is a great way to get everyone involved. Start by making a grid of 2 x 2  squares that kids can fill in however they want. Once kids create their art, the result will be an entire carpet of artwork going down the sidewalk.

Art by Trisha Wong

KiwiCo: Do you have some general tips for making chalk art on the street?

  1. Decide on your design:  Find something that you are excited about drawing that matches with your skill level.
  2. Choose a safe traffic-free location like a closed street or driveway.
  3. If you are making a 3D drawing, make sure that you don’t have any shadows falling across the area where you’re going to work. You’ll also want to be aware of where shadows are going to fall when someone’s standing in your picture.
  4. Mark a grid or an area where you are going to work:  For little kids, two feet by two feet is manageable. For older kids and more experienced artists, four feet-by-four feet works well.
  5. When you’re working with chalk, be mindful of how much chalk you use as you draw: You don’t need much!
  6. For advanced artists, start with mid-range colors so you can create highlights and lowlights to give depth to your drawing. 
  7. Photos, photos, photos! You can best appreciate 3D pieces and forced perspective pieces when you take photos of them. Beyond that, chalk art is ephemeral, so you’ll want to take pictures of your masterpieces in order to remember them!

KiwiCo: Is there any special equipment you would recommend using?

  1. Wear latex gloves for general safety, and so you don’t mix colors while drawing. 
  2. Use pieces of styrofoam or chalkboard erasers for blending.
  3. If you can, bring a garden kneeling pad with you. It’s invaluable for protecting your knees. (That’s especially useful for parents!) 
  4. Make sure to drink water, wear sunscreen, and put on a hat!
Art by Miel Lappin

KiwiCo: How is street art the ultimate collaboration? Is it true that a neighborhood that creates together stays together?

Tracy Lee Stum: Most artists are used to holding onto a piece of artwork, but that’s not true in this case. After drawing my first piece of sidewalk chalk art, I learned how to release it. Chalk art is designed to be ephemeral. The joy of making street art is that it isn’t really about the finished piece as much as it is about the process of creating it and, afterward, the interaction between the piece and all the people who see it. I didn’t realize how much performance plays a part in this. All of my friends who are street painters agree that the reason we do this is the magical exchange that happens when people see the art. 

Art by Zelia Curtis

A former Guinness World Record holder, Tracy is a visionary and master in the street painting world. Tracyʼs mind-blowing 3D images continue to ‘wowʼ, inspire and amaze viewers around the globe. As an artist she hopes to inspire and motivate others to explore their own creative imagination. Her book The Art of Chalk was published in 2016 through Quarto Publishing.

To learn more about Tracy Lee Stum, you can visit her website, http://tracyleestum.com/, or follow her on Instagram @tracyleestum.

The Art of Chalk © 2019 by Tracy Lee Stum. Published by Quarto Books.



The Benefits of Reading for Kids that You May Not Know About

We all know that “reading is fundamental”, as the old ad campaign used to say, and of course we appreciate how important reading is for our kids. But there are actually a lot of additional benefits – beyond its importance in early education and the lifelong acquisition of information – that we thought were pretty cool and you might think so too.

At KiwiCo, books play a huge part of what we do. We love books because they inspire, educate, and enhance creativity and learning! Whether you are a new parent reading to your child or the parent of a toddler who is learning to read, or supporting a teenager who is learning new STEM skills, spending time with the printed page offers many long lasting benefits. Here are just a few:

  1. Reading helps develop language and build good communication skills: Being read to and reading aloud helps language development, vocabulary and understanding, and for that reason, pediatricians recommend reading to your child even from a very young age.. Throughout their lives, kids (and grown-ups!) continue to acquire new vocabulary and turns of phrase from books (thank you, Big Nate??)
  2. Reading builds cultural literacy: Everything we do from deciphering signs, menus and maps, to finding information online, requires reading. Reading gives kids tools to navigate the world – both physically, but also culturally — they gain the context to understand and appreciate the perspectives of the cultures they may visit. (PSA: consider a Deluxe subscription to our Atlas Crate line – and get a book handpicked to learn more about each month’s destination!)
  3. Reading can alleviate stress: Especially now at this time of uncertainty and anxiety, reading provides both a window to alternate worlds and an escape to other places. Reading can transport kids to a state of calm – whether that exists under the sea, a fantasy kingdom, the African Savannah or the Gold Rush days. Now is a great time to help your child build a cozy reading nook (in a closet, a corner, under the stairs!) to retreat to when they need to find that quiet haven. 
  4. Reading (and even just being read to) stimulates the brain: When kids read or are read to, it stimulates the frontal cortex (the language processing part of their brain). For babies, while they may not understand the actual words that you’re saying yet, being exposed to words gets your child used to hearing them.
  5. Reading helps develop empathy: Books help kids get out of themselves to understand different perspectives. Stories help them negotiate the world and process their feelings. 
  6. Reading books on science helps develop common core skills: In addition to learning about STEM topics, kids learn how to process technical information. 

What if I have a reluctant reader?

  • If you have a reluctant reader, consider starting with graphic novels. Similar in format to comic books, graphic novels offer visual narratives that kids find seriously fun. And according to all our advisors who are teachers – yes, reading graphic novels still “counts”!
  • For elementary age kids, nonfiction books are often a big draw. These titles arm them with fascinating facts about animals and the natural world that your child, too, may love throwing out in carpool lines or at the dinner table (“Did you know that gorillas build the world’s largest nests?”)Biographies inspire kids to learn about historical figures and events. 
  • Find books that allow them to go deeper into their passion or areas of interest

We created the KiwiCo Deluxe subscription as a way to allow kids to do just that — go deeper into a topic area – that just might become a passion – that is introduced in that month’s crate. Every month, our editors handpick a book to complement that month’s crate theme, ensuring that it is developmentally appropriate for the age range of that crate line. 

Our hope is the books we select and send to our subscribers help them to realize many of the benefits described above — and to inspire them to love books as much as we do!