Travis received his second box from Kiwi Co today, and literally asked to start the moment we got the box inside the house. Kiwi actually terms this one the “mechanical sweeper” crate, but the term was so opaque I found it completely unhelpful as the adult assistant. Rather, the material inside is all about baleen whales, and the way their baleen “sweeps” the ocean; this explanation made Travis quite excited since he’s been learning about whales at school
First up was to Create Watercolor Whales, the crafty component before we moved on to the science of baleen. I sat back and completely let Travis pick colors and dictate how to paint.
As he worked, he had a game going in his head; it was a humpback whale, but he could change colors and camouflage. Neat!
He loved the wax-resist element along the whale’s jawline; the beads of water ran away from the waxed parts, leaving stripes of color behind. We wiped these clean with a paper towel, as the instructions suggested, for a streamlined look.
For the second whale, we used an extra coat of water and then sprinkled on the provided salt.
After the whales dry, your child can see the difference between the two paintings. Where you shake off the excess salt, you’ll see spotty patterns (more on this idea later).
Now was the moment he’d been waiting for: to Build a Mechanical Sweeper. The idea is to illustrate how baleen whales “sweep” the sea with their mouths, thus capturing more food than they’d be able to with teeth. (Note: the Explore booklet has a cute story explaining this idea further).
I won’t go step-by-step through the sweeper here, but do note that it’s complicated, and took mom and boy a good twenty minutes of concentration. But wow did I love watching his fine motor skills, trying mostly to sit by and let him do the work. He slipped the foam sweeper tabs into the foam sweeper bars…
Added tiny rubber bands to hold things in place…
Slid dowels through the proper holes…
Used stickers to hold things in place…
At last, our sweeper was ready. We sprinkled the provided pom poms on the rug (the krill, of course), and munch munch munch – our “whale” ate them all.
We then attached our dried watercolor whales to the sides for a finished look.
Travis was thrilled, and needed to experiment immediately. What else could his whale eat? Was anything too small? After testing out tiny Legos, we decided the answer was no.
Was anything too big? Only if an item was wider than the distance between sweeper blades, but this hot wheels car got through…
…as did loads of Playmobil.
I have a feeling it won’t be a chore the next time I ask him to pick up Lego pieces from all over the rug!
Finally, we made Watercolor & Salt Paintings with the provided extra paper, for a clearer salt-and-water experiment. Because Travis had loved the wax-resist on the original whales, I knew just how to add in this element for him – wax crayons.
Once he’d painted, we sprinkled on big piles of salt this time.
This allowed him to see better how the salt sucks some of the water up. You can explain to your kids that the salt and water molecules are attracted to each other, hence why the water gets pulled up, and creates that mottled final look.
My overall opinion of this crate, aside from the very confusing name, is that it was a really digestible way for kids to understand baleen, to learn about these amazing giants of the sea, and to build a very cool STEM project in the process.