Secret Agent Kiwi Crate

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Travis’s current favorite show (Odd Squad), is about a team of kids who solve odd cases. So he couldn’t have been more thrilled than when he discovered his latest Kiwi Crate was all about being a secret agent. Needless to say, I barely had time to glance at the parent manual before we dove right in!

First, every secret agent needs a gadget, so Travis got to Build Your Periscope. This was a matter of folding the provided cardboard base…

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…peeling stickers from each of the two mirrors to attach

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…and securing it all with rubber bands.

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He loved peeking around corners! For a quick STEM lesson, explain to your budding agent how they are seeing the reflection of a reflection, as opposed to a simple mirror reflection straight on. You can also flip one periscope piece to see things upside down, or make it longer or shorter by sliding the pieces together.

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Next up, we got to Explore Secret Messages. There are two folders labeled “top secret”, one containing patterned paper and one with blank white paper. Use the provided markers to write messages on the patterned paper. The secret agent spy glasses (with red lenses) will cancel out the red lines that obscure the page so that messages can be detected.

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This was a bit tough to illustrate to a non-reader, but I helped him understand which colors showed up best by drawing a series of lines with the markers, then giving him the glasses.

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Next we took turns drawing pictures with the provided invisible ink and UV pen. The latter turns on with a switch, and was by far his favorite item in the kit.

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Our booklet recommended making an invisible map, so I sent him off on a hunt around the house. A real secret agent on the move! He soon proudly designed a map for me, leading to a “villain” we had to catch.

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Finally, every agent needs to Pack Your Briefcase. Travis helped insert brads and elastics as the clasp, and to set up a cardboard insert with elastic fasteners to hold his agent supplies.

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Now your little detective can store their markers (regular and UV!), as well as all the Top Secret folders and spy glasses.

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Travis paraded around with this briefcase the entire rest of the day, filling it with other items he deemed necessary for an agent. What fantastic imaginative play it prompted!

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We then delved into Explore magazine, which had us learning about other codes and doing fun find-it pages. Next we explored other ways to leave a secret message. First up was white crayon. Because Travis can’t read, this was most easily illustrated for him using his name. We wrote with white crayon on white paper, then painted over it with watercolor for the big reveal.

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You can also color over your white crayon with colored pencils.

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One neat idea is to send a hidden message to a friend. Wrap up a happy birthday message and give it to a friend with colored pencils so they can uncover the secret.

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Travis’s next code was made with lemon juice. First, squeeze a lemon – always fun!

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Dip a paintbrush in the lemon juice and write out your message. Once it dries, place a second sheet of paper on top and go over it with a hot iron (grown-up step).

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All will be revealed! We had fun making this a secret message for daddy.

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Finally, the booklet gave a lesson on fingerprints and the ways that secret agents use them. Travis was quite intrigued, and tested leaving his prints on our window.

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He copied the suggested fingerprint art, checking out his unique whirls and swirls.

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Then it was time to get creative – this print turned into a long-legged spider!

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In sum, Kiwi Co hit it out of the park with this one!


Baby Felt Play

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I can’t believe Veronika is nearly five months old, and getting to a point where games with her aren’t just about developing her senses, but also interactive! This craft is a perfect example; it was fun to put together while she played on her playmat, and entertained her nearly all morning while big brother was at school.

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To start, cut a long piece of felt from any one color. I only had short felt squares, so ended up tying together three strips of my base color.

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Using additional bright felt colors, cut out shapes. I kept these fairly simple, including circles, squares, triangles, stars, and diamonds.

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From here, there were so many ways to play! First, I simply let her explore with hands… and mouth.

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It was a fantastic toy while she was sitting in her high chair, keeping her hands busy as I prepped meals.

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Next, I lay her on a blanket and we concentrated on some early learning. Point out what your baby is looking at (“Look, a blue circle” or, “You’re touching the red star”).

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We also counted through the shapes a few times, all the way up to eight.

Then I challenged her gross motor skills, putting the felt a little out of her reach at tummy time.

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Her little legs started scrunching in an imitation crawl almost immediately. I gave her a bit of a boost and she was so proud when she made it to the felt.

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Finally, the toy is great for dangling. Veronika loved discovering she could pull off the shapes, one by one.

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Once the shapes are all off, simply thread back on to the long felt and begin again!

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Colorful Scarf Circle

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This activity takes all of two minutes to set up, but your baby will reap great benefits from it. It’s perfect for times when you want to visually stimulate a baby who can’t sit up yet; great for tummy time; and also encourages gross motor development towards rolling or crawling.

Here’s the set-up: lay a soft blanket on the ground, and simply surround it with pretty scarves. Before I draped each one down, I let Veronika see it and grab it if she wanted to, then added it to the circle.

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Now baby goes in the middle!┬áThe bright colors immediately caught her eye. Since Veronika isn’t rolling on her own yet, I nudged her gently to her side.

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From here, she could complete the roll, and seemed intent on getting closer to the bold blues and reds. If your baby is already rolling, he or she might enjoy rolling back and forth between these scarves for quite some time!

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Once on her tummy, she had plenty to look at, which was a nice way to shake up tummy time.

Back on her back, she enjoyed running her hands over soft fabrics, or grabbing on to the tassels, leading to great tactile play.

Scarf Play (7)Note: There’s also no need to wait until your baby is rolling for this game. I’ve been setting Veronika up in a similar circle of scarves since she was tiny. The only difference is that now the game is more interactive.

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