Swirly Ornaments Crate

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Kiwi Company occasionally puts out special holiday-themed crates, and we’ve been holding on to this one since last December! Reading the title on the box, I imagined the final product would be ornaments with beautiful swirls. Little did we know the method to make the ornaments was swirly, too!

Travis was so excited seeing the three plastic globe ornaments, since we had just set up our tree. Add two of the provided watercolors (in primary colors) to each globe for a quick lesson in color mixing. You’ll be able to make one orange, one green, and one purple ornament. Next squirt in a drop of the glittery silver paint.

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Add a marble, and get swirling! As you swirl, the marble will help the paint coat the entire globe.

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As a parental aside, this was very precarious proposition with a four-year-old. Of all the Koala projects we’ve ever done, this was by far the messiest! It was quite hard for Travis to swirl enough to coat the inside of the ornament without also spilling paint, so step in if you need to.

He loved the drying method that came next though; upend the ornament over a provided paper cup. The marble and any excess paint will fall out.

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We set ours aside to dry for about an hour.

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Ideally, flip the ornaments at this point and allow to dry on the inside, too, overnight. Travis was too impatient though and wanted to pop in the provided corks and seal them up!

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To finish each ornament, we wrapped a sparkly pipe cleaner around the neck.

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Add a silver ribbon (a great chance to practice tying a bow), then thread a provided bell onto the pipe cleaner. Hook the end.

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Now it’s ready to hang on your tree!

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The kit also suggested gifting the ornaments (just slip on a gift tag and it’s ready to go)…

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…or attaching one to your stocking as a sparkly decoration.

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Let the holiday season begin!

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Rattlesnake and Other “Critters”

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You can bring the “wild wild west” to life for your kids with this easy snake craft. I purchased a tie on clearance at Target for our snake, but you can also raid daddy’s closet for old ties instead of buying something new.

First, we cut a bit of length off the end where it was too narrow, then stuffed bells into the seam to be the snake’s rattle. You can also use wooden beads for this step – anything that will make a noise!

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Secure the bells or beads between two elastic bands.

For the head, stuff in two old socks. I was worried the socks would fall out, so used a safety pin to help keep them in place.

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To finish our wiggly friend, Travis glued on two googly eyes and decorated with markers.

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Squiggles from Travis, diamonds care of mama. (And yes, he insisted on wearing another pair of old socks on his hands as he worked, ha!)

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Now it was time to take our snake out for play. He can squiggle…

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…or coil up in a ball!

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As we played with the snake, we talked about other Wild West critters, like vultures and armadillos. Your kids can pretend to be the animals, curling up in a ball like the armadillo, or trotting through the Western town horseback. For more Wild West fun, see our Koala Crate from ages ago!

Banana Muffins

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After tons of play with our Baking Crate from KiwiCo, we still wanted more adventures in the kitchen! To wit: these easy banana muffins, the perfect recipe to make after returning from vacation to find three very ripe bananas waiting on the counter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance butter
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix together the sugar and butter in a bowl, stirring until combined.Banana Muffins (1)
  2. Add the Ener-G eggs and coconut milk.
  3. Stir in the mashed bananas – mashing these was definitely the best part of the recipe!Banana Muffins (2)
  4. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.

 

Rainforest Crate!

 

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Coinciding with the hot, humid summer weather, our latest offering from Koala Crate was all about the rainforest.

The first project, a Butterfly Puppet, as actually quite a bit like a butterfly craft we put together recently from Ranger Rick magazine, illustrating how caterpillars morph into butterflies. The one in this crate simplified things greatly, providing us with a felt butterfly puppet body that we needed only to decorate.
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Travis really took charge on this one with his own vision of how the caterpillar and butterfly should look. We didn’t end up with a version that matched the sample, therefore, but I loved his final caterpillar creation.

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You can talk with your child about symmetry as you decorate the butterfly portion, but rather than insist on a symmetrical orientation to our stickers, I let Travis design it the way he wanted.
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Folding the wings in and out of the puppet’s body for the transformation was a delight every time.

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Flutter flutter!

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Next up as the Musical Rainstick. Cap one end of the provided cardboard tube with a provided plastic cap. Next fold up the indents in the provided cardboard insert; this will help the beads fall at a slower “rainy” rate. Here we are very seriously adding the wooden beads:

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Time to shake shake shake! This was so fun that it was a little while before we decorated the rainstick with the rainforest stickers.

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The rainstick gets used again in the final project, a Balancing Tree Game. Punch out the cardboard branches, and fold the ends up.

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Use a Velcro dot to adhere these branches to one end of the rainstick. You can also add a few more of the rainforest stickers.

Now the challenge was to fill the rainforest tree with pom-pom leaves using the provided tweezers. This was great fine motor skill practice.

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A note of caution: The game is hard, even for grown-ups, so be prepared to ease some preschooler frustration.

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As a nice touch, the pom-poms store handily in a provided pouch when you’re done with play.

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As a final craft, we put together a suggested Venus flytrap. Parents, cut little triangles all along the edges of a paper plate. Use markers to color the inside of the plate red and the outside green.

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We didn’t even finish coloring before Travis eagerly made his flytrap chomp on some pom-pom flies!

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Oh no, can a Venus flytrap eat a whole caterpillar?

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I loved seeing Travis’s imagination at work with this one.

 

Medieval Crate

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I pretty much peed my pants when I saw our latest theme from Koala Crate – the Medieval crate! I was a huge medieval dork as a kid (and, well, still am), and couldn’t wait to share with Travis the projects and ideas about the Middle Ages.

One note in general: I’ve noticed that Koala is getting more… complex, both in terms of theme and the materials we receive each month. I’m not sure if the kits grow more sophisticated as your subscription goes on, or if this is an attempt by Koala to stay competitive in the expanding world of kids’ subscriptions boxes. This isn’t a value judgment, just an observation that our projects feel a little needlessly complicated. Still, you should be able to mostly replicate the ideas below with items from a craft store, if so inclined!

Because we’ve recently been in love with dragon stories and lore (Dragon’s Love Tacos!), it was natural to start with the Dragon Wagon project. We needed to first apply provided tissue paper circles as dragon scales to the sticky sides of a cardboard box.

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Whoops, just in time we realized there were shiny stickers too, and made room for those.

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My favorite part of this crate was the dexterity Travis showed. He largely took over adding 2 wooden dowels to be the axles, then adding 4 wooden wheels and a foam circle to hold the wheels in place.

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Next he threaded through the provided orange rope, to pull the wagon along.

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We hadn’t even added the dragon and already the Middle Ages were a huge hit with my boy!

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To add the dragon, we adhered four thin streamers of orange tissue paper to the sticky strip on a cardboard dragon head. Koala set this up very neatly so that if you huff through the open mouth, the “flames” wave.

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Slide the dragon head into the provided slot on the wagon and your project is complete.

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I read to Travis a bit about catapults in the Imagine magazine, after which he couldn’t want to set up the Catapult craft. Again, he insisted on doing a lot of the dexterous work solo. Slip a foam circle onto a clothespin, slot the clothespin into the hole on the cardboard catapult base, and secure it with a second foam circle.

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We added sticky-back foam to one end of a craft stick, and adhered the catapult dish (a small plastic circle) to the other end. The catapult then slots into the clothespin and is secured with an elastic.

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Now it was time to load up our cannonballs (er, pom poms), provided in fun, rock-like colors and various sizes. Launch!

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For a little math in the process, set up a ruler and see how far your pom poms go. It was fun to guess which size “rock” would go furthest.

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Well now we needed a target, so we didn’t waste any time before turning to the final craft, the Medieval Castle. This was simply pieces of cardboard which slotted together. Travis was a bit frustrated (the slots were tight), so I finished up the castle and folded the provided cardboard characters for him.

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Here’s where the crate scored big points with mama on the imagination scale! Your child can have so much fun with the characters moving about in the castle, laying siege to one another, and avoiding the fire-breathing dragon.

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Did I mention I’m a nut about the Middle Ages?

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To continue the interactive play, we made Travis his own crown to be king of the castle, with an easy DIY pipe cleaner crown.

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Twist two pipe cleaners together to be the base – you may need three pipe cleaners, depending on the circumference of your child’s head.

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Cut 5 or 6 more pipe cleaners in half to be the points of your crown, and bend each into a triangle.

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Travis and I devised a little assembly line – he threaded a shiny bead on to the point of each triangle…

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…after which I twisted the ends around our base. Be sure no wire points will poke into your child’s head.

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A proud king!

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Thanks for medieval fun, Koala Crate!

Arctic Crate

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Last winter we received a Snow Crate through our Koala Crate subscription, so it seemed sort of redundant to receive an Arcitc Crate this time around; I worried the crafts inside might not be novel enough. Luckily the projects were quite different. So even if learning about the Arctic in particular and snow in general had some overlap, we had plenty to keep us entertained. 

As always, you can copy the ideas below with materials from a craft store. First though…

…it was tough to get going on the crafts because Travis loved the materials themselves when we popped open the box. Fluffy ribbon that would later be used to make a “snowball” first had to be incorporated into music and movement play.

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After that he decided it was “snow” and shoveled it up off our carpet. Koala Crate wins for sparking imagination with this one! 

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Once he was ready, we started by putting together the Polar Bear Dress-Up costume, and I was impressed by his focus. He decided all by himself where the felt stickers should go to be the pads and claws on the paws.

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Next he laced around a whole paw with the white string provided. I thought for sure he would tire of the task – polar bear paws are big! – but he insisted on finishing the whole paw himself. (I did lace up the second one for him).

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The headband ears were simple: attach white felt stickers with black felt dots in the middle to a white headband, and you have polar bear ears. Lots of roaring ensued once he had the ears and paws on!

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Next up was Snowball Toss, a craft that doubles as a sports game. We covered a Styrofoam ball with sticky Velcro stickers to make the “scratchy snowball.”

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To make the “fluffy snowball,” we wound white fluffy yarn (mentioned earlier!) around a bath loofah. Now it was time to test out games of catch!

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Travis was amazed when the scratchy snowball latched right onto a felt polar bear paw.

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The soft snowball took more dexterity. As you play, you can ask your little one questions about the differences between the two balls, and why one is easier to catch than the other.

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The final craft, Snowflake Stamps, was remarkably similar to a wrapping paper activity we enjoyed just before Christmas. Travis was super eager to see how the snowflake stamps worked, but he lost interest quickly.

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As a minor gripe, the ink pads were smaller than the snowflake stamps, which frustrated him and led to his disinterest. He decided it was more fun to stamp ink pad squares directly onto the paper.

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Still, we ended up with enough stamps to cover the provided blue paper, which can then be used to wrap gifts.

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Perfect for winter holidays or upcoming winter birthdays!

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In sum, I didn’t necessarily feel like Koala needed to send us a wintery themed crate just because it’s cold outside… but they did an admirable job of making this one quite different from last year’s Snow. 

 

 

Glowing Nature Crate

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There seems to be a feedback loop between our Little Explorers and Koala Crate subscriptions these days! Having recently learned all about glowworms through the former, our most recent crate form the latter was not just about nature but about glowing nature and touched upon… glowworms! Luckily there was very little overlap in the projects. Thanks to the booklet and crafts, we covered: glowing fungi; glowing insects; and glowing sea creatures.

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Travis loved the crafts in our kit this month. We started with the Mushroom Lantern, which featured a pitch-perfect way for preschoolers to paint; squeeze from the provided paint tube onto the mushroom’s plastic cap…

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And then dab on with the sponge brush.

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Travis loved the method so much that some additional squeezing and dabbing on newspaper had to happen.

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We left the mushroom cap to dry, after which it fell to me to finish the craft. Attach the cap to a cardboard tube base by threading a pipe cleaner through the cap and a foam circle (this is your lantern’s handle), and then pushing the foam circle into the tube to secure. Glow-in-the-dark stickers around the mushroom cap are the final touch, and what will make your lantern glow after charging in sunlight or other direct light.

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While our mushroom dried, Travis couldn’t wait to start on the next craft – the most adorable stuffed Glowing Firefly. The kit came with a sock in glow-in-the-dark material; try painting glow-in-the-dark fabric paint on a white sock to replicate this at home. Before we even began the craft, the sock itself and the fluffy roving were big hits.

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We’ve had stuffing projects from Koala before which Travis was a bit young to help with at the time; this time around, he inserted much of the roving himself!

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I added the provided rubber bands to seal off the end and head, and looped through the fabric wings. Travis squealed with how cute our firefly was once we attached 2 googly eyes.

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Then it was time to set it beneath a lamp (direct sunlight also works) to charge up. For some daylight fun, the firefly is also perfect for adorable games of catch.

As we waited, we dove right into the final project: a glow-in-the-dark Jellyfish Game. I was a bit disappointed in the mechanics of this one, both because it was very hard for little hands to put the craft together and because it didn’t last long once created.

Travis could definitely help thread the fabric tentacles through the cardboard jellyfish body…

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And add the eyes and glow-in-the-dark stickers…

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But from there it was up to me to thread the jellyfish through a provided cardboard frame and rig it up on the window with provided suction cups.

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To be fair, Travis went wild for the game; by tugging on the strings, children can now wiggle and wobble the jellyfish around.

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A couple vigorous tugs broke the frame, however, so the fun didn’t last long. I was disappointed Travis didn’t get a chance to see the jellyfish in motion after dark and all aglow. Luckily there were additional stickers to decorate our underwater scene, which Travis loved with and without the jellyfish around. So my best advice for enjoying this craft is to proceed gently!

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The booklet included a very cute counting poem about glowworms, which became a fast favorite of all the glowing creatures.

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We looked them up online, before acting out the glowworm activities – inching along, and curling up to sleep.

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For further glowworm fun, make a quick glowworm cave by squirting glow-in-the-dark paint into a mason jar.

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You can simply squirt in the paint, or smear it with a q-tip. Or perhaps your child will think this looks like little fireflies caught in a jar!

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As the grand finale, we set all three toys under his lamp near bedtime, then turned out the light for a glowing extravaganza!

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Ocean Crate

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I was a tad dismayed when I saw we’d received the Ocean crate from Koala Crate this month, only because we just finished up an ocean-themed set from Little Passports and I didn’t want Travis to have Ocean fatigue. I needn’t have worried however, because we opened it up and immediately spotted a spray bottle inside. Say no more, Travis was hooked! It was quite clever of Koala to make use of water as a component of two out of three projects, in this crate about a watery world.

First up was making watercolor fish. The fish shapes were pre-cut on filter paper, but you could also try this at home by tracing a fish shape onto coffee filters and then cutting out. We colored our fish with the provided markers; a little trial and error showed that the more filled in the fish is, the better this craft works.

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Travis scribbled, and I included a few fish with polka dots and stripes.

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Then comes the real fun: Place your fish on a paper towel, and spritz away!

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The marker colors will bleed together for a pretty result. Incidentally, we loved the gorgeous marker effect left behind on the paper towels, too:

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The moment we laid our paper fish on a final piece of paper towel to dry, Travis asked politely, “Can I go spritz the bathroom tile?” Permission granted! I was really pleased with Koala Crate for having included an item that sparked Travis’s joy and entertainment beyond the craft itself. We also appreciated that the markers will last us for quite some time.

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When I could momentarily capture his attention again, we finished our watercolor fish with googly eyes.

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He was almost incredulous when I said there was another project in the crate involving the spritz bottle. This was a foam puzzle that featured 6 animal shapes to pop out, which then fit back together in an intricate design.

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I thought he’d be so excited for the spritzing part that he’d poo-poo the puzzle, but he took pride in following along on the provided diagram and fitting the shapes together.

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(For older kids, consider not looking at the diagram, for an extra challenge!).

Then we raced to the bathroom for the real fun and spritzed all of the foam pieces. Neat, they stick!

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He had so much fun spritzing them that I simply placed a towel underneath to catch all the water and let him enjoy. Even the foam frame sticks – target practice!

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There was neat science behind this, too, as he needed to understand that water droplets were required if he wanted the foam to adhere to the tile. I couldn’t resist catching the moment on video:

If you can tear your child away from the tub, you can also take those foam pieces and trace them onto additional pieces of filter paper (provided in the crate), to make more watercolor sea creatures.

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At this point Travis was so into the spritzing that our paper got soggy and tore apart in an instant. Ah well!

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The final game was to use our watercolor fish and go “fishing.” I’m still not quite sure yet how I feel about childhood fishing games, but since Travis hasn’t really understood the concept yet, for now we play… The kit came with a glue dropper that was just right for little hands, and blue cardstock to glue the fish onto (I guess intended to depict water). After gluing our fish to both sides of the blue cards and gluing together our fishing rod, we took turns trying to hook the fish cards.

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Even without the added challenge of a string between rod and hook, Travis found it tough. We really have yet to find a fishing game with a mechanism that’s fun, instead of frustrating.

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For an additional craft, we tried out the kit’s suggestion of a Sock-topus – a D.I.Y. octopus made from an old sock!

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I didn’t have any proper roving or stuffing in the house, but we pulled cotton balls apart until they were slightly separated and that worked just fine.

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Secure the head with an elastic band, then cut the bottom of the sock until you have eight tentacles.

Somehow we ended up with a miscounted sept-opus, which Travis thought was just about the funniest thing ever.

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Glue on goggly eyes as the final touch.

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Thanks for the watery fun, Koala Crate!

Music Crate

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I was thrilled when I spotted our latest Koala Crate – a music-themed kit awaited us! Music is Travis’s favorite thing in the world, so I knew this one was sure to be a hit.

As always with Koala Crate, you can recreate most of the crafts below after a trip to your local craft store.

The first project was a make-it-yourself xylophone, made from a cardboard box, elastics, and wooden slats. There were some interesting learning components to explore as we put together the xylophone; for example, first he had to arrange the wooden pieces from longest to shortest.

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Each wooden slat then needed to receive a color-coded dot from the provided dot stamps, which would become its “note.” This was a bit of a hard concept for a three-year-old, who simply wanted to dot his stamps all over the wooden pieces any which way. So it became a good lesson in restraint!

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Threading the four xylophone pieces through the rubber bands required grown up hands, but Travis loved the end result.

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“You sing and I play!” he instructed me, and was off and running with games pretending to be a music teacher. I was pleased with the sound, very similar to a marimba or other African wooden xylophone.

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Now it was time to compose our own song with the provided “musical composition” sheets. By filling in each circle on the sheet with a dot stamp, kids can play a tune in order on their xylophone. All this was a bit beyond Travis’s interest – he simply had fun composing a “song” that was nearly all blue…

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And testing out how the stamps looked on his arm…

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Luckily the kit came with two blank sheets, so I made one with a pattern Travis would later be able to play.

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In a neat twist, you can also remove the four wooden slats any time, reposition the elastics, and turn this toy into a “guitar.”

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Next up was a homemade tambourine. The kit came with a cardboard (koala-shaped, very cute) tambourine base, bells, and elastic thread. Travis easily did his best threading yet as we pulled the elastic through a hole, added a bell, then looped back down again.

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This one was quick and easy, and enjoyable to shake along to a beat.

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The final project gave Travis a chance to go wild with the dot stamps as he’d hoped to do on the wooden xylophone pieces. Simply dot all over the provided ribbon fabric, then let dry.

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Once the stamps were dry, I looped the ribbon onto a wooden mallet and it was now a musical prop to wave around.

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We had fun exploring tempo (fast and slow), wiggling the ribbon like a snake, holding it overhead like a rainbow, and more.

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We couldn’t stop there, of course. The kit came with a suggestion for one final DIY instrument – a drum upcycled from a soup can! We decided to make two sizes of drums, so painted both the soup can and an empty oatmeal container.

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Once the paint dries, snip the narrow necks from balloons, and stretch the wide part of a balloon over each container as the drum skin. Secure the balloon with masking tape. We covered a piece of construction paper with the dot stamps and added that to the middle of our drums as decoration.

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Now it was time for a drum circle!

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Or a drum stack?

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Needless to say, a huge hit – pun intended!

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As a final note, it’s fun to watch Travis’s brain grow with this subscription. This was the first month in which he was interested in the games in our Imagine magazine, following along maze trails with his finger and more. One storyline in the magazine even prompted us to test a water glass xylophone!

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I love watching this boy grow, and love the ways in which Koala helps us do it!

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Number Crate

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The Number Crate is by far my favorite crate we’ve received from Koala Crate to date, certainly the most M of the STEM acronym (rather obviously, since the topic was numbers). It wasn’t necessarily Travis’s favorite, but we still had lots of fun!

Things started off with scientific mixing and pouring to make Playdough, which he loved. Hmm, what could be in this squishy pouch?

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In a bowl we mixed together our dough conditioner, dough stabilizer, dough concentrate, and dough liquid.

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Travis noticed that it smelled like Fruity Bunnies! He immediately fell to kneading and playing with the dough once it was the right consistency. The provided wooden sticks were great for making “abstract art,” as well as cute porcupines and “birthday cakes”.

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I appreciated that the sticks had no pointy end, unlike the toothpicks we normally have around the house.

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Next it was time to put our playdough to work with the provided Number Activity Mats. Two of these were obviously about numbers – counting balls up to 10 and an intro to measuring. Having a visual cue of each ball he placed while counting really helped Travis count carefully, instead of skipping a number as he’s prone to do!

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The measuring was cute, and great for teaching him to roll long shapes.

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Then we had imaginative fun with play food:

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And play faces:

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The final element of our crate was Domino Cards and the instructions for two Number Games. You could create these cards easily at home with cardboard and permanent markers! The rules of the game are a bit advanced for those on the young end of Koala’s age spectrum (3 to 5 years). For example, matching up pips on the dice was hard for Travis, as suggested in one game.

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We could, however, make domino mazes by matching numbers or pictures. Overall, the activities in this crate will last us a long time for number learning fun, as Travis grows into some of the suggested games.

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For those who don’t have Koala’s pre-mixed playdough pouches, here is an easy at home (and no-cook!) recipe:

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 teaspoon oil

1 cup water

2 drops food coloring

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the water, oil, and food coloring, stirring to combine. Knead the dough on a mat or baking sheet until everything is combined. Add a bit more flour if the dough is still a little wet (I ended up adding a generous extra 1/4 cup). Final step? Play!

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Travis loved helping stir up this batch, and was arguably way more into the making of both playdoughs than he was the number games that followed.

As a final gross motor activity, we counted with movement along to a suggestion in the booklet. Bend 1 time, jump 2 times, shake 3 times… and more!

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