This is the last Letterbox Lab Explore Box in the series of twelve!
My lovely helper is my daughter, Little C, who is seven. I was sent the Explore Box, which is perfectly designed for her age group.
It costs £8 + £2 p+p. More subscription details are at the end of the review.
This month’s theme is Engineering the Future.
The first activity was The Third Dimension. Anyone who remembers old 3D movies will remember those funny coloured glasses!
The glasses were used see how different coloured filters change the appearance of different colours.
The blue dot is on the top and the red on the bottom. See how the lenses change how they look?
Little C was also quite excited at involving a phone (or rather tablet) screen in the experiment. Kids love screens, so the idea of involving one in actual science was definitely appealing!
First we needed to make the viewing device out of the polarizing filter included, plus crafting essentials of foam sheet and a lolly stick.
Then the idea was to look at a screen through the filter and slowly rotate it.
This is what happens! It’s to do with filter blocking light waves that aren’t going in a certain direction, blocking out the light and making the screen appear black.
Then we tried to see what the effect was through clear plastic.
This isn’t the plastic bag, but a petri dish from one of the previous boxes. Can you see the rainbow effect?
The next activity was called Solar Photography. In that black envelope is two sheets of Sun Paper. We would use that, and those random objects, to make a pattern. The paper itself was rather a bright blue, and was kept in the envelope to stop it being exposed to light.
First they were nicely laid out, and then we left them on a kitchen stool by the window. It was rather a cloudy day (the weather this Easter has been rubbish!) so it was going to take a little while. (At this point we did the third experiment.)
After about a half hour, the paper looked like this. See how much it’s faded?
For some reason I didn’t take a picture right after we took the items off the sheet, but as you can probably guess, the shapes left behind were bright blue on the pale background. In order to ‘set’ the picture, and stop it from fading from more light exposure, all we had to do was soak it in water and leave it to dry.
This is how it looked afterwards! The backing as gone back to dark blue, and the silhouettes are pale. Doesn’t that look fantastic?
While we were waiting for the picture to develop, we did the last activity, Moulded for Greatness.
Inside the bag were a lot of tiny white plastic beads.
We added hot water, which would soften them up. OK, I know these pictures look almost identical, but if you squint at the beads on the left you’ll see they still have a tiny dot of white in the middle! They heated up very fast because they were so small, so I had to be pretty quick off the mark with the camera!
Looks a bit like frogspawn!
And it was quite squidgy and stretchy! It was fairly easy to mould, but it was necessary to work fast, as it hardened as it cooled.
The booklet suggested making a boat from the plastic to see if it would float, so Little C decided to do just that.
It’s not exactly boat-shaped, but it was made pretty fast! We gave it a quick dunk in cold water to complete the hardening process. As you can see, it’s turned back to white again.
And yes, it floats!
This kind of plastic is called thermoplastic: it changes form depending on temperature. It is also a type that melts at relatively low temperatures, so it’s safe to play with!
These three activities were a lot of fun. Unsurprisingly, Little C’s favourite was the thermoplastic, because it’s a lot of fun to play with moulding stuff!
The Sun Paper picture was a close second. As well as seeing the result, it was interesting finding things with the right kind of shape to be effective.
Even though the 3D activity was really about just observing (and making the lens holder) I was very pleased that Little C was impressed with the effects she saw. The rainbows got a great reaction! I know she didn’t quite get the 3D thing, as she’s never been to a 3D movie, but she certainly found it interesting how the coloured dots turned black with the coloured lenses.
One of the best things is that the thermoplastic can be reheated and moulded over and over again. It will definitely be played with for a long time to come! It’s also very useful for conversations about reusing and recycling, rather than throwing away.
As I said above, this is a series of twelve boxes, so you can start at any time. It’s such a terrific way to introduce young children to some scientific principles. Some of the things they won’t understand, but that doesn’t actually matter as they can certainly see the effects! There are also some ideas that come up more than once, so are a nice way to make links with previous activities.
There are experiments that can be repeated, such as making square bubbles! There are also lots of bits and pieces that you can keep and use again, such as the water beads and gloveophone. (If you want a giggle, I’m on YouTube playing Twinkle Twinkle on that crazy instrument!)
Little C has already learned a great deal from these activities, including what an orrery is, and what chemical reactions are. I think that as she gets older and learns more science in school, she will have seen and experienced some of the things she will learn about, and there will be little echoes of familiarity in her mind.
For any child with an enquiring mind, this is a superb way to explore, learn, play, and have fun! (Oh, and at £10 a month, it’s an absolute bargain.)
We’re very sad that this is the last Explore Box in the series, but what a wonderful time we’ve had!
Little C is looking forward very much to turning eight, and finally being able to take on the series for older children, the Investigate Box! We’ll keep you posted!
The Explore Box (£8 + £2 postage) is for kids aged 6+ and contains a least an hour’s worth of fun science.
The Investigate Box (£22 + £2 postage) for kids aged 8+ has more experiments and more items of collectible lab equipment with enough to keep a junior scientist busy for 3 or 4 hours.
Both kits have full-colour illustrated instructions and online videos to make it easy to do all the experiments.
A different version of this review was first published on allsubscriptionboxes.co.uk.