Letterbox Lab provide innovative children’s science kits as subscription boxes.
The Explore Box (£7.99 + 89p postage) is for kids aged 6+ and contains a least an hour’s worth of fun science.
The Investigate Box (£21.99 + £2.57 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.
My lovely helper is my daughter, Little C, age six and three-quarters (the three quarters are very important, apparently). I was sent an Explore Box, which is perfectly designed for her age group.
Note: These pictures are taken as we go along, so there is no elaborate lighting setup. Some pictures are taken under overhead LED light, so don’t look very beautiful. But they are all genuine action shots, so please bear with the less-than-perfect pics! All ‘glowing’ pictures are absolutely untouched, and other than strategic cropping are exactly as they came from my camera. No adjustment of colour or brightness or anything else.
The box is flat and fits through the mailbox.
They always put a couple of bonus fun facts on the packaging.
I was not aware a squid’s brain is shaped like a doughnut. But now I am. Perhaps it will come in useful the next time I do a pub quiz.
It looks quite plain when opened up this time! Fortunately there were some exciting things in that bag on top. The instruction booklet was underneath.
Aha, here everything is.
This month’s theme is all about glowing things. Seeing glowsticks on the contents list was a big plus!
But first things first.
In the box was this UV ink pen and light.
These have been around for years, and they are a lot of fun to play with. I believe you can now even get them in Smiggle.
Little C write her name in the box, as instructed.
This is how it looked in daylight! She was pretty impressed.
However we decided to move to Little C’s room which has blackout blinds, so we could work in a dark room.
Now that’s more like it!
Time to try out the next part, using the yellow UV ink-treated paper.
Nope, nothing to see here.
Now try writing with the suncream.
It’s really quite tricky to write using a cotton bud and gloopy lotion. It did serve the useful purpose of creating varying thicknesses of the cream. There were blobs and smears.
I’m impressed with the neatness of her writing too.
Now we got to play with test tubes!
We added the glow liquid to some water in the test tube.
You may be interested to know that the glow liquid is, in fact, tonic water concentrate.
I resisted the temptation to add gin.
Anyway, back to it. Having shaken it up, it was time to turn out the lights and shine the UV light on the tube.
Look at that! Beautiful huh?
And don’t forget, this is exactly how it looked for real.
The ‘taking it further’ part, trying to bounce the light off the walls the test tube, was tricky. It required very steady hands, and holding it in one place. Doing this for long enough to take a photo was remarkably difficult!
But we eventually managed to get a picture.
See that swirly helix-type shape? That’s the light beam bouncing off the walls of the test tube.
Let me tell you, it looks even more amazing when it’s right in front of you.
Time to play with glowsticks.
We followed the instructions, snapping each one (Little C loved that!) and putting one into the fridge and the other in warm water.
After waiting fifteen minutes as instructed (this required rather a lot of patience) we made our comparison.
Little C thought the warm one was brighter, but to be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference. As we were doing this late in the afternoon, they had both faded by the next day, so we couldn’t compare them in the morning.
This was probably the least successful experiment because it didn’t really work for us. That being said, glowsticks are fun, so it didn’t really matter we didn’t get the required effect.
Finally, Little C’s favourite bit. Yes even more than the glowing tube.
Little white beads. Like regular pony beads.
But you shine the UV light on them and they turn pretty colours!
There was a string included in the box, so of course we decided to make a bracelet.
The instructions suggested we try this in sunlight, but alas, the sun had gone in.
However, the UV light on its own was an extremely satisfactory result.
What a splendid set of experiments!
Because we were a little pressed for time we whizzed through this box fairly quickly. But you could easily spend a leisurely afternoon writing secret glowing messages and making the light bounce.
For a child of Little C’s age this particular set definitely emphasized the fun practical aspect of experiments. While there is still plenty of learning material in the instructions, I’m not sure how much of it Little C took in. She understood that there was a chemical reaction in the beads, and the ‘invisible’ UV light. As she didn’t know what fiber optic cables are, the significance of the bouncing light beam was rather lost on her. However she did enjoy the effect it made.
Again, one of the great things about these projects is that they introduce scientific principles in a very simple way.
I don’t think it matters if the child doesn’t understand everything. Even just reading the words introduces them into their awareness, and later on, when they study this stuff in school, there will be a little echo of familiarity.
For example, Little C has been studying Isaac Newton in school, and she knew what non-Newtonian fluids were from the Slimes and Swirls Letterbox Lab #3! So even now, she is coming across some of the things she has already leaned and experienced.
Another big plus for this box is a wonderful and totally neutral introduction to science for all children. STEM subjects and girls are in the news a lot, and this is beautifully designed to appeal to any child. The little cartoon characters, Meg and Pico, guide you through the activities, and it’s frequently Meg who takes the lead.
We always have a marvellous time doing these activities, and I’m so happy Little C continues to be enthusiastic about playing, learning, and experimenting!
A different version of this review first appeared on allsubscriptionboxes.co.uk.