This month’s Letterbox Lab is called Chain Reactions! My lovely helper is my daughter, Little C, who is seven. I was sent an Explore Box, which is perfectly designed for her age group. It costs £8 + £ p+p. More subscription details are at the end of the review.
I like the look of this month’s experiments!
First of all, Make It Snow. We’ve not had any actual snow this year, so this is nice and seasonal!
We measured out some of the sodium polyacrylate (which looked like white powder) and then added water.
And look what it turned into! It really does look like snow, though fortunately doesn’t feel like it.
The next experiment was called Disappearing Water. It uses more of the sodium polyacrylate, and this one is really cool.
Instead of taking pictures, I just videoed it instead. Take a look!
It worked perfectly and looked great!
Next up was an experiment which was designed perfectly to appeal to children: Squirmy Worms!
This one was in two parts.
First, mixing up some slimy sludge from water and sodium alginate.
This had to be left to sit for an hour, so we had lunch!
Then we mixed up the calcium lactate into some water.
Then came the really fun part.
We used the pipette to squirt the sludge into the bowl of calcium lactate solution.
You couldn’t see what was into the bowl, but then…
It turned into slimy, squishy worms!
As you can see, Little C enjoyed this tremendously.
Slimy, squishy fun!
The last experiment, Crystal Balls, also required some preparation.
The preparation itself was very simple.
The little water beads had to be left to soak in water for an hour. We actually prepared it right after we did the sludge preparation for Squirmy Worms, and left it over lunch.
After spending some time playing with the worms, we took a look at the glass of water beads.
You can just barely see some circles in the glass.
Here they were! Beautiful soft little crystal balls! This was really magical, seeing those tiny water beads increased so much in size.
A little vial of blue food colouring was also included, so we mixed it into water and added more beads.
And they turned blue! So pretty and incredibly effective.
This box was absolutely incredible. The mess factor was just right, the results were very impressive, and there were plenty of extra bits to use again!
The Snow was a lot of fun (we’ve still got the extra to make another time). This, I think, is actually very similar to the artificial snow you see being sold. There was a stall selling it at our local Christmas market, little vials of white powder that magically swelled up into snow when you added water. Little C looked at it longingly many times, so this was a lovely surprise!
The Disappearing Water was a great trick! It’s simple but very effective.
Crystal Balls was again very simple, but very enjoyable. We have another package of beads, so I’ll buy some different food colouring and make more. We’ve got the little balls in a plastic box, so we’re keeping an eye on them to see what happens to them over the days. Little C thought they might shrink back, so we’ll see!
The most enjoyable was, of course Squirmy Worms! Not only does it also have dramatic results, the tactile nature of the worms made it even better. Little C spent ages squeezing and playing, and making as many worms as she could.
The one thing I thought (and this is an observation, not a criticism) was that some of the actual ‘science’ part of this box was perhaps a little bit advanced.
The expanding water beads and snow were very simple, but I think that the reason behind the worms was still a little too complex.
That being said, this is something that will come up in science class in the future, and there will be a little echo there. I also think that just the process of mixing stuff and seeing something change is important for learning and discovery, so I’m still incredibly happy with this!
One thing that I thought was incredibly thoughtful was the proper kid-sized gloves included. As soon as she put them on, Little C commented that they fitted her, so extra points to Letterbox Lab for thinking that one through!
Little C enjoyed herself immensely.( OK, I admit I played with the worms too, they were brilliant.)
Oh, one other thing. There was a little extra gift in the box for getting the Gold Explorer Certificate.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing for a child to have? Fossilized dinosaur poo! Little C decided immediately that she would be taking it to her next Show and Tell at school.
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.