My Little Engineer: Screen-Free STEM with KiwiCo
I first titled this post just “My Little Engineer” after thinking of my usual long run-on titles that hint about all that all I’m going to include within the text and photos.
My son, William, could just as easily be called “My Little Writer,” “My Little Chef,” “My Little Artist,” or “My Little LEGO-Kid.” He has a wide variety of interests and talents and is always full of enthusiasm as he pursues different activities, whether it’s writing his own newspaper, setting up a pizza restaurant in the living room, or recreating movie scenes with LEGOs.
I later added to the title because it was important to me to highlight the fact that the activities we are doing are screen-free, yet combine science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Nowadays there are so many apps and programs for STEM that require a device.
The KiwiCo makes it easy to provide hands-on activities for kids of all ages because they create these crates that cater to your own child’s interests and developmental abilities.
Like I said, my son has a lot of interests, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are all activities that allow him to focus on a goal but also use his own imagination.
When we decided to try a subscription to the KiwiCo crates, it was not easy to choose a line. See the complete list of crate lines here and you will see why.
Although we were very interested in the doodle and atlas crates, we decided to first try the Tinker Line. It didn’t take long before our crate came and we were SO excited!
The tinker crate included two types of robots to build and experiment with. It also included a really great little magazine called “Tinker Zine” which William took out of the crate and read right away. After reading his “Tinker Zine,” he was able to tell me exactly what what makes a robot a robot, about robots that are now able to do tasks that many people thought would be impossible, and all about NASA’s Curiosity Rover Robot, which is the most advanced attempt to find signs of life on Mars.
We first experimented with the “Make Your Own Walking Robot.” All the materials needed and very detailed instructions were included in the crate and it was great that there were several opportunities for William to reflect and revise while working.
He was able to trouble-shoot as he worked to be sure his walking robot would be able to, well, walk! He had to readjust the brads and gears to make sure they were loose enough, and made sure the position of the body panel was right so the moving parts were clear of it.
He went back and forth between reading instructions, building, testing, revising, until he was satisfied and knew it would walk and was even able to make it walk in reverse.
He was very happy with his new friend and has since given him a name ( Robor) and a special spot on the LEGO table.
We also received a “Drawbot.” We worked together to first follow the instructions to build the motor, then the bot, and finally created robot art. We had to experiment quite a bit and redesign our Drawbot several times. By the end of the project, William was able to explain that as forces act on an object, balanced forces cause no change in motion, and unbalanced forces can cause changes in an object’s speed and direction.
The Drawbot is something I’m thinking about for my second grade class next year. Because of the way it must be designed and the many parts that need to be adjusted in order to create the desired artwork, it allows for practice using balanced and unbalanced forces, analysis of cause and effect, and a really great way to apply what they learn in an experiment and a design challenge.
I’m glad we tried this KiwiCo crate line and I’m thinking about trying the line for older kids ( actually for ages 14-104) called Eureka, for my daughter, Angelina. I should say, she is thinking about it. She is 13 and very independent. ;)
As much as I do love the KiwiCo crate, what I really loved the most was just spending time with my son. It’s a wonderful thing when I have the opportunity for one-on-one time with each of my children.
Have you ever tried KiwiCo or anything like this? I’d love to hear about your experience and connect further.
I really appreciate your time and attention. Any feedback at all is welcome. Please feel free to leave me a comment here, email or reach out to me on any of my social media channels. I will get back to you in a timely fashion.
ps. I’m super excited that my book Educate the Heart: Screen-Free Activities for Grades Pre-K-6 to Inspire Authentic Learing is available for pre-order here and will be released soon!