This month’s Tinker Crate was perfect for kids that love puzzles and codes as much as they love building. Tinker Crate is a subscription box that inspires kids to learn about science, engineering, and technology, all while having lots of fun. Each month, the box explores a field of study within a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) discipline. Kids practice their problem solving skills and learn how to engage in both structured and open-ended exploration and investigation.
While most of the recent boxes have walked the tinkerers through construction of fairly complex mechanical devices, this month featured a relatively simple build that demonstrated a cool concept with a rich and “intriguing” history — secret codes!
Everything that arrives together in a single Tinker Crate – the supplies, a fold-out instruction sheet, and the Tinker Zine. In addition to the cool stuff found in the Tinker Zine, most crates have a secondary project that builds on the primary project, extending the exploration and focusing in on the science principles demonstrated by the main project.
The kit includes all the materials needed to construct the main project. Sometimes you need to provide some simple items from home for the second project or the additional explorations suggested in the Tinker Zine.
The instructions and other project info are printed on a faux blueprint fold-out sheet. Along with materials and instructions, you get some handy pointers and a troubleshooting guide. The sheet tells you everything that came in the box, some tips, and help if you can’t get it to work. This is a well-designed and tested box — we’ve never had a project with a fatal design flaw or any frustrating, unresolved engineering issues. Plus, there is help available if needed!
The instructions are clear and easy to follow and include both visuals and text, with lots of tips and checkpoints to make sure you’ve done everything correctly as you go. You aren’t expected to be an expert or know all the principles behind the project coming into it — the instructions are well thought out and anticipate areas where a novice might go astray. We can tell from the exquisite detail and thoughtfulness of the instructions that the projects and designed and tested, with lessons from testing and re-testing make their way into the instructions.
The main project is always a great hands-on activity and a great demonstration of the scientific principles featured in the box, but the Tinker Zine is where the lessons really take shape!
The Tinker Zine explains the principles behind the project, as well as cool trivia about the theme. This month explored the use of secret codes as a means of protecting messages from interception throughout history. We learned about the use of a scytale in Greece and Caesar cipher in ancient Rome, even the pivotal role the Enigma machine played in WWII.
Our daughter loves to read the magazine first. It is super-engaging and does superb job of balancing a fun and informal presentation style with technically accurate and detailed information. We love the way it uses actual, but well-explained scientific terminology to describe concepts — it expands the children’s knowledge and vocabulary rather than dumbing down the material.
the Zine goes into the science behind the project, and lets you gather data through experiments. There is a short summary after each experiments to explain why or how you end up with that outcome. It took us a while to get to the building phase of the project, because our daughter got so wrapped up in writing her own codes using the techniques in the Zine!
This project was more delicate than most, as the wooden pins were held in place with only double-sided foam and could be dislodged if forced. The instructions are so well-tested, though, that they even had a solution included for this issue, should it arise.
Here is our daughter sealing up a piece of candy in the combination vault. That is one way to hide it from her brothers!
Our spies even donned some disguises (made from extra materials from the project) while shuttling their secret messages!
We really love Tinker Crate, because the projects are extremely well designed, with a comprehensive and engaging STEM-grounded lesson built around the project in each box. The Tinker Zine really transforms the fun project into a whole learning module. It is a great box for tweens, but the projects are interesting enough that mom or dad will have fun helping younger kids tackle the projects, too!
The Description: Tinker Crate help kids gain crucial STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills through hands-on activities that are also seriously fun. Every crate includes all the materials and inspiration for a super-cool project. Ages 9 to 14+
The Price: $19.95 per month
The Categories:Kids Craft & Activities Subscription Boxes, Kids Educational & Learning Subscription Boxes,Subscription Boxes for Kids,Subscription Boxes for Teens & Tweens. KiwiCo Family, STEM Subscription Boxes, Subscription Boxes for Dads, Subscription Boxes for Teen Girls, Subscription Boxes for Teenage Boys.
The Reviews: See all our Tinker Crate Reviews.