When I was asked if I’d like to review a kid’s craft subscription box, of course, I said yes! As a lifelong maker and craft tutor, I was interested to see what they could offer that I couldn’t rustle up in my own home. I also thought it might be a way to engage my little boy, Will, in some of the wholesome, crafty fun I thought we’d constantly be engaged in be when I pictured parenthood before it was a reality. In my slightly sepia-tone imaginings I envisaged me and my child sitting around a big farmhouse table (we don’t have one of these!), the cold rain lashing at the windows (that bit isn’t a problem!), excitedly cutting, sticking, sewing and creating wonderous handiworks together (we haven’t made anything close to wonderous!). Collaborating over ideas (never happens!) and growing our deep, impenetrable bond through our joint endeavours which we could reflect on for years and years as we proudly used, displayed or gifted all the magnificent things we created together. The reality of any joint craft activity goes more like this: I manage to prise Will’s attention away from whatever form of technology he is engaged in and bribe him into doing some crafting with me (‘You can have a Kinder egg when we’re done!). I have obviously already planned what we will do and got everything ready in a suitably waterproof tablecloth-clad zone! He approaches the table, looking around dubiously to see what ‘fun’ I have planned. I explain what we are going to make, with as much enthusiasm as I can muster without sounding too much like Mr Tumble after a bag of Tangfastics. The boy ‘appears’ to be interested and when we get going there is a brief, blissful, 38 seconds of utter joy when he picks up a pair of scissors and I see my dream becoming reality and my heart dares to hope that this is the day, the day where my child truly starts to love the same thing I love. My reverie is always obliterated at this point as Will either asks when he can watch the iPad, states that instead of making dinosaur puppets (as I had planned) he would like to make a battle rhino robot laser gun or just walks off to see if he find the Kinder eggs on his own! I craft alone! I realise I’m placing a lot of weight on the shoulders of this subscription box!
The Toucan box is packaged in a bright, turquoise and white box featuring fun graphics of all the things kids love: rockets, kites, aliens, you get the idea. There are hints towards STEM too through pics of sciency-type men holding magnets (girls can hold magnets too, you know!)! Will’s name was printed onto the box as part of the design and he did really like this as, being 4, he rarely gets mail! We opened the box together and I was really surprised at how much they had managed to get inside! The projects were separated into plastic pouches (organised but not that great for the planet!) and there were several booklets and posters etc. On one of the inside flaps there was a sticker saying, Hello William, which again seemed to engage him a bit more as he felt it was just for him. Our box seemed to be themed around nature or critters although there was no explicit reference to this anywhere. There were 2 different projects: Tie dye butterflies and silly spider and marble web art, both aimed at children 3 years and up. Will chose the butterfly project first and we dived in!
The pouch for the tie dye butterfly included everything we needed and more: clothes pegs, coffee filters, pipe cleaners, 5 felt tips, paints and a brush. All we had to get was a glass with some water in. The instructions were clear and included an intro explaining some little learning points (chromatography) that parents could discuss with the children. I really liked this element of the box as I think that there’s a lot of activities for kids which just involve decorating something for the sake of it. As an ex-teacher and current craft tutor I always try to incorporate some form of learning into my creative tasks and Toucan clearly operates along the same lines. Tip top! I can honestly report that we got through the entire activity (about 20 mins for the first bit before we had to let the coffee filters dry) without one enquiry about alternative activities or egg-shaped chocolate treats! Be still my beating heart! I think what the difference was was that this wasn’t coming from me, it felt like Will took charge of the activity and I was just joining in instead of being the one telling him what we were going to do. Maybe I need to learn from this and let him have more input to the planning stages of our crafting but I fear I will then have to google how to papier-mâché a rhino laser! Whilst we were waiting for the filters to dry, we had a look through the other things in the box. We found an A2 sticker chart (he does love a sticker!) which also included lots of bits and bats like trivia, facts and even some jokes (he is desperately in need of some new material!). We spent a good few minutes with this but I imagine an older child would definitely get more out of it. There was also a magazine with experiments, puzzles and activities which would be great for older kids but was cast aside by Will pretty sharply! Once the filters were dry we assembled them into butterflies and Will decided that he wanted to hang them off the light in his playroom. This is one of the few times that he has seen a project through AND deemed it so successful that we should display it somewhere! Bravo, Toucan! We haven’t yet started on the second project as I thought we could save it for when the rain is beating at the window and I have got a farmhouse table (!) but we have used the paint, done some stickering and had a go at a few of the things in the magazine. We did them all together and, on a couple of occasions, it was Will’s idea!
At first, I was a bit dubious about this subscription box as I have always thought I was pretty adept at coming up with things to entertain kids and I did have all of the materials needed for both projects already in the house. I just reasoned Will wasn’t really into crafting (yet!). However, the personalisation and the fact that it’s sort of themed and comes in a box addressed to the child seems to have made it immeasurably more appealing to my child and I would definitely consider buying a Toucan box again in future. I think they would be good to take away on holiday (maybe don’t open on the plane!) as they contain everything you need and have plenty of extension potential. I’d also consider them as a birthday present, especially given the personalisation option. I was so impressed I even decided to go to the website! The high level of quality is definitely maintained throughout the site and there are additional bits and bobs like free downloadable sheets and online quizzes and games. As for the cost, each box is £8.95 plus £2.95 postage so maybe a little over budget for a birthday present (when there are 40 kids in his class!) but not unreasonable when you consider what’s inside. Maybe I’ll just buy it for my favourites! The only thing that put me off is that you do have to ‘subscribe’ and then remember to cancel if you don’t want it every month. I can see why they do this, but I would prefer the option to just buy a one-off as and when. There is a gift subscription option but that starts at £35.70 and I can’t think of a 4-year-old (other than my own, obv!) that I like that much!!!!