I have since edited my review of Toucan Box, after having been with Toucan Box for half a year. The edited portion is at the bottom of this post, in orange.
I first heard about craft boxes in a subscription format from a Home Education group I belong to. That got me curious, so I did a Google search for more of the same, and I found this one : Toucan Box.
It seemed to contain more projects than the other ones on the market, and I thought it would give my kids a bit more to do since they love working with their hands and crafting. Since I’m not a very crafty mum myself, I thought why not try it out? It does seem a little costly at about £30 a month in total for a subscription for 2 of my kids, but if they enjoy it and I can still afford it, it seems worth it. Oh and the £10 off discount for the first box made it all the more appealing.
I should mention that there are quite a few craft box subscription companies around if you try Googling, and they are not all targeted for the same age group/market. The Toucan Box is for the 3 – 8 year old group, as stated on its website, so I thought it would be good for my 5 and 7 year old son and daughter. It would in fact suit an older child too I suppose (the specified age range is just a guide), but my 10 year old already finds these Toucan Box projects too “babyish”.
When our first Toucan Box arrived, we quickly opened it up…
It came with a sheet of extra activities to do (materials not included), 4 sealed boxes of kit (each box containing exactly enough for both my kids to complete 1 of the projects), colouring and sticker books, 2 Toucan Box badges (they are collectible and can be exchanged for free gifts from the company itself), and larger craft materials for the projects that are too large to fit into the 4 sealed boxes of kit. The box also came with a listing of educational objectives that show which EYFS guidelines have been achieved by way of completing all the projects in the box. On the back of the box lid, 4 pictures show what each of the projects would look like once completed.
Every month’s Toucan Box has a specific theme for the 4 projects it includes, and for this box, the theme is “Colour”.
As the 4 sealed boxes of kit are all packaged identically, there is no way to discern which box is for which project, so I think it’s meant to be a sort of surprise element for the kids, as in they pick a box not knowing what they’d get in the box until they unseal it.
The first box picked was for a project that involved making “stained glass” out of coloured tissue (that the kids were supposed to rip up themselves) and clear sticky plastic film. It came with some plastic sucker cups with hooks as well, so we could hang the completed “stained glass” on our windows… like this :
(Pardon the scaffolding behind the window! The builders were at work… )
There was far too much coloured tissue included in the pack but my kids took quite a long time ripping them up (I guess that was part of the fun) so all in all this project took much longer than expected to finish. But the kids thoroughly loved every bit of it.
My son needed help with the sticky film part, but he was perfectly capable of tearing up the tissue paper. My daughter managed to do the whole thing by herself.
Next project was Tie-Dye Bunting. Now this one was a bit messier. We were provided with sachets of Kool Aid in 3 different colours (Yellow, Red and Purple) and little plastic bowls to mix the Kool Aid up in, with a bit of water. This was to be the “dye” for the bunting material. Now Kool Aid is not something commonly found in UK unless you go to American specialty food shops (places where I’m sure the prices of American products are bumped up much higher than what they’d normally cost if bought in the US), so I was a bit surprised to find such an item in a craft box produced in England. But I guess the price we pay for the Toucan Box covers that!
The kids really enjoyed dyeing their scraps of silky fabric with the Kool Aid mix via plastic droppers (all included in the kit). The fruity (if not artificial) smell of the Kool Aid mix adds an additional sensory aspect to the activity.
Once they were done with the dyeing, we undid the elastic bands and unravelled the fabrics. Then we laid them out on a piece of scrap leather material we had lying around to dry.
The next day, they were dry and ready to be cut up into triangles for the bunting. My daughter felt a bit sad to have to cut up her tie-dyed fabric as it looked quite pretty on its own – her’s is the one on the left.
When we finished cutting up the bunting fabric, we attached the triangles to the ribbon and it was complete.
My son needed a lot of help throughout the process, so I’d say these projects are not all designed to be ones that kids can just be left alone to finish on their own.
The next project was making coloured glasses. This was the project my daughter originally dreaded doing as she thought it was boring (from seeing the completed project picture on the back of the box life). However, once she got started on it, she enjoyed it.
My son needed a lot of help with the cutting aspect and my daughter made it on her own – just about. You see, she made a mistake by cutting out pieces of coloured cellophane that were too small to fit the frames of the glasses. She had to redo all that with whatever was left after we all had done the cutting, and with my help, we managed to salvage enough cellophane to fit her glass frames. So unlike the earlier project we completed – the “stained glass” project – this project did not come with an abundance of material.
The final project was making colour spinners. I’m sure all of us at some point in our childhood have heard of or made one of these. Back then, I’d cut out a circular piece of card, colour it in rainbow colours, then stick a sharpened wooden pencil into the centre of the card to make the spinner.
Well the Toucan Box version of this is higher quality than that. It came with a wooden top for each child. A specially-crafted wooden top that will fit each of the 6 circular cards provided for each child, and the cards all had different geometric patterns printed on them. Each child is given a set of mini felt tips to colour in their circle cards.
The colouring took the longest to do because the surface area of the felt tips were tiny compared to the surface area of the cards. The kids probably took about 20 minutes to colour it all up and I was amazed none of them complained or gave up. My son did have a moment’s rest in between colouring because he said his hand was “sore”. So I suggested he not press so hard on the card as he coloured it. Also some of the areas to be coloured on the cards really were tiny and the amount of effort and concentration the kids (especially my son) put in to colour those areas showed. I realise this was probably a very good exercise for kids to practise their fine motor skills and learn to focus their attention on a task at hand.
And a spinner in action :
I wouldn’t say they spent a lot of time playing or looking at their completed projects after that, but they enjoyed the process of making and doing something, and that for us was the main benefit of a craft box subscription.
I found myself enjoying the process and even learning some new things from doing these projects with my kids. Yes it’s a bit costly – comes up to about £8 a project for both kids – but I think it is quite useful for parents like me who aren’t as involved in crafts. Yes the internet has loads of free craft ideas, but in my experience, whenever I find a craft project I like online, it takes me quite a while to source the materials and get everything ready for the kids to do. With Toucan Box, everything we need for each project is provided so we can just start making these things. As long as the projects remain fresh and interesting, I think Toucan Box will continue to be a hit in our family (unless the kids lose interest in crafting altogether), so we’re letting the subscription run for another month.
P.S. The new Toucan Box had arrived a few days ago and I’ve opened it to have a look. The projects are quite different from the first box and look interesting once again, so I think we will be continuing our subscription for yet another month.
I’ve also taken photos of some other Toucan Box craft items we’ve made, and put them into my Galleries page. Feel free to have a look.
EDIT (13 Feb 2014): After being a Toucan Box subscriber for about 6 months, I have a few more comments to note about my experience.
In one of the boxes, there was a telling-time book that was designed to be used with a dry-wipe marker, which came with the book. Unfortunately, the dry-wipe marker had already dried up by the time it reached us! I emailed Toucan Box about sending a replacement, and they replied immediately, saying that they were aware of the problem (as it has already been reported by other Toucan Box users), and that they were going to send out replacement pens. A month later, a new Toucan Box arrived, with no sign of the replacement pen. I emailed them again to enquire about this, and once again they replied promptly to say that they are going to send replacement pens after they have ensured that their replacement pens work correctly with the book. Well it’s been 2 months ever since that 2nd reply from them (i.e. 3 months after the faulty dry-wipe pens were sent the first time), and not a word from them since. 2 more Toucan boxes have arrived since then and neither of them contained any replacement pens. I’ve given up and have since bought my own dry-wipe markers from Amazon and Ikea. All of them work on the book. I’m not sure why they have taken so long to find replacement markers that work. And why the book they sent out initially (with the faulty marker) had passed their quality checks before being sent out.
Another point to note is that half a year ago when we signed up, we were sent Toucan Box badges with each box we received, and there was a flyer in each box saying that if we collect 6 of those badges, we get to choose a present from them, and they supplied us with a list of presents on offer, including space hoppers, mini tea sets, talking plush penguin, etc. Well we collected enough badges eventually, and I emailed them with a photo of my kids with their badges, and they replied (promptly again) that they will send the children’s presents in their next Toucan Box offering. Well about 2 weeks later, I received an email from them, saying “We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Unfortunately, the prize you’ve picked after collecting 5 badges is now out of stock. The good news is you are the first to see our new prize chart, and claim one of our brand new prizes! Don’t worry, though, we wouldn’t have you start from the very beginning! For each badge you’ve collected (and haven’t claimed a prize yet), you’ve already earned 4 Tokens!”
So now I’ve got 2 slightly disappointed kids, who were expecting their chosen presents to arrive with their next Toucan Box in 2 weeks. But okay, there’s a new scheme, and they say that all the badges we’ve collected so far will count towards the new reward scheme as well. Well that means we have enough tokens to claim prizes on the new reward scheme already, since we can convert the badges we already own, to tokens, by multiplying each badge by 4 tokens (1 Badge = 4 tokens). So last week, I have logged into my Toucan Box account from the Toucan Box website and entered my requests for presents again. I have not heard a word from them since then, so I am not feeling entirely optimistic about this. Well even if they don’t send out presents after all (if this kind of goes belly-up on their end, just like the faulty markers incident), that’s fine. That’s not a deal breaker. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m nit-picking, because these issues are not major issues and they have not caused me to lose a fortune, but from their track record so far (and it’s only been 6 months), they don’t seem to be a very reliable company, even though they always do reply promptly by email. I am sorry – because all that means is they pay lip service to their customers even when they are unable to fulfill their offers.
On the other hand, their projects are still interesting so far, and my 7 year old daughter seems to be enjoying them a lot still, because she likes craft. But I am considering scaling down my subscription with Toucan Box anyway because they have recently introduced 3 different subscription sizes (a Petite box at £3.95 which contains 1 project; a Grande box at £9.95 which contains 2 projects and a book; a Super box at £16.95 which contains 4 projects and a book). They also have stopped sending 2 books with each box, and in the last 3 months, we’ve received 1 story/sticker book in each box instead. They have also stopped packaging each craft project box identically, instead a picture of the completed craft is pasted on it’s respective craft kit box. Now my 5 year old son is kinda hyper and just not really into Toucan Box craft even though we’ve been subscribing for half a year. He would groan a little whenever it’s “craft time” even though my other kids love craft time. Sometimes, he gets into the craft as he does it, and then looks like he is enjoying it. But the next time he would still groan a little again whenever it’s the next “craft time”… so I think maybe he just doesn’t like craft, and I should try something else.