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Summer camp may be cancelled, but these boxes aim to re-create the magic at home

Who knew making pretend s’mores in the living room could be so educational?

Summer camp may be cancelled, but these boxes aim to re-create the magic at home
[Photo: KiwiCo]

We’re at the start of what will be a very strange summer. Trips abroad have been postponed. Music festivals have been cancelled. And to the chagrin of both kids and their parents, summer camps around the country have also been axed, which means no s’mores around the fire or epic games of capture the flag.

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[Photo: KiwiCo]

Kid’s startup KiwiCo heard our cries and is here to help. While the brand can’t replicate all the magic of summer camp, it has created a series of activity boxes that will keep kids occupied with entertaining and educational activities. And some even include making pretend campfires in your living room.

[Photo: KiwiCo]
Camp KiwiCo is launching with a range of themes (like Awesome Arcades and Deep-Sea Discovery) that parents can choose from. Each week includes five boxes (priced between $25 and $30 apiece), and each box includes a different hands-on activity related to that theme that’s intended to occupy kids (and their parents) for about four hours. The idea is that if you purchased the whole suite, you’d have four weeks of unique content. But you can also purchase the boxes as a stand-alone activity.

My four-year-old tested out one box from the camping theme. For younger kids, this involves a lot of guidance from an adult (or “grown-up assistants,” to use KiwiCo parlance). Together, we made a very cute backpack in the shape of a bear, as well as a pretend firepit, where she can cook her pretend s’more and hot dog. My daughter loved putting the kit together; she was very proud of her creations and is still playing with the things she made. The boxes are designed for four different age groups, ranging from age three to nine (and older), and are structured to teach skills that are age appropriate. For younger ones like mine, this might mean refining motor skills and learning about how fire is created. Older kids might learn the basics of coding and robotics.

[Photo: KiwiCo]

The boxes will be available starting June 22, which is also when KiwiCo will launch companion videos, DIY activities, and printable sheets to complement the projects and create a more immersive camp experience for the kids. (This online content is free and available to the public, even those who don’t purchase boxes.)

[Photo: KiwiCo]
Founder Sandra Oh Lin, who was trained as a chemical engineer, launched KiwiCo in 2011 to make learning STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) skills fun. Ordinarily, families can order the crates as monthly subscription boxes; KiwiCo says it has shipped 15 million crates since its launch.

[Photo: KiwiCo]
KiwiCo has designed 1,500 different projects, and the brand credits its in-house design lab for much of its success. A team of educational experts, engineers, and designers create each kit, which are then tested by real kids in what is known as the Kid’s Design Council. Under normal circumstances, dozens of kids would go to the KiwiCo headquarters each week to test the boxes at every stage of the design process. Since social distancing began, KiwiCo has had kids review the products at home and provide feedback.

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To me, it’s comforting to have a couple of educational activities up my sleeve for my daughter during this seemingly interminable period when she’s out of school and stuck with parents who have no knowledge about early childhood development.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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