Letterbox Lab

Letterbox Lab

If your child is showing signs of becoming the next Isaac Newton or Ada Lovelace then you might be interested in what Letterbox Lab has to offer. Many of us were put off the topic of science in school by dreary teachers droning on about electrons, neutrons, and protons with only ancient textbooks to support the lesson. This is a great shame, however, as anyone who has gone on to study science further knows (and the creators of Letterbox Lab clearly want us to understand) science is actually really great fun.

Letterbox Lab was developed by husband and wife team, Dr. Bryan Hatton and Mia Hatton, who met and bonded over their love of science. Like many scientists, the Hattons recognised the need to inspire future generations to take science further. They wanted to provide a way of enabling children to carry out simple experiments in their own home, without having the stress of sourcing materials and equipment. The result was Letterbox Lab.

At A Glance Info
What's in the box? Materials and equipment for children's science experiments
How often does it come? One off, monthly or every two months
How much? The Explore Box: From £7.99
The Investigate Box: From £21.99
Do prices include postage? No - add 89p for Explore Box or £2.57 for Investigate Box
Sent from UK
Website www.letterboxlab.com

Letterbox Lab Review

By Emma (Spring 2017)

Letterbox Lab Boxes Spring 2017

As a Mum to a very inquisitive boy with a thirst for all things science related, I was pleased to be given the opportunity to test out the boxes available from Letterbox Lab. I received both the Explorer Box and the Investigate Box, and both boxes arrived the day after they were dispatched. As the name Letterbox Lab implies, both boxes easily fit through my letterbox, so there was no danger of missing a delivery and having to retrieve the box from the local sorting office.

The Explore Box

Explore Box Spring 2017

The Explore Box is aimed at children aged 6 and above. My initial first impressions were positive. The packaging seemed to be of good quality and decorated with science motifs, such as rockets, dinosaurs, and planets. This instantly attracted the attention of my son, Thomas, and resulted in him wanting to open the box straight away to see what was inside.

Before we opened the box, I went online to check out the resources that had been provided via a link that had been emailed to me. I would definitely recommend that parents do this before using the box, as there are videos of the experiments that show you how each one should work.

What We Received

Explore Box Equipment

The box contained all the equipment we needed to do three experiments, packaged in one bag. Along with the equipment bag there was a sheet with safety information for parents and a work booklet with questions and information on how to do the experiments. The booklet seemed to be well thought out, with lots of tips and hints, as well as suggestions for how to explore the topic further. There was also a sticker for the child to be awarded with at the end of the experiments, which I thought was a nice touch!

The Experiments

Thomas in his Rainbow Glasses

My son, Thomas, and I set to work on the experiments. The first experiment involved using chromatography paper and salt water to explore how colours are created. The second experiment used diffraction lenses to create glasses that split light into the colours of the rainbow. The final experiment used a spinning top and coloured discs to explore colours and light further.

In total, we spent about an hour on these experiments. What I liked most about the activities was how visual they were, allowing children to see scientific ideas in action. They also held Thomas’s attention very well and the activities encouraged him to ask numerous questions about the concepts that we were exploring. He was able to complete each task with minimal support. He was particularly enthralled by the rainbow glasses, and spent a good half an hour after the experiment testing out every light in the house with them.

The Investigate Box

Investigate Box Spring 2017

The Investigate Box is recommended for children aged 8 and above. It contains everything that is in the Explore Box, and items for additional experiments. As with Explore Box, the packaging was of good quality with a vibrant design. Again, I had also received an email and password for some additional online resources that I found to be very helpful.

What We Received

Experiments in the Investigate Box

The contents of the box were helpfully divided up into bags for each experiment. I thought this was useful, as it meant I could simply pull out the bag for each activity, rather than rummage through a box full of different equipment.

There was a noticeable difference between the contents of the Investigate Box and Explore Box. The Investigate Box looked and felt a lot more substantial, and on first impression it really does appear that it is worth the difference in price. The box contained equipment for six experiments in total. The first three experiments were exactly the same as those found in the Explore Box. The additional experiments built on the same theme.

We also received a work booklet, which again, was presented well and encouraged further thinking. In addition, the box contained additional safety equipment. There were safety goggles, that my son loved, and several pairs of safety gloves. The gloves were all of a small size, clearly meant for children, however, I feel that it would have been helpful to include a pair of adult sized gloves for parents in order to enable them to support their child to complete the experiments. A reward badge was also included.

The Experiments

The 4th experiment in the Investigate Box

The first three experiments in the box were the same as those found in the Explore Box, which is covered above. The fourth experiment used food colouring and sugar to explore how different solutions interacted with one another. The fifth experiment used a chemical reaction between two common household ingredients to inflate a balloon. The final experiment combined two chemicals in water to create gloopy worm-like objects.

My son is considerably younger than the recommended age of the Investigate Box, so for the purpose of the review, I did the experiments and he watched. Despite not helping, he still remained engaged with the activities, which took about two hours in total. Again, I was very impressed with the visual nature of the experiments and Thomas was particularly amazed by the inflating balloon.

Overall Impressions

Thomas Balloon

Generally, I was very impressed with the contents of both boxes. The Explore Box offers a fun way to pass an hour or two, and I think it offers exceptional value for money, given that it is only a few pounds more than a typical children’s activity magazine, and yet offers substantially more. The Investigate Box is certainly worth its higher price, particularly as it comes with additional, reusable equipment, such as the safety goggles.

All of the activities held my son’s attention very well, which is not an easy task, and he gave it a “two thumbs up” which is generally reserved for pizza and chocolate treats! It also got the seal of approval from Thomas’s tamed physicist, AKA, “Daddy” who is a STEM Ambassador, and who was very impressed with the quality and presentation of the boxes.

How Does It Work

You can subscribe to Letterbox Lab on a monthly basis or bi-monthly for the age 8+ years box. There is no commitment to the subscription, and payment is taken monthly before each box ships, so you can cancel at any time. There are currently 12 boxes in the series for each age group, and if you do cancel your subscription part way through, you can go back at any time and restart with the next box in the series.

What Do You Get?

Each box contains a number of activities that explore various concepts in science. One of the key aims of the Hattons when creating Letterbox Lab was to ensure that everything you need to do the activities is contained in the box. Therefore, along with the activity worksheets you will find various pieces of typical science lab equipment, such as petri-dishes and pipettes, as well as the ingredients needed for the experiment. The boxes also contain equipment that can be kept for future activities, such as safety goggles and scissors.

When your box is dispatched, you will receive an email to inform you, and the email contains a link and password to access additional resources online. These resources include video guides to each of the experiments, as well as suggestions for further experiments that build on the knowledge that your child develops from the box activities. You can also access documents that outline how the boxes link with the national curriculum.

Options

When you sign up to Letterbox Lab you need to choose which series of boxes to subscribe to. The Explore Box is aimed at children aged 6 and up, and contains enough equipment to keep your child busy for about an hour. For example, the first box in the series, contains everything you need to do three different experiments.

For older children, aged 8 and above, you can choose the Investigate Box. Both the Explore Box and the Investigate Box follow the same theme each month, and therefore the Investigate Box contains everything that comes in the Explore Box, plus a lot more. There are more experiments to do, and additional lab equipment for collecting is included.

Examples

The boxes contain experiments that explore scientific facts and theories in a manner that appeals to children. For example, one experiment explores how light is made up of multiple colours by using glasses with special lenses, whilst another explores chemical reactions by creating slimy strings that resemble worms.

Prices

The Explore Box costs £7.99 if you subscribe on a monthly basis. This is reduced to £7.59 per box if you pay for three boxes in advance. You can also purchase an Explore box on a one-off basis for £8.99.

The Investigate Box costs £21.99 when purchased as part of a monthly subscription, reducing to £20.89 for payment for three boxes in advance. The Investigate Box is also available to purchase on a one-off basis for £23.99.