KiwiCo’s Panda Crate: “Look With Me” Review: Worth It?

What comes inside KiwiCo's Panda Crate “Look With Me” for 18 to 24 month olds? I'm sharing what parents can expect from the STEM subscription toy delivery service for toddlers in this post! Including my initial thoughts, my daughter's impressions, whether or not I think it's worth it, and what it would cost to source these items individually from Amazon. Plus, how KiwiCo has UPDATED this Panda Crate from 2020 to 2021!

Table of Contents

Watch KiwiCo Panda Crate “Look With Me” Review On Youtube:

What is KiwiCo?

KiwiCo is a STEM based toy/activity company for 0 month to 111 years old! They have several lines of “crates” targeting the various age ranges. Their Panda Crate is specifically for 0-24 month olds whom they partnered with the experts at Seattle Children's Hospital to develop and bring developmentally appropriate, research back toys to your door.

The older KiwiCo crate lines focus more on activities, but Panda Crate really focuses on toys that can be used for toddler activities. Learn more about KiwiCo in this post or check out their website here!

What comes inside the KiwiCo Panda Crate “Look With Me” For 18-24 months:

KiwiCo themes the Panda Crate's to focus on a particular skill. For instance, the first Panda Crate we received from them was called “Count With Me” and focused on early quantitative concepts and numbers. The “Solve With Me” Crate comes in the 18-24 month old range of the Panda Crate line, and focuses on on problem solving with puzzles and identifying shapes and solving puzzles. This crate focuses on visual tracking.

Inside the “Look With Me” Panda Crate from KiwiCo (2021 Update):

  1. Wood Rainbow – Three piece wooden set of nesting arches with the smallest arch being solid (no opening)
  2. Ramp Racer – wooden ramp and wooden ball (ball can be used with Wood rainbow too!)
  3. Butterfly Drop – Wooden window with pegs and wood butterfly to drop down and watch how it falls in different directions (this is a new item included in the update, previously it included some felt add on pieces that worked with the ramp and a 2 piece puzzle that matched the wood rainbow)
  4. Poppy's Duck Chase – Board book visually tracking a duckling on the loose!
  5. Spin and slide wooden board – Double sided wooden board with a slide and multiple style spinning pieces
  6. Beyond the Crate Cards – explanation of the items, ways to utilize them with your child, plus more at-home activity ideas to explore shapes and puzzles with everyday household items
  7. Wonder Magazine – a booklet explaining more about where your child is at developmentally as it relates to visual tracking at this stage, a song to sing, and a link to more resources for bringing the concept of this crate to life

All of KiwiCo's Panda Crates also come with a link to a page on their website with more book recommendations and other tips.

For working on the “shapes” concept these are the books they recommend “beyond the crate:”

My initial thoughts upon opening this Panda Crate:

When I first unboxed the “Look With Me” Panda Crate from KiwiCo I was actually excited for the first time! But then felt a little skeptical (per usual). I kept an open mind since I'd been so wrong about past Panda Crates though…

I was most excited about the wood rainbow and the ramp racer. I've always wanted a wood rainbow, but felt skeptical towards KiwiCo's since it's only 3 pieces, compared to ones on Amazon that are 12 pieces. The other thing I noticed was the smallest piece was solid wood – not open like the ones on Amazon.

Either way, I knew my skepticism has been proven wrong with each Panda Crate – so I kept an open mind and brought the toys to my daughter…

Mom + Toddler's Impressions of the “Look With Me” Crate: Is it REALLY worth it?

My daughter saw the box and got SO excited.

She immediately gravitated towards the Butterfly drop… which was an item I thought was kind of silly/pointless. I mean, don't get me wrong, I remember enjoying items like that as a kid… but other than dropping the butterfly down, what else can you do with it?

So while she played with that, I rolled the ball down the ramp. She then joined me for a few minutes but went back to the butterfly drop.

I got bored rolling the ball down the ramp after a few minutes, so I decided to take the wood rainbow and set up a little track. Afterwards, I realized this is what they suggest doing with the items in the “Beyond the Crate” cards. In setting up my little race track I realized the solid small piece was actually intended to be a “stopper.”

Once I started rolling the ball down the ramp and through the rainbow pieces, my daughter rejoined me and had a total blast. She kept trying to set up the rainbow pieces when they'd topple over. I also attempted to lay them on their sides to create a winding course. Once I started doing that though she went back to her Butterfly drop, ha!

So of course, the item I thought was kind of silly, once again she LOVED.

I think she'll continue to play with the wood rainbow, ramp, and ball for years (like 7 or 8?) since they work well with our wooden block set and encourage open ended play. I think the Butterfly Drop will probably be a toy she plays with on-and-off until about 3 (maybe 3.5 years old?).

The spin-and-slide board is definitely the item she's engaged with the least so far. In retrospect, I think she just preferred the other three toys. She's had her moments with it, but it's never captivated her like the other toys. Personally, I think this will work well as a car toy (since it's all one piece and about the size of an adult male palm) or will work well for baby. I don't see this toy holding her attention/getting a ton of play past 2.5 years old. I'm currently pregnant and think this toy will actually work better for the baby, than for my toddler so I'm hopeful we'll still get some use out of it.

Lastly, the board book in this crate is just okay. This is the first board book from KiwiCo we received that my daughter only asked me to read for like a day. Normally she has me read the book over and over for at least a week. She likes it alright, but doesn't love it. The concept of the book is really to trace the trail the duckling is running away on, so it's definitely a bigger concept to grasp compared to previous books (tracing shapes or numbers). What I mean by that is shapes are always the same. But the visual tracking aspect of following the path in the book changes on each page, making it more of an abstract concept since it changes on each page. For that reason, I think it's a book she'll grow to like more and more, but it's a slow start so far.

How much would it cost to get these items on Amazon instead?

  1. Wood Rainbow – $15 (normally $40)
  2. Ramp Racer – There's nothing quite as simple as KiwiCo's… so in terms of finding a comparable visual tracking wooden “racer” this one is $25. Personally, my daughter is obsessed with cars so I'd say she'd get more out of the one I linked (I'm not getting it because we already have a wooden race track from Lovevery). For that reason, I actually prefer/love the uniqueness of KiwiCo's. Like I said, I believe it's a nice “add on” piece for block sets that'll grow with the child.
  3. Board Book $7 (based on previously linked books and what I'm about to share…) – So there's nothing quite like KiwiCo's… but when I think about the “purpose” of this book (engage visual tracking), I decided to go off their “I Spy” book recommendation… but add the trail/movement component of the book in this Crate and came up with this book of maze's for 2+ year olds. My daughter is already really good at “I Spy” while reading books, so I thought the visual tracking of movement throughout a page would be a fun concept to add into the mix.
  4. Butterfly Drop – Nothing exactly like KiwiCo's again (they basically created a super simple Plink for 1 year olds IMO) – but instead I found this game which is actually recommended for 2 year olds (though I think it'll last muchhhh longer) for $32. I actually prefer it to KiwiCo's because it teaches an actual game, color sorting, and the coins can be repurposed for other fine motor activities. This is another option (slightly cheaper) that I've seen suggested on Amazon a ton of times. It definitely works “visual tracking” and fine motor skills, and I like that the drop pieces can be repurposed for stacking, rolling, and other open ended play opportunities. But I don't see this lasting much past 3 years old, whereas the other one I linked, I can see an 8 year old playing with it.
  5. Spin-and-Slide Board – Okay a few options/thoughts here since – again – nothing exactly like KiwiCo's… which isn't a bad thing since I don't think KiwiCo's is great…

Option 1: Soft busy boards. These are going to typically run you between $15-50 dollars… they are great for car rides or appointments since they are typically the size of a folder and slide easily into a diaper backpack or tote purse. Most have everything connected into one singular piece. And they work a variety of skills typically from buttoning, to tying, to zipping, and more.

Option 2: Wood busy boards. They come in a ton of styles and will typically cost you anywhere from $20-160. They aren't great for car trips or travel since the wood tends to make them heavy. But they are all one piece and work a variety of skills. This is the exact one we have.

With that said, here are the exact one's I'd recommend that are most similar to KiwiCo's (but I think will last longer):

Option 1: $13 – Small (2 in x 2 in and only a half a pound) makes it easy to take on car trips. It has a few sides, including the gears like KiwiCo's and a fun little hourglass for visual tracking.

Option 2: $15 – Spinning gears like KiwiCo's, but also has opportunities for teaching shapes and colors without being too overwhelming. Also small/light enough to travel with. Unlike the previous option though, the pieces can all become loose/go missing.

Honestly though, there are so many busy board options out there at every price range that are far more engaging than KiwiCo's… So just think about what things are important to you when choosing one!

Is KiwiCo's Panda Crate “Look With Me” worth it?

If you were to buy these items individually off Amazon you'd be looking at around $80 – which is twice the cost of this Panda Crate from KiwiCo. So financially it's a good deal.

While I don't think every single item in this Panda Crate was a hit, I think the ones that are worthwhile will last for years, so it balances out for me. Plus I'm pregnant, and the one major “dud” item I think will work great for baby.

Out of all the KiwiCo Panda Crate's we've received so far, I'd say this was the “concept/skill” (visual tracking) I felt the least excited about. Not that it's bad, but it just feels like a filler concept and filler toys. I'm not mad we spent money on it, since I'd always held off on getting a wooden rainbow knowing eventually one would find it way into our home… but if we already had a wooden rainbow I think I may have been more disappointed. Either way, any items that you don't like always make fabulous high quality gifts so I think KiwiCo is worthwhile!

Wondering what comes in the KiwiCo Panda Crate line? Sharing a look inside the UPDATED 2021 "Look With Me" Crate that ships between 18-24 months. Discover if the STEM + montessori inspired toy subscription service delivered to your door is worth it!