KiwiCo Panda Crate Discover With Me Review: Worth it?

kiwico discover with me panda crate

Wondering if KiwiCo's Panda Crate “Discover With Me” for 18 to 24 month olds is worth it? I'm sharing what parents can expect in this crate from the STEAM 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.

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

What is KiwiCo?

KiwiCo is a STEAM based toy/activity company for 0 month to 111 years old! They have several lines of “crates” targeting the various age ranges and interests.

Their Panda Crate is specifically for 0-24 month olds. They partnered with the experts at Seattle Children's Hospital to develop and bring developmentally appropriate, research back toys straight 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's Panda Crate line in this post or check out their website here!

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

  1. Animal Puzzles – Four wooden peg pieces in a nontoxic paint with animals and numbers on one side, and a nature scene on the back
  2. Peek-A-Boo Base – wooden base for the puzzle pieces. One side has a colored dot to visually guide the child to match the correct numbers in order, the other side is for the nature scene. When your child pushes down on one peg puzzle piece, another pops up in the base.
  3. Animal match up – Set of four 2-piece animal matching cards featuring a “mama” and “baby” bird, bunny, dog, and cat.
  4. Pop-Up Roller – Child learns cause-and-effect as colored tabs move with gravity when you roll it
  5. Where's Poppy – Hide and seek board book
  6. Hide-and-Seek Mat – a foldable canvas mat with a nature scene providing several sensory and fine motor experiences with 3 wooden animals to use on it.
  7. 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
  8. 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

The previous version of this Panda Crate didn't have the pop-up roller but a rocking seesaw with animals, and the wood animals were felt:

kiwico panda crate discover with me old

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

KiwiCo's Book Recommendations:

For working on the “cause-and-effect” concept these are the books they recommend “beyond the crate:”

My initial thoughts upon opening this Panda Crate:

When I first unboxed the “Discover With Me” Panda Crate from KiwiCo I was actually really excited! Most of the items are wood and feel really high quality.

I was definitely skeptical though, my daughter was basically 2 years old by the time we got this Crate (so the end of the Panda Crate range) and the roller toy seemed like a baby toy, not a toddler toy by any means.

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

My daughter saw the box and got so excited here's our initial impression of each item:

Hide-and-Seek Mat:

She immediately went for the canvas Hide-and-Seek bag thanks to it's adorable puppy face. I think this was probably her favorite item initially. However upon opening it I realized it was actually pretty poorly made.

First, the door on the far left panel uses a bungee to create a “button loop” which my daughter immediately hacked and instead just left it latched while holding the door away from the canvas backing to hide and play with an animal. Plus any slight movement to the mat, caused whatever animal was hidden in there to fall out.

Second, the canvas isn't heavy enough to make this a particular nice experience for toddlers. Everything kept sliding out and around or getting crushed. I suppose that's a cause-and-effect experience in itself, but it just felt sloppy to me.

Third, I initially thought this would make a great car/travel toy since the middle house section is actually a functional pocket to hide the wooden animals in. However, because it's four panels wide, it actually is too long for a toddler to use in their lap. I'd prefer if this was more like a standard folder.

She would get frustrated opening this by herself (the nose of the dog is another bungee button situation), but I showed it to her twice and she's been able to do it since. The first week we had it she took it out multiple times and played with it for quite a few hours. However within a week it was left untouched. It's been about 3 months now and she hasn't touched it since. With that said, I do think she will oddly enough enjoy this toy as she gets closer to 3 and can hold the canvas down more. She's very organized in her play so I think that bothered her.

Peek-A-Boo Base and Puzzle

This was probably my daughters favorite item overall from the crate as she played with it the longest. It was certainly my favorite item.

The base and puzzle pieces fit into a canvas bag which is nice. She LOVES counting, so the numbers were a nice touch too. And she thought the cause and effect of the pop-up puzzle pieces was hysterical.

Animal Match-Up Cards

These were pretty basic and my daughter had no interest in them initially.

She understood the matching concept but it was too easy. Instead she just kept saying “mommy” and “baby” and then would put them down.

I started playing with it and matching up the other items in this kit like the puzzle pieces and the wooden animals from the mat. That seemed to interest her more as she saw how they were all represented. We were able to visually show 4 bunnies using all the pieces, 3 birds using all the bird pieces, 2 cats using just 2 cat pieces, and 1 dog using just the wooden peg.

We also played a memory matching game with them turned upside down. That's something I've done with her for about a year using homemade matching cards. These worked well for it and I anticipate she'll continue to use them over the next year like this the most.

Pop-Up Roller

Yep, my initial impression was DEAD ON. This is a toy for a baby. Even when I tried rolling it for her she laughed at it once and had no interest in it. The peg pieces rotate to easily on their own for this to be interesting for a toddler IMO.

Where's Poppy Book:

My daughter does enjoy this book! Mostly because she loves counting and hide and seek. So it's been a hit!

Amazon Dupes:

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

  1. Stick Puzzles – These come in a few patterns (Transportation, Animals, and Dinosaurs) and all cost about $14.
  2. Peek-A-Boo Base – There are a few options for this averaging about $17. This one is definitely a bit more Montessori aligned, but I'd probably get the fire truck or school bus version because my daughter LOVES cars and I think it'll make this last a bit longer.
  3. Animal match up – I found this mommy-baby 2 piece puzzle set that I think is a GREAT alternative. It uses real life animal photos (more montessori), works fine motor skills (puzzle), and cognitive skills (matching mom and baby). Similarly to how we used the cards (turned upside down for matching) in theory you could try that with the puzzle pieces as well! (~$13)
  4. Pop-Up Roller – ~$15
  5. Hide and seek board book – Board books like this generally cost around $8. Personally, I suggest this 4 pack of books. It's not really a story, but it's montessori style lift flap books that cover all sorts of things so you can “play” hide and seek with your kids while encouraging language. We have them and my daughter LOVES them! You can explore hide and seek style books here, or check out the recommended reads KiwiCo suggests to complement this crate:
  6. Hide-and-Seek Mat – Not a “mat” but a nice wooden board with magnets (~16)
  7. Cause-and-Effect activity mats: If the idea of this crate is “cause-and-effect” then I think this no mess aquatic splash mat will work fine – though it's more suited for babies during tummy time. What I think toddlers will enjoy more than the KiwiCo option is this car/city play mat. It folds up to about the size of KiwiCo's and comes with cars (~$25). If you want more of a “busy board” check out my favorite Busy Boards for Toddlers & Babies!

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

Amazon Dupes would cost about $83-92 depending on which versions you purchased. Cost of this crate is about $40 (but you can get a discount when you click here). So financially it's a good deal.

With that said, you do get more bang for your buck with the Amazon dupes. For instance, the $14 stick puzzles come with 6 puzzles inside.

This crate definitely seems better suited for 12-18 month olds, not 2 year olds. But if you get creative with the stick puzzles and match cards I think some of the items can be repurposed for longer term use.

I like that all of the items in this Panda Crate are canvas or wood and really well made too.

If you're looking for the cheapest high quality toys for your baby or toddler, then I think this is a good buy. If you're looking for the most montessori or longest lasting items, then I'd probably skip it.

Wondering what comes in the KiwiCo Panda Crate line? Sharing a look inside the UPDATED 2021 "Discover 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!