What’s the Best STEM Subscription Box for Kids?

boy checking the mail
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Curious about a STEM subscription box for kids? There’s a lot of different monthly mailing services out there.  From Stitch Fix Kid’s fashion boxes to the Unicorn Dream Box subscription service for unicorn lovers (Yes –  that’s a real thing).  The options are varied and endless (and sometimes a little bit odd).  If you’re looking to commit to one for your child as a gift or to keep them engaged during this extra time at home, how do you choose?  The selection can be overwhelming.

To help us decide, let’s take a look at what the business world likes to call a Return on Investment (ROI).  What are you, and more importantly your child, getting from the subscription box service you’re investing your money in?  What are you getting in return for your extra cost?  Is that subscription box going to make your child a smarter, more confident participant in school?  Is it going to make them critically question the world around them and how it works?  Is that first order going to potentially ready your child for a lucrative career?

Or maybe you’re just getting them the best-dressed spot in the seventh-grade yearbook and another sparkly unicorn keychain?  Yikes. Is this what we’re paying for every month?

Thimble is confident our subscription box, with its many great features, will give you as a parent the best possible return on your investment for your pre-teen or teen.

What makes Thimble the Best Subscription Box for Kids Ages 9-18?

1) Packages from Thimble are a quarterly surprise!boy opens kit of technical components

Kids love mail.  There’s no doubt about that.  Even that empty birthday card from Great Aunt Mildred brings a smile to their face.  So imagine the excitement when their first box of discovery and design challenges arrives on the doorstep with their name on it.  The three months between your deliveries are packed with online classes, self-paced discovery, and substantial new projects.  By the time the next box comes, they’ve successfully created something incredible with their own two hands and exercised their brains while they’re at it!  The mailman isn’t just delivering packages – he’s delivering experiences.

2) Our themed STEM subscription boxes have a niche focus on engineering, coding, robotics, and video game design.

soldering an Arduino board

Robots and video games have been designed for kids for years, but they’re way cooler when they’re designed BY kids.  These kits have great activities that will get your child practicing the basic skills needed to excel in engineering and computer science – two jobs that have growing industry needs!  Though each course and box has a different theme from others, some focusing on robotics, while others focus on coding and video-game technology, all of the boxes utilize basic STEM skills like engineering, coding, programming, and robotics.

3) Thimble teaches kids to combine hardware and software.

boy makes app to move his robot

Hardware?  Software?  What’s the difference?  The term hardware refers to the physical components you can hold in your hands.  Think mouse, keyboard, computer, or electrode.  The term software is referring to the coding or programming that makes those pieces of hardware work.  Hardware does nothing without software.  Our courses teach kids how to bridge the gap between both worlds.  It helps them answer the age-old question, “How does that work?” Curious? Learn more about our STEM subscription box. 

4) Remote learning is the new black.

Our boxes are coupled with instructional videos and live classes that offer the benefit of remote learning.  This is more important now than ever as the recent coronavirus outbreak has pushed more and more parents into work from home settings.  School districts are adopting hybrid and at home, synchronous schooling models that Thimble kits compliment phenomenally.  This at-home schooling format may be robbing kids of some of the meaningful, active learning that would be taking place in their school’s Makerspaces.  (A Makerspace is a dedicated lab where kids use their hands and brains to solve real-world problems with engineering, building, coding, art and so much more.)  Thimble can bring that hands-on learning right into your home with our monthly kits.  The enrichment opportunities are great!

5) Thimble’s curriculum is self-paced and pressure-free!

stress free girl

Though we offer live interactive classes biweekly, each kit is accompanied by step by step instructions and videos that allow learners to work on their projects anytime, or anywhere, at their own pace.  This no-pressure technique makes for less anxiety and makes learning feel like a hobby, rather than direct instruction.  They reach milestones and draw conclusions on their own without deadlines, allowing them to really take ownership of the successes.

6) Thimble curriculum is well-thought-out and carefully balanced.

next generation science standards

Considerable time and thought were put into the development of Thimble’s curriculum.  Users start at the beginning and travel to higher tiers of skillsets as they progress from kit to kit.  Not only is this spiraling curriculum comprehensive and well-planned by technology experts, but it also aligns with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and New York Computer Science Standards. The specific order of our educational activities is meant to reinforce the basics, and then have learners pull those skills back out again with each progressive course. Learn more on our website!

7) Our courses are made for beginners. (Thank goodness!)

girl building stem subscription box project

Though the age range we recommend is 9-18, kids of all ages should start with our first course. It’s made for beginners and focuses on the bare basics of engineering and computer science.  Everyone needs to start somewhere.  Students as young as 9 can start with Course 101.  They learn fundamental skills by completing several basic builds.  Those fun activities are actually going to be the initial successes that keep your little protege interested in continuing through the curriculum. As the courses progress, participants will eventually be independently mastering some college-level engineering and computer science skills.

8) Thimble kits are reusable.

kids playing with stem subscription box

There are many STEM and science-based toys and on the market for kids of every age.  There are even geography-based boxes, like Little Passports.  What sets Thimble’s box apart is that it has figured out how to avoid the “one and done” result.  Most are designed for one-time use, while our kits can be used over and over again to make multiple projects. This simply adds to your return on investment, as Thimble proves to be the gift that keeps on giving.

9) Our box sets are interconnected and promote creative thinking.

electronics components

In addition to making multiple projects with one box, the kits themselves have pieces and parts that can connect to other Thimble kits.  Even LEGO can be incorporated to jazz up some of these builds.  Talk about thinking “outside of the box.”  (See what I did there?)

Designing the kits so that they can be interconnected or added onto with other project pieces promotes creative thinking.  Kids will wonder how they can make last month’s project bigger and better with the new pieces they just got in the mail. This leads your kids to have independent question and answer sessions with themselves, and trust us when we tell you that that kind of self-motivated learning is what we really hope to provide for recipients of our monthly boxes.  It’s the return on your investment that we’re hoping you start to see in your very first month. Learn more here!

10) Live, bi-weekly instruction from seasoned, knowledgeable teachers.

teacher teaching kids online

According to data interpreted from code.org, only 20 states have adopted a policy to give all high school students access to Computer Science courses. Only 8 of those 20 give all K-12 students access. Newsflash: This is a huge problem not just for our kids, but for our future workforce

Only 20 states have adopted a policy to give all high school students access to CS curriculum, and only 8 of those 20 give access to all K-12 students. Thimble wants their <mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark><mark>subscription boxes</mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark></mark> to help bridge the gap in Computer Science opportunities.

This also means it’s possible, and even likely, that there isn’t quality engineering or computer science instruction going on in your child’s school. Thimble’s live classes not only afford your learner the opportunity to show off her latest creation to fellow kit recipients in a live setting but also allows her to interact and ask questions to someone with solid, technical knowledge.

Computer Science Education Week promotes the philosophy that “Every 21st-century child should have the opportunity to learn about algorithms, how to make an app, or how the internet works, just like they learn about photosynthesis, the digestive system, or electricity.”

If your school lacks the resources to give your child STEM and computer science opportunities, someone is going to have to step up and do it!  Hint: It’s us. We’re someone. And we’d love to step up and do it!

11) Zoom bombing sessions with “celebrities” of the tech world.

Thimble celebrates World Create Day

Not only do we want our users to develop a love for STEM learning, but we want them to see the doors that these skills could open for them in the future.  For that reason, we like to have the occasional Zoom celebrity guest from companies like Nintendo, Minecraft, or Apple pop into our live classes and really fire up our students.  Sharing their professional success in a company whose face is recognizable to children around the world is motivating.

Speakers talk about their passion projects and what it took for them to get where they are now.  Zoom participants can be a part of Q & A sessions and get one-on-one attention.  (Kids love attention more than they love bottle flipping. It’s a fact. Sort of.)  We’ve had parents come back to us to tell us that their kids were talking about celebrity Zoom bombs for weeks afterward. It’s understandable.  Imagine if Beyonce popped into your next department Zoom meeting: Mind. Blown.

12) Your child will become part of a youth-engineering community that embraces different cultures.

Our Zoom classes create a dynamic community of global learners.  We’ve taught subscribers in all 50 states, as well as 40 different countries.  We have passionate, tinkering kids from Australia, Asia, Canada, the US, and more.  Their passion for their projects is infectious – and it shows.  Kids can proudly show off their ideas about how they individually used their kit to make different things.  Kids then collaborate to brainstorm other ways they could utilize those project pieces.  They brainstorm ideas and before you know it, there’s a virtual Makerspace in your dining room.

13) Bonus Perk:

 This is an infographic with text stating a data point published by ACT in 2017. It says: on average, first-generation college students who are from a racial/ethnic minority group and a low-income family are sixteen times less likely to be ready for credit-bearing STEM coursework in college than the group of students who are not considered underserved.

Image Source: STEM Education in the U.S. 2017

Thimble was dreamed up and built by a founder of color who wants nothing more than to make engineering, robotics, and coding accessible to kids from every background, race, gender, and socioeconomic demographic. It’s because of this desire that Thimble works with underserved communities and schools by granting scholarships.  We believe that those scholarships are a tool that can bridge the financial gaps for students without access to adequate STEM instruction in their home districts.  As little as 2% of 2017 high school graduates who are considered underserved met the ACT Benchmarks in STEM.  It is important to us at Thimble that all kids should have the option to consider STEM without barriers. Check us out here. 🙂

kids at a makerspace with stem subscription box

Our Favorite STEM Enthusiast Subscription Services

In our research and networking (and general unhealthy obsession) with the STEM learning community, we’ve discovered some of the best monthly subscription boxes geared towards science, technology, engineering, and math.  There are boxes, kits, and crates for kids of all ages.  Let’s break down some of our all-time faves (drumroll please):

“Best Box for Coding” Award goes to Bitsbox

Bitsbox is a great STEM subscription box that helps kids build their own apps through code.  Just like Thimble, Bitsbox uses a spiraling curriculum that starts kids with no experience at the beginning of the coding path and teaches them the basics first.  They choose what kind of app they’d like to create, and Bitsbox sends them instructions to create it.  This service is designed for an age range of around 6 years old to 12 years old.  They get a nod from us for their concentration on coding and app creation.

“Best Box for Chemistry” Award goes to MEL Science

MEL Science subscription boxes are designed to send 2-3 science experiments per month right to your front door.  They offer 24 different chemistry sets ranging in topic from things like chemical reactions and colors to motion and thermal effects.  Each experiment is safe and age-appropriate.  Chemistry is an important part of the STEM spectrum and MEL Science gets a nod from us for their concentration on chemistry and physics.

“Best Box for Young Kids” Award goes to Kiwico.

Though they offer some variation of kits for older kids, Kiwico by far outruns the competition in a race to the cradle.  There are Kiwi Crates created specifically for children as young as 0-24 months.  You heard us right.  Subscription boxes for babies.  Their adorable Panda crate offers discovery toys and activities for children 0-24 months, while their Koala crate can amuse the average preschooler with an age recommendation of 2-4 years old. These boxes focus on the natural curiosity at that age and promote healthy early childhood development with interactive play.

The important thing to think about when choosing a subscription box for your pre-teen or teen is your return on investment.  The rate of return on a Thimble STEM subscription box is high – and paid directly to your child in active, meaningful learning experiences.  Whether you plan to commit to the option of a month or go all out with a twelve-month subscription somewhere, just make sure you get what you pay for.

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  • Subscribers get to be among the first to see the latest greatest products, learn about upcoming Thimble events, and have access to the hottest tech projects and lessons.
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