Guest Blogger from Embassy Ghana: 
Surprise Ride is a kids' discovery box, containing two thematic activities, and a related book, snack, and extra goodies. The box itself is cute and sturdy, and definitely has potential for other uses, especially for kids who are always looking for new places to stash their valuables.

The theme for our box was temperature, exploring the differences between hot and cold through two activities: 1) creating a potholder, and 2) making a blender-free fruit slushy. It also included some fun (and related) little extras that interested the kids, namely: a hot/cold gel pack, reusable star-shaped ice cubes, a "magic" spoon that turns from green to red when cold, a Planes: Fire and Rescue book (ages 8-12), and decent (not-the-most-unhealthy) microwave popcorn. A handy guide and instructions were included as well.

We did the two activities with two 6 1/2 -year-olds - which may be a bit on the young side, but works with adult involvement. I could tell the potholder making might be a little complicated (at least for me), and not likely to hold the attention of two kids, so we opted to try the slushy-making activity first. Essentially, this involves making a fruit slushy with water and a pack of instant lemonade in one plastic bag, inside a larger plastic bag containing ice cubes and salt (bags, lemonade packet, and salt all provided). You seal both bags and shake for 10 minutes. This is a loooong time to shake ice, so adult involvement was definitely necessary - but it definitely makes the point about cold temperature and makes you really appreciate all the work that the blender does. :-)

However, we ran into a technical malfunction on this activity - after 8 minutes of shaking, the outer bag split at the bottom, and melted ice and salt ended up EVERYWHERE. To be clear, the bag did not open at the top, but SPLIT entirely open across the bottom. Lesson learned, if you find yourself miles from a blender and in a desperate bind to make a fruit slushy shaking by hand, do use Ziploc (or similar quality) freezer bags - not the off-brand bags that were provided in this box. Despite the mess, thankfully the slushy was at a good consistency after 8 minutes to still be enjoyed.

We also used the "magic" spoon to scoop the slushy into cups, and it was neat to see it turn red from contact with the ice. The kids had fun experimenting with other cold objects, and placing it in the freezer to see the entire spoon turn red. (Though I'm not sure if I would agree with the "Surprise Facts" sheet that describes the color change being caused by a solvent and red dye on the spoon.)
The potholder activity involves one of those square plastic looms and nylon fabric loops that you weave across in one direction, and then weave over and under from the other direction in a grid pattern to form a small square potholder. My daughter is an emerging loom bander, so she was all about weaving on this one. The nylon loops are stretchy and easy to work with, though complicated slightly by different thicknesses and textures. Once all the loops are in place, the tricky part is interlocking the sides with the hook provided - and as one who has never been a knitter or needlepointer, I was not super-helpful with the tool, and ultimately had to invoke the hubby to help improvise. In the end, we had a cute little potholder, and almost enough loops to make a second one of similar size. The loom did not seem to be of the greatest quality (but again, I am inexperienced in these things), though worth keeping for future use.

All in all, this was a decent kit that provided some good entertainment for two 6 1/2 -year-olds. I'm not totally sure what the target age group is for this box, given that the hot/cold lesson is a bit basic even for this age group - while at the same time, adult involvement is definitely needed for both activities. You could easily create this or similar lessons yourself, but I can appreciate that this puts it all together for you. If you compare this to the many kids' science experiment kits that are available, this is probably a much more effective and targeted way to actually do the experiments, and stay focused on a specific lesson. Lord knows we have had plenty of other science kits in the past, and they seem to be the things that you open and use, and then you're just not sure what to do with it after partial use - and then you end up with a partially used box that just sits around. At least with this one, you can easily complete the activities and move on. 

I also appreciated that the slushy was edible and disposable (though messy), and that the potholder was small. The value seemed about right for a $30/month subscription, with the loom costing $12-$15, the book about $5, reusable ice cubes $2-$3, plus the hot/cold compress, microwave popcorn, instant lemonade packet, and "magic" spoon (plus free shipping). I would be interested in seeing more of what Surprise Ride has to offer, so long as the items are of reasonable quality (i.e., strong plastic bags that can withstand 10 minutes of shaking), and doesn't generate too much crafty clutter that you have to figure out what to do with. When it comes to these kinds of kits, the more compact, edible, disposable, etc. the better - providing entertainment (and learning) without overwhelming the entire house. In that vein, I think it would also be nice to have a multiple-child subscription option, to include multiple sets of activities in the same box, which could be priced as $30/month/1 child, $35-$40/month/2 children, etc. This could make it a fun option for sharing with siblings and friends, and also save on shipping extra boxes.

Surprise Ride is $29.99 per month (free shipping), or $24.99 per month on 6- or 12-month subscriptions. Use code BESTGIFT5 to save $5 off your first month!

Disclaimer: This box was received for review purposes

About Author
Sarah Crites is an american FS officer serving in Ghana with her family.


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