Frequently Asked Questions
What is Letterbox Lab?
Letterbox Lab is like a science magazine, science kit and science club all rolled into one. The subscription is a series of boxes that arrive monthly or bi-monthly through your letterbox. It contains a whole bunch of activities, experiments and creative projects that engage your child with science for hours on end. We send you everything you need to play with science – with each box you get new science kit so that you can gradually turn your home into a laboratory.
How does Letterbox Lab work?
When you sign up you can choose between the Explore box or the Investigate box (see below) and, in the case of the Investigate box, whether you want to receive it monthly or every other month. Then we set up a no-commitment repeat payment for you and once a month (or every other month) we take payment for a box and ship it out to you. Before the box arrives you’ll get access to a new set of online resources to supplement it.
If I order now, when will I get my first box?
Science is fun, waiting isn’t. So, sign up now and your first box will be in the post within two working days.
How many boxes are there?
The Explore and Investigate subscriptions each last 12 months. We’re working on a new product that you can subscribe to when your Investigate subscription ends, however!
Do I have to subscribe to all of them?
Your subscription can be cancelled at any time, although if your latest box has already shipped we will ask you to send it back to us if you want to be refunded for that one. See our terms and conditions for more details.
We will be sad to see you go and will send you a code that you can use if you decide come back to us and pick up where you left off in the subscription.
Can I skip a month?
You have the option to suspend your subscription at any point, and up to once per billing cycle. This means that you will prevent any more payments (and subsequently any more boxes) until you re-activate your subscription. When you re-activate we’ll send you the next box in your subscription as usual.
Please note that under special circumstances we are open to increasing the limit of number of subscription suspensions per billing cycle – just get in touch.
So I get the same boxes regardless of when I sign up?
That’s right. There are 12 boxes that will always arrive in the same order. There are lots of reasons why we offer the subscription this way, the key one being that it allows us to gradually introduce and explore a range of scientific concepts, building your child’s skills and knowledge incrementally. It also means that we can send you lots of different equipment that you can use to turn your home into a laboratory.
You probably don’t want to end up with loads of petri dishes because we send you one every time you need to use one. Instead we send you enough petri dishes to do all the experiments in the subscription, and then send you other stuff like test tubes and gadgets!
Do you really send everything we need?
Yes! Say goodbye to the days of buying a science kit for your child only to open it and find a shopping list inside! You’ll never have to buy anything extra to do the activities in the box, and you won’t use up any of your own supplies. We supply “everything but the kitchen sink” – so the most you’ll ever have to grab is a bowl or a cup of water.
Are the boxes safe?
Yes they are. In developing the Investigate box we’ve closely followed the regulations set out in EU 71-4 (Safety of Toys: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities) so that even when we include reagents that you wouldn’t find on the shelves of your local supermarket, they are weighed out and packaged in such a way that they cannot harm your child. We supply safety goggles and gloves to handle these reagents too. The only consumables in the Explore box are foodstuffs – although we should point out they are not being prepared in a food-grade environment, so they should be used for science not for eating! All equipment that we put in the boxes is carefully vetted to ensure that it cannot cause harm.
I don’t have a science background, will I have trouble helping my child?
Not at all! Each box comes with a full colour booklet with illustrated instructions and a link to a set of videos that show each activity being performed. We design experiments in such a way that your child will discover concepts for themselves by performing them, and provide explanations for the scientific phenomena that they discover. On top of all this, parents have access to a “cheat sheet” to fully brief them on the phenomena in advance!
Can my children share a box?
Every box is crammed full of stuff, and a lot of the activities can easily be performed by two children together. For those that can’t (for example, the ones that require safety goggles) we supply enough materials that they can be repeated, allowing siblings can take turns.
Can my child use these kits on their own?
These kits are intended only for use under adult supervision. The degree to which a supervising adult needs to be involved will vary from child to child and is left to your discretion.
Do the boxes support the curriculum?
Yes! Regardless of whether you are in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, both subscriptions are rooted in the skill development and knowledge range of the Key Stage 2 / Second Level curricula. We provide a list of relevant links to each curriculum in your Member’s Area before the box arrives.
What’s the difference between Explore and Investigate?
Both Explore and Investigate are 12 month (no-commitment) subscriptions that put everything you need to play with science straight through your letterbox. There are a few things that distinguish the boxes:
- The Explore box is for younger children and those who like to tinker, containing 2-5 activities that will entertain your child for 1-2 hours.
- The Investigate box is a bigger, more involved box containing between 6 and 9 activities that will engage your child for 4 or more hours. Generally you will find all of the activities from an Explore box in the corresponding Investigate box, but with additional activities that take your child’s discoveries further and require a more extensive collection of lab equipment (which, of course, is included).
- The activities in an Explore box are usually loosely tied to a particular topic (although we don’t like to constrain learning with tight topics!), but the Investigate box takes children on a journey via a 24-page booklet featuring Meg and Pico, the Lab Assistants.
- The Investigate box is an experimental set containing a range of chemical reagents, and as such is only recommended for children over 8 years. The activities in the Investigate box include scientific demonstrations, experiments and creative projects.
- The activities we select for the Explore box are from the third category; these don’t require laboratory equipment or any chemical reagents other than foodstuffs (e.g. salt, sugar, flour). So the Explore box is not an experimental set but a creative set based on scientific principles.
Why isn’t there a fixed number of activities in each box?
Some activities take a few minutes, some engage children for much longer. Some require household foodstuffs and some require lab-ware such as petri dishes, test tubes, pipettes and measuring cylinders. For this reason we feel that fixing the number of experiments could leave parents short changed. Instead, we focus on keeping the total duration of the activities in the box the same. For the Investigate box, this is 3-4 hours. For the Explore box, it is 1-2 hours.
How will I find time to do 4 hours of science activities?
The boxes are very modular, so if you don’t have the luxury of a long Saturday afternoon to mess about with science you can pick it up and put it down at your leisure, much like a magazine. Each activity in the Investigate box arrives separately packaged in a very satisfying paper bag, ready to grab and go!
If you already have a tightly packed schedule, you can opt to receive your Investigate box once every two months instead of every month – that works out at just £12 and 2 hours per month!
Do the boxes really fit through the letterbox?
We have based the dimensions of the Investigate box on the average for UK letterboxes. The dimensions are 200mm x 35mm x 400mm (yes, it’s pretty long!). The Explore box is slightly larger than a large letter, so again will fit through most letterboxes. If your letterbox is particularly small the box may not fit, but you can specify a “safe place” where the box can be left for you.
How did you fit so much stuff into such a small box?
Good question. We put a lot of time and effort into taking a mixture of classic and highly innovative science based activities and incrementally tweaking them so that they were flat-packable. Why? Because we wanted to make science an easy and convenient thing to do at home – no trips to the supermarket, chemist or sorting office, just opening a box and getting stuck in.