Which Monthly STEM Box is Best: MEL Kids vs Spangler Science Club

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MEL vs Spangler - Monthly STEM boxes reviewed

Kim Hildenbrand

As with many children, my 8-year-old son is always up for a challenge. He constantly seeks new and interesting things to do, with a focus on hands-on activities—and he’s always looking to understand the hows and whats behind whatever he is doing.

For him, that might mean dabbling in magic tricks, trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, or mixing a few things in the kitchen to see what happens.

As a working parent, I can’t always come up with stimulating activities as often as he would like me to. That’s why we gave STEM boxes a try.

These activity-filled boxes arrive regularly in the mail and come with virtually everything necessary to complete some type of project or experiment. I love knowing he’s getting a fun activity—and I also love the fact that I don’t have to come up with it on my own!

There seem to be an ever-increasing number of STEM box options available for kids of all ages. Recently, my 8-year-old and I took two of them for a test drive.

Below, I’ll share our thoughts on the MEL Science Kids box and the Spangler Science Club. I hope this helps you figure out which box(es) might be the best fit for your own family!

What is a Kids Monthly STEM Box?

You’re likely familiar with the wide world of subscription boxes. These days, you can order a regular subscription for just about anything: beauty products, clothing, and, of course, children’s activities.

While the kid-focused themes can range from anything from art to cooking, one of the most popular types of subscriptions is the STEM box: a kit filled with hands-on projects and/or experiments focusing on science, technology, engineering and/or math (aka STEM).

Many parents appreciate the convenience of receiving a ready-made educational project each month in order to keep kids engaged, entertained, and learning.

MEL Kids vs Spangler Science Club

Mel vs spangler - mel science kids vs spangler science club

MEL Science Review - MEL kids

Spangler Science club

How many activities are included?

One educational model of a functioning device (plus AR lessons, instructions in the form of a comic book, and live lessons)

STEMlab features up to five STEM experiences.
STEMdeluxe contains up to ten STEM experiences.

Suitable ages

5 to 10 years

5 to 12 years

STEM activities?

Y

Y

Science activities? 

Y

Y

Chemistry activities?

Y

Y

Price 

$34.90 per month

$19.99 for STEMLab (5 activities)

$29.99 for STEMdeluxe (10 activities) 

Shipping cost 

Free in US (possible surcharge in other areas)

Free in the contiguous US.

Shipping areas 

Virtually worldwide

US only

Termed subscriptions available or only rolling ones? 

Subscription only

Options for month-to-month, 3-month, or 12-month subscriptions

Refund policy 

Refund for a lost box or damaged contents if reported within 2 weeks.

The company does not provide refunds, instead referring customers to the cancellation policy.

Review summary 

My rating: 4.8 out of 5

My rating: 5 out of 5

Reviews from customers

4.5 stars from 980 ratings for MEL Science overall.

3.9 stars from 38 ratings on Amazon.

Special Offers

Get up to 3 months free for a limited time: MEL Science Holidays

Check latest prices and offers:
Spangler Science Club

 

MEL Kids Science Box Review - best science subscription box

MEL Science Kids Box Review

What are MEL Kids boxes?

This monthly science box comes with an educational project to build, AR lessons you can access in the app, a comic book that doubles as an instruction manual, and small extras such as brain teasers and coloring pages. A subscription also comes with live classes.

Who is behind MEL Science the company?

The MEL Science team is comprised of passionate individuals who have been involved in everything from founding science tournaments to developing video games. What do they have in common? A love of science. They say,

We strive to make serious science accessible, interesting, and cool!

What age is MEL Science Kids for?

The MEL Science Kids box is geared toward children aged 5 to 10 years old. They also have the MEL Science Physics box which is for older children of 8-14 years. (You can see our in-depth review of this activity box here: MEL Science Physics.)

What’s inside each box?

Each box features everything necessary to build an educational project, as well as a book featuring comics, instructions and activities. The label also lists the contents of the box, notes the activities, and lays out what kids will learn.

How much does Mel Science cost?

MEL Science Kids box costs $34.90 a month. This makes it pricier than both the Spangler STEMlab and STEMdeluxe boxes, which cost $19.99 and $29.99 respectively.

What did other MEL Kids reviewers have to say?

MEL Kids science boxes earned an average 4.3 stars on 277 ratings on Amazon.

Additionally, MEL Science boxes (the entire line, not just Kids) garnered an average of 4.5 stars on 980 ratings across two platforms.

PROS

  • The projects are flexible: They are simple enough for many kids to work on alone, with enough depth to be used as a fun family project.
  • The instructions are clear and easy to follow: The simple visuals also mean even non-readers can follow the directions.
  • The materials are high-quality: Reviewers appreciate the durable wood, plastic, and other materials that ensure the projects last.
  • The accompanying comic is a nice touch: Not only is it fun to read, but it’s a nice way for kids to learn about the scientific principles of the project.
  • The accompanying app extends learning: Reviewers appreciate the option for kids to experience the project in augmented reality (AR).

 CONS

  • Some reviewers noted shipping issues: As is typical with virtually any subscription-based products, some customers complained of billing issues or late boxes.
  • Some items are not included: A few customers noted they had to provide or purchase additional items to complete the experiments.

Here’s a quick look at some reviews:

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

Where do MEL Science Kids boxes ship to?

MEL Kids boxes can ship virtually worldwide.

Do they offer sample boxes?

There is no option to purchase a single MEL Kids box; however, the company reports it hopes to introduce this option in the future.

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

Up to 3 months free (for a limited time): MEL Science Holidays

MEL Kids Box – What’s Inside?

My 8-year-old son loved the MEL Kids box.  He really enjoyed assembling the LCD screen model all by himself.

MEL Kids Science Box Review - best STEM box subscriptions

Up to 3 months free (for a limited time): MEL Science Holidays

Once it was complete, he spent a lot of time observing the way the light changed when it passed through a transparent object. There was also a fun art component, and he loved seeing his own drawings through the window.

This is one of his first experiences with polarizers, and he really soaked up the information and experience!

MEL Kids Science Box Review - best STEM box subscriptions

Up to 3 months free (for a limited time): MEL Science Holidays

How easy was setup?

My son was able to complete every step all by himself. There were a few slightly tricky parts, like connecting the pieces, but he persevered and enjoyed himself.

I loved watching him put it all together, and couldn’t help but notice how good it was for his fine motor development.

We greatly appreciated the list of contents as well as the visual instructions. Although he is a strong reader, he prefers visuals when creating a project like this.

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

Get up to 3 months free for a limited time: MEL Science Holidays

How much did my child enjoy it?

My son loved this project. “I can’t believe I made something this cool!” he said. “My favorite part was seeing the rainbow colors.”

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

Up to 3 months free (for a limited time): MEL Science Holidays

Other thoughts:

This project was terrific in virtually every way. The materials are high-quality, the instructions are clear, and the box arrived organised and in tip-top shape.

My son greatly enjoyed building the LCD screen, and he gained some new knowledge and an interest in light.

I also appreciate the fact that this project offered something for different types of learners.

Kids who enjoy hands-on projects will absolutely love the construction process.

Avid young scientists will really dig in to learn about polarisers, dispersion, spectrums, and prisms.

Kids who love art will enjoy creating their own drawings to view as well as seeing the gorgeous colors.

MEL Kids Science Box Review, best STEM box subscriptions

Up to 3 months free (for a limited time): MEL Science Holidays

Would I recommend a MEL Science Kids box?

I would certainly recommend the MEL Science Kids box! The project was fun for my son, extremely creative, and very educational.

MEL Science Special Offers

Up to 3 months free for a limited time: MEL Science Holidays

Spangler Science Club Review - Best science subscription box

Spangler Science Club Review

What is Spangler Science Club

Spangler Science Club is a monthly STEM box filled with hands-on activities and interactive experiments. According to the company,

Each box is filled with Steve Spangler’s unique blend of experiences that inspire wonder, boost creativity, enhance problem-solving skills and make learning fun.

The STEMlab box contains up to five experiments (mainly designed for independent use), while the STEMdeluxe box holds up to 10 projects (along with a parent guide).

Who is behind Spangler Science?

The founder of Spangler Science Club, Steve Spangler is a STEM educator, author, and business leader. He has regularly appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and “Time Magazine” named him one of the “most influential people of the year” due to his passion for inspiring a new generation of engineers and scientists.

What ages is the Spangler Science Club subscription designed for?

The Spangler Science Club is designed for children aged 5 to 12 years old.

What’s inside each box?

Each box contains nearly everything necessary to complete the experiments, along with a comprehensive instructional and informational booklet all about the projects.

In addition, the STEMdeluxe box also comes with a “top secret” adult guide that gives all the information about the experiments as well as advice for assisting and teaching the child completing the projects.

How do they compare on price?

The STEMlab box ($19.99 per month) and STEMdeluxe box ($29.99 per month) are both cheaper than the MEL Science Kids box, which costs $34.90 per month.

What did other reviewers have to say?

Spangler Science Club boxes garnered an average of 3.9 stars on 38 ratings on Amazon.

Interestingly, Spangler Science Club seems to fly under the radar when it comes to reviews. They are not listed on several of the major reviewing sites, and the review function is turned off for their Facebook page.

Several individual bloggers have reviewed the STEM boxes. Also, the company features a variety of positive reviews (some with photos) on their own site.

PROS

  • The box contains ample projects and materials: The generous number of experiments and plentiful materials means kids can share the kit with siblings and friends.
  • The projects inspire independence: The experiments are simple enough that many kids can work independently and even go beyond the book to explore science on their own.
  • The two guidebooks included in the STEMdeluxe box appeal to all: Reviewers appreciated both the detailed step-by-step instructions in the book for kids as well as the “hows and whys” behind the science in the “top secret” book for adults.
  • The accompanying online aspect is helpful: The company offers links to online videos so kids can see the experiments before they try them.
  • The experiments incorporate everyday items: Reviewers noted the experiments have a strong real-world connection.

CONS

  • Some reviewers noted customer service issues: As is common with mailed subscription boxes, in some cases customers had difficulties with the auto-renew feature or shipping issues.
  • Some reviewers felt the boxes were overpriced for the simplicity: A few noted the materials were basic and mentioned the “simple house experiments”.

Here’s a quick look at some reviews:

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

Where does the company ship to?

Spangler Science ships only to the United States and its respective territories.

Do they offer sample boxes?

A single kit can be purchased called “STEM in a Box.” These individual kits are $34.99 (which is the price for non club members).

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

Spangler Science Club Box – What’s Inside?

When my 8-year-old son opened up the Spangler Science STEM deluxe kit, he gasped with delight.

The theme was “science magic,” and the kit featured six fun activities all centred on performing magic “tricks” using scientific principles.

Mastering these tricks was one of the most enjoyable afternoons he has spent in quite awhile!

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

 

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

How easy was setup?

The setup was a snap. There was a list of items we had to provide ourselves, but most were quite simple such as water, dish soap, and markers.

Within moments of opening the box, my son was starting on his first experiment. The instructions were a bit more text-heavy than some STEM kits’ guides, but there were step-by-step color photos that really simplified the process.

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

How much did my child enjoy it?

My son greatly enjoyed this science box. “I love everything about this!” he exclaimed repeatedly.

Other thoughts:

My son is passionate about magic, so of course he thoroughly enjoyed these fun “tricks” based on science.

He baffled his brother, entertained his dad, and even greatly amazed himself!

He also learned about friction with the bottle trick

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

He explored the concepts of cohesion and adhesion with the water trick.

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

And discovered how polymer chains work with the balloon trick.

Spangler Science Club Review - best STEM box subscriptions

For latest prices see Spangler Science Club 

He moved fairly quickly through each experiment, but came back to his favorites over and over.

This kit seems to me it would be an excellent fit for children who prioritise fun over learning about science—because the learning comes so naturally.

I also really appreciated both books. The child’s version comes with “lab notes” asking open-ended questions to get kids thinking, and the adult’s “top secret” version provides loads of info on the scientific side of things.

The materials are definite keepers, from the durable plastic “root beer” bottle with the cute label to the sturdy plastic “jar.”

They even threw in extra balloons for the skewer project. My son can perform these tricks over and over.

Would I recommend a Spangler Science Box?

I would absolutely recommend a Spangler Science Box. My son really enjoyed it and had so much fun!

 

Latest Discounts on Spangler Science Club Boxes:

Spangler Science Club

Which is Better, MEL Kids or Spangler Science?

If I had to sum up the experience, I’d say the MEL Science Kids box is a bit more seriously geared to scientific principles and learning, while the Spangler Science box is a bit more lighthearted and fun while still teaching the science.

Overall, both STEM boxes were terrific and (I felt) great value! For my family, the Spangler Science box was the best fit due to my son’s interests.

I believe any child would greatly enjoy either kit. Both feature innovative projects and experiments with clear instructions, durable materials, and extras.

However, a child like mine who loves magic, fun tricks, and entertaining others might lean more towards the Spangler Science box.

On the other hand, a child who is passionate about exploring scientific principles might prefer the more complex science projects found in the MEL Science Kids box.

Attention span may also play a role. The Spangler Science box may suit a child who would prefer several quicker projects, as the MEL Science box features a single project that’s a bit longer and more in-depth.

Children who like hands-on projects that require some building might lean toward the MEL Science Box, while children like my son may prefer to use ready-made items to perform experiments. (If you didn’t already know, Steve Spangler is among the first people who popularized the now-famous Mentos and soda eruption, way back in 2005!)

I know my son will save the Spangler Science materials and repeat these tricks often (he is already planning to delight his classmates). And if he wishes to save the MEL Science kids crystal screen, it is certainly durable enough to do so.

You can view all 18 MEL Science Kids kits online at Mel Science Kids and get some sneak peeks on the Spangler website as well Steve Spangler Science Club. If you’re not sure, I’d urge you to give both of these terrific boxes a try!

Special Offers: MEL Science up to 3 months off

MEL Science Holidays

Latest Offers for Spangler Science Kits:

Spangler Science Club

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