MEL Science is on a mission to make science education easy, interesting, and effective with subscription-based science kits. These educational subscription boxes include hands-on experiments for aspiring scientists ages 5-14.
But are these monthly STEM, physics, chemistry, and medical subscriptions worth it? I tested it out with my 9-year-old nephew and my sister tested it out with her 8-year-old daughter to bring you a full review, including all of the pros and cons.
Table of contents:
- MEL Science “Courses,” Explained
- MEL Science Cost
- Our Experience with MEL STEM (MEL Kids)
- MEL STEM (MEL Kids) vs. KiwiCo
- Our Experience with MEL Chemistry
- Our Experience with MEL Physics
- Is MEL Science Worth It?
Disclaimer: MEL Science gifted me product for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are my own.
MEL Science “Courses,” Explained
MEL Science offers four different “courses” for different age ranges and interests:
- STEM, for ages 5-9+ (also called MEL Kids): a new STEM box with eco-friendly construction models is delivered to your door every month. STEM set examples include building a hydraulic lift, an electric boat, or a space rocket! (Note: STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. This particular course aims to hit on each one of these educational pillars.)
- Physics, for ages 8-14+: receive a physics set with 2-3 hands-on experiments delivered to your door every month. Physics experiment themes include luminescence, rheoscopic fluid, and alternative energy.
- Chemistry, for ages 10-16+: get your chemistry set with 2-3 experiments delivered to your door every month. (Plus a free Starter Kit and VR headset with the first package!) Experiments include things like working with tin, crystals, and cyanotype.
All of these courses feature absolutely no commitments. You can pause or cancel your subscription in a few clicks.
Fun Fact: MEL, the company’s name, stands for “more efficient learning.”
MEL Science Cost
Each of the four courses has a different cost associated with it. These are designed to be monthly subscriptions so that your child can continue their education and keep building on the principles they learned from the month before. That said, you are free to cancel or pause your subscription at any time with no fees.
If you want to go month-to-month instead of purchasing an annual subscription, the costs are a bit higher, but you have more control:
- STEM course monthly cost: $34.90 per month
- Physics course monthly cost: $34.90 per month
- Chemistry course monthly cost: $34.90 per month (starter kit and VR headset come with your first kit at NO extra cost)
- Med course monthly cost: $69.90 per month
If you want to save some cash, consider pre-purchasing an annual subscription to save quite a bit:
- STEM course annual subscription cost: equates to $25.90 per month
- Physics course annual subscription cost: equates to $25.90 per month
- Chemistry course annual subscription cost: equates to $25.90 per month
- Med course annual subscription cost: not currently available
Our Experience with MEL STEM
MEL Science was kind enough to send us the Hydraulic Lift project, which is one of over 30 projects available in the MEL STEM course for ages 5-9+.
Other projects include a Space Rocket, Liquid Sand, and a Microscope.
My daughter is 3 and a half, a little bit younger than the age range recommended for this course. That explains why I had to do the majority of the activity while she just helped here and there. And I have to say, putting some of the pieces together, even for me, was difficult.
That said, I still think it was nice to guide her through the steps, and she had so much fun with the final result. For days, she just wanted to make the hydraulic lift go up and down.
To be fair, I also asked my homeschooling sister to test the Hydraulic Lift with her 8-year-old daughter, and she has a review of her experience for us, including pros and cons.
Pros of MEL STEM:
- Everything you need is included in the box. They even include bonus activities like a coloring page and a spot the differences page.
- The activity was a nice hands-on supplement for homeschooling.
Cons of MEL STEM:
- The wooden pieces were very difficult to assemble and started to splinter in certain spots.
- The box says ages 5 and up, but I can’t see a 5-year-old being able to push the pieces together.
- I also wish the instructions were labeled as instructions. The booklet starts with a cute story, but I was confused at first about where to begin.
- The cost is really high for a supplemental homeschooling activity. In fact, the cost for an annual subscription is more than most curriculums. I feel for the quality of what you get in the box, the cost should be about half of what it is.
Overall, for how much it costs, I give MEL STEM 5 out 10 stars. It’s a fun, engaging activity but has room for improvement, both in the quality of the materials and the price point of the box.
MEL STEM vs. KiwiCo
The concept behind MEL STEM seems really similar to KiwiCo, which focuses on STEAM. For reference, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM is the same thing with art added in.
Both companies have hands-on activities for kids ages 5+, though KiwiCo has project offerings for as young as age 2.
KiwiCo is a bit less expensive than MEL STEM as well:
- KiwiCo Kiwi Crate (for ages 5-8): $22.95/month (or $17.50/month with an annual subscription)
- MEL STEM (for ages 5-9+): $34.90/month (or $25.90 with an annual subscription)
In addition, if you use this link, you will get $10 off your first KiwiCo purchase.
The KiwiCo crates also come with multiple projects, whereas the MEL STEM box comes with one. Both companies offer fun, engaging projects for kids, but I have to say I think KiwiCo has an edge on MEL STEM.
Here’s a look at some KiwiCo crates next to MEL STEM boxes:
My own family has been subscribed to KiwiCo for several months now, and we’ve been delighted by each box. If I had to choose one over the over, I’d learn towards KiwiCo on this one.
Our Experience with MEL Chemistry
MEL Chemistry is another course option from MEL Science for ages 10-16+. Each monthly delivery comes with 2-3 experiments.
When you purchase your first month of MEL Chemistry, the free Starter Kit and VR headset also come with your order. The Starter Kit comes with chemistry essentials like a beaker, tray, and safety glasses.
MEL sent us the Tin experiment to try, which included two chemistry projects: tin hedgehog and tin dendrite.
I tested out these experiments with my 9-year-old nephew since both of my kiddos are toddlers.
Pros of MEL Chemistry:
- There’s just something really cool about doing a chemistry experiment. It’s inherently exciting for a 9-year-old to mix chemicals and wait to see what happens.
- The tin dendrite experiment gave this immediate reaction that got oohs and ahhs from my nephew. He was blown away by the metal tree that seemed to be coming from nothing.
- It was nice to get some quality time with my nephew, something I think a lot of parents would appreciate. It gets you away from the screens and fosters some good bonding time with education built-in.
- I do think the cost of this kit is a good deal. There’s NO way I would ever be able to dream up an experiment like this, let alone source the chemicals and items needed to make it happen. Plus, you get the Starter Kit and VR headset with your purchase, which is basically thrown in for free!
Cons of MEL Chemistry:
- The instructional booklet didn’t say how long it would take for the small piece of tin to start transforming into a hedgehog. We were expecting something to happen as soon as we dropped it in the liquid, but it didn’t. It kind of blew the wind out of our sails, but over the next 30 minutes, we did start to see some changes, which was exciting.
- There were extra items leftover when we finished our experiments, making us wonder if we missed something or messed something up. I wish the instructional booklet would make it clear that there are duplicate items.
- You need batteries for the tin dendrite experiment, which didn’t come in the box. Thankfully, we had some, but it would be frustrating to get the experiment started and then realize you need to run to the store to finish it.
I’m sad to say I forgot to pack the VR headset, so we didn’t get to experiment with that component of the box. However, here’s how it works:
- MEL VR Science Simulations are aligned with the school chemistry and physics curriculums, covering the main topics.
- Difficult concepts are easily explained – the ability to interact with educational material builds up solid knowledge and long-term memory.
- Each lesson, lab, and simulation is between 3–7 minutes long and is easily integrated into the classic lesson flow, making the subject more visual and comprehensive.
Overall, the VR headset helps explain the “why” behind the chemistry experiments, which is really cool! I think this particular course is a perfect supplement for any homeschooling moms or dads if the monthly cost fits into your budget.
I give MEL Chemistry 8 out of 10 stars.
Our Experience with MEL Physics
Last but not least is MEL Physics for ages 8-14+ which also comes with 2-3 physics experiments every month.
My 9-year-old nephew and I got to test out the MEL Physics Polarized Light box.
My nephew was definitely more excited to do the MEL Chemistry experiments, and that’s mostly because mixing chemicals and waiting for a reaction is exciting. However, as we got going with the physics box, he got more excited and I still got to see those oohs and ahhs when something cool happened.
Pros of MEL Physics:
- The colorful stress patterns experiment was really cool! As soon as my nephew saw the different lights coming off the plastic objects, he was geeking out. We called over some of the other kiddos to put on the glasses and check it out!
- The polarized light mosaic was also a fun experiment that had my nephew saying, “Woah, that is so cool!” He also really enjoyed making his own patterns with the tape to reveal new light mosaics.
- Compared to the MEL Chemistry box, this one was definitely more easy-going. We liked that we didn’t have to fuss with safety glasses and gloves.
Cons of MEL Physics:
- One of the three experiments didn’t work for us… we read through the instructions many times and kept trying to no avail. It was also the first one, so it was a bit of a bummer!
- Each experiment had a baggie that was labeled, and inside each box were the supplies you needed for that experiment. Unfortunately, some of the items were jumbled (some experiment 2 items were in the bag labeled “1”, for example), which caused a bit of confusion.
- Some of the instructions weren’t very clear. Multiple times we got going to then realize we’d misunderstood the prior step. We were able to make our way through, but you have to be a very patient parent to avoid getting frustrated!
Overall, we enjoyed this box, and it was fun learning about polarized light. We were bummed out that one of the experiments didn’t work for us (or the instructions weren’t clear enough to help us do it correctly). That said, it was still a blast and he said he’d do it again if given the opportunity.
I give MEL Physics 7 out of 10 stars.
Is MEL Science Worth It?
Overall, I love the mission and concept behind MEL Science. I’m a big fan of companies like this that are trying to make education more approachable for parents at home. You don’t have to be a homeschooler to do interactive activities with your kids at home, though I do see this being a great supplement for homeschoolers.
While all of the courses we tested were enjoyable, there is a bit of room for improvement when it comes to the quality of the items in the MEL STEM box and the instructions provided in the MEL Chemistry and Physics boxes.
I would recommend MEL Science if you are a very hands-on parent who is patient and enjoys doing projects with your kids. I would not recommend MEL Science if you get easily frustrated or don’t like reading through instructions.
You also have to consider the price – I think you get more value from KiwiCo crates vs. the MEL STEM box, but I don’t know of any comparable company when it comes to the Chemistry and Physics boxes. Those are very unique and, in my opinion, impossible to put together on your own.
I do think the Chemistry and Physics boxes are worth the cost.
If you do end up testing MEL Science, I’d love to know what you think! Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram at @thetwomamabears!