I know what you’re thinking:
What could I possibly get as a gift for all of the kids on my shopping list that is fun, educational, won’t cost an arm and/or a leg and would, more importantly, cause the child in question to remember me every single time they pick up this wonderful item?
Well, you’re not alone. We are all thinking those exact words right now, verbatim.
And here’s my suggestion: Subscription boxes!
Subscription boxes for kids are just that. They are ongoing subscriptions that will send boxes to kids monthly. What’s in those boxes is where they get fun! There are subscription boxes for many different categories: science subscription boxes, art subscription boxes, educational subscription boxes, the possibilities are endless! Well, I’m sure there’s an end, but it would most likely be dictated by your credit card limit.
In this review, I’m going to focus on the 2 subscription boxes that my household has come to know as our favorites: Kiwi Crates and Little Passports.
Why subscription boxes are great for developing minds
As my son gets older and he gets more and more involved with the myriad of screens he now has available to him, I struggle to get him to spend an afternoo just playing with his toys. And that’s heart breaking. But totally understandable, if we just think about this conundrum for a moment.
Let’s take action figures as an example. Action figures were my Xbox. I could go outside and fly Luke Skywalker around in his X-Wing Fighter and Han Solo in his Millennium Falcon over all of the characters that lived in their GI Joe Army base for hours. And the battles would be epic!
But if, back then, I had had the option to either play with a plastic toy that sported arms that couldn’t even bend at the elbow or to play with a fully formed world on my Xbox where I could create a fully functioning virtual character whose every move I could control, who I could command to blow stuff up with cool looking weapons and sound effects, and I could do that with other people from all over the world, the plastic toys would have been sitting gathering dust.
Your child Is a product of the times. And this, right now, is the digital age. You can struggle to try to prove to them that sitting and playing with dolls or Matchbox cars is better for them than playing Among Us on their iPad but you will lose every time because what you are selling them is fraudulent. BUT don’t fret! All is not lost. This very scenario is where a well-researched and specifically chosen subscription box service can save the day.
Kiwico is, in my humble opinion, the Cadillac of subscription boxes for kids. Wait! Did I say for kids? Nah, for everyone. I’ll say more on that later.
But you’re here for kids, so let me just tell you that Kiwico’s boxes are amazing for kids. They have different lines of subscriptions for different ages. When my son was 6 years old, he received their eponymous Kiwi Crates as a gift. These seem to be their most famous crates and for good reason. This is such a quality product that I would recommend it for any kid and their parents, because adults will actually enjoy helping their kids with each activity that comes. Which, as we, parents, all know, isn’t always the case when it comes to kids’ arts and crafts.
Just getting that first crate was a thrill. We didn’t really know what it was and that just added to the fun. That initial box contained so many great crafts that were just hard enough to be engaging, but nothing that was too difficult to accomplish, which to me, is the perfect combination.
The boxes kept coming every month and we found ourselves with so many fun activities to do. And the best part to me is that every project that came in each box was not only challenging and engaging, but gloriously unique. We made bird eggs and a nest out of cardboard, paper, and glue; and then a kid-sized bird costume with a mask and wings made out of elastic bands and some kind of felt material. We also made a homemade board game, and we even made our own paper. It was truly a blast!
One of my other favorite aspects is that each box contains all of the materials you need including the glue, paints and other raw materials. This is huge because the last thing you want to happen is for your kid to be knee deep in building a papier-mâché bust of Abraham Lincoln when he suddenly needs 200 paper clips and you don’t have any more left in the house because you used all of them putting together the documents for your tax audit. I don’t recall needing to use any of my own household items for any project, which is great because you can just throw the box in your car when you’re going on a family road trip and everything the kid would need is already in the box. This is vital for maximum parental laziness!
When each box arrived, the joy was palpable as my son opened it to see what was in store for us. He is now 10 and we still talk about crafts he made from these crates and, dare I say, we still use some of them as well, like a container that we created for one of the projects that we now use to house his current bottle cap “collection.” I will also say that one time I heard him brag, “me and my dad made our own paper once.” So cool!
So, what does this mean for you? We know these boxes are creative, we know they’re fun, we know they’re engaging, we know that they’re complete and self-contained, and we know that they are long-lasting. But what does it cost me? If you pay up front for a whole year, it comes out to about $17 a month. Basically, for the cost of a movie ticket, you will get about 5 hours of fun per month. Since movies are only about 2 hours long, that’s like a 150% increase on your return!
You can also just get one box for $20 (free shipping) and try it out for yourself. I mean, you would probably buy your kid or niece or a nephew a stuffed animal for about the same price and this is better.
But what if your kid is a little older and isn’t into birds and paper. No worries! After we were done with our Kiwi Crate subscription, we moved on to Kiwico’s more science-oriented line called Tinker Crates and, whoo boy, were we absolutely blown away!
The first box that arrived contained pieces of wood and tubes ostensibly to be used to create some sort of wooden hydraulic crane thing. Thinking there was no way that I wouldn’t be personally building this entire thing on my own due to the complicated nature of the project, I was pretty adamant that we wouldn’t start the craft until I had about 3 hours of time to set aside. But my son said, “I’m just going to try the first few steps,” and then proceeded to make it to about step 6 before he needed my help, and as it turned out, he just needed another set of hands to hold something in place. He didn’t need my adult expertise. He just needed my digits. He finished the whole thing soon after and was so proud of himself that it remains intact to this day!
This was the first of many boxes and each craft was more intricate and the results got progressively cooler. The quintessential craft, in my opinion, is a Skee Ball-type game where you actually construct a very cool kind of catapult that you use to shoot these plastic balls onto a board that has holes in it, each of which are worth different points. It’s a blast to play and even more so when your kid exudes the satisfaction guaranteed to arise from their having constructed the game all by themselves. Just amazing.
I really cannot say enough good things about these crates. I highly recommend them for your burgeoning inventors and tinkerers alike. And for you too.
In fact, I have a friend who is in her 40s who subscribed to KiwiCo to receive their Eureka Crate series. She built some kind of a gearworks safe and some kind of a lamp thing and she was completely enthralled in the process. I just wanted to show you that these boxes are innovative and they challenge even the “older” set (just don’t tell her I called her that!).
Little Passports review
I have one other subscription “box” service to personally recommend. It’s called Little Passports. I surrounded the word box in quotation marks as these shipments often come in more of a large padded envelope, but the idea is basically the same. And the company does send each child a suitcase-shaped box where they will be able to keep all of the various materials that they will receive each month.
I’m not big on geography. I love travelling and I really enjoy exploring and finding unexpected adventures in any given destination, but when it comes to state capitals or the name of a mountain range in Guam, I’ll probably just fall asleep due to sheer boredom. My son, it seems, inherited this particular gene from me.
So, when my mom proposed getting him the World Edition subscription from Little Passports, I balked at the idea. “He won’t care,” is what I believe I said at the time. Well, 2 years later, he not only cares but he still cares, meaning he loved getting these packages in the beginning and he still loves getting them to this day. I would have won a lot of money had I bet in the other direction. No idea why I would be betting actual money on the whims of my child, but Vegas puts odds on everything so I could see it happening someday.
Basically, you get an envelope every month that sports a fancy stamp that shows what country the package “came from.” Inside, your kid will find a plethora of reading materials, trinkets, pictures, factoids, and a coin commemorating whatever country is being showcased. A pyramid-shaped dig kit came from Egypt, a tiny canvas with paints came from France, and a piñata-making kit arrived from Mexico. My son is tugging at my arm now and telling me to add, “I also got a cool mosaic art kit from Spain, a tiny stuffed tiger from India, and Ireland sent a coloring book with these awesome watercolors at the bottom. Oh and also…“
That’s where I cut him off. You get the picture.
Along with the suitcase, they will also receive a “passport” where they can add the stickers that they get from each country every month and a cardboard plaque where they can display each of the very realistic and excellently designed coins they get from each country. My son has filled up 2 of these displays and he’s clamoring for more.
Oh, and Little Passports cost? About $16 a month. That’s the cost of about 3 really fancy Starbucks’ coffees, just to put things in perspective.
Just like Kiwico, Little Passports has many different options for all age levels and interests. Other than the World Edition there’s also Early Explorers, Science Junior, USA Edition, and Science Expeditions. I can only expertly tell you about the subscription we get, but the scuttlebutt on the others seems to match our experience.
9 more subscription box services your kids might like
You still want more options? These are services that I have not tried, but I hear are amazing.
- Brick Loot: Wait what?! A LEGO subscription box!? Not sure how I missed this one, but it looks like my son just got really lucky. Just as amazing as it sounds, and it was actually started by a kid.
- Green Kid Crafts: For the burgeoning Greta Thunberg set we have this amazing box subscription service that brings you crafts every month that are not only environmentally friendly but for each box you get, they plant a tree. Wow. What have you done today?
- Kid Stir Cookin: Like Blue Apron with much less salmon, this chef box for kids comes with kid-sized kitchen tools and recipes that use most common household foods you normally already have on hand. But they’ll also send you a digital menu to prepare you for the next incoming box for good measure.
- R&T Crew: Cars, cars, and more cars. If your kid likes cars, look no further. They can read about cars, look at pictures of cars and every box comes with a car to create.
- Steve Spangler Science Club: Looking for a strictly science subscription box for kids? Look no further. Steve Spangler will wow your kids with STEM experiments that are sure to deliver hours of fun. And learning. Which is good.
- Kid Pik: Your kid like clothes? Do they, like, love them?! Then you should subscribe to this. And it’s a “you only pay for what you keep” type deal, soooo bonus.
- Sock Panda: Your kid like socks? How about charity? This subscription box service does both. At the same time. Oddly, I know a few kids that are obsessed with socks but hate shoes. Weird. They’ve got options for kids and tweens.
- Literati Book Club for Kids: Reading is awesome. Get 5 books a month, which adds up to about an hour and a half of quiet time for you.
- Guide Dots: Art. It’s what makes us know we’re alive. Or something. But here’s a great art box for kids that will teach them to draw, minus the pretension.
The perfect gifts for all the kids on your list and not a jar of crabapple jelly in sight
I know, I’ve given you a lot to unpack here (unpack, boxes, get it!?) but I just love these services so much that I feel like I need to get more people on the subscription box bandwagon. Remember when the Jelly of the Month club was the only subscription box service available? Well, I do. It was a dark time. But we have emerged from that pit of despair into a whole new vibrant world of subscription box services and we never have to look back!
The next time you are looking for the perfect gift(s) for the perfect kid(s), why get them a toy they will play with once and then throw under the bed only to be eaten alive by dust bunnies for all eternity? To quote an ad for that very same Jelly of the Month club (shiver): “Get them the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”
Do it! The only thing you’ll regret is not signing up to receive one for yourself. But don’t worry, your birthday is always less than a year away.