Best Subscription Boxes for Kids
Subscription boxes are a near perfect answer to the annual summer lament, “I’m bored!” The boxes deliver fun activities to your door, based on your children’s interests, and they have the sneaky benefit of reinforcing what kids learned during the school year. Best of all, most companies can deliver a box in less than 10 days for a “we can afford it” price.
For STEAM Kids
Subscription boxes contain all the materials for a STEAM project (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and kid-friendly instructions, plus extras depending on the kit ordered. Koala Crates (ages 3-4) focus on creative fun, Kiwi Crates (ages 6-8) have hands-on science and engineering projects, Doodle Crates (ages 9-16) appeal to kids who love art and design, and Tinker Crates (ages 9-16) are STEM projects.
What You Get: Our sample box for ages 5-8 contained all the parts and step-by-step instructions to make a simple pinball machine, plus explore! magazine with fun experiments, activities and online links.
What It Costs: $19.95 per month for a one-month or three-month subscription; $18.50 per month for a six-month subscription or $16.95 per month for a 12-month subscription.
STEM Snack, STEM Lab and STEM Deluxe deliver science projects monthly. The Snack box is an introduction to STEM with one experience each month, Lab contains up to five experiences per month and Deluxe up to 10 experiences each month. A new option, STEM Camp for ages 5-11, is a one-time purchase and delivers five projects at once; a child could have a week of “science camp” or do a project every few days.
What You Get: Our sample box for ages 7-14 was a fun STEM Lab project. It contained a kit for experiments with water: A glass jar, some plastic and foam cups, a “water gel” powder, a scooper, and a baby’s diaper. Two of the experiments were “magic” tricks with water to amaze friends, one was a game and another experiment explained how baby diapers work; all came with easy-to-follow instructions.
What It Costs: Subscription boxes range from $9.99 to $29.99 per month; purchase for one, three or 12 months. STEM Camp option, $89.95.
For Would-Be World Travelers
Spark their interest in other cultures and places with fun activities. Early Explorers (ages 3-5) gets them started with a small suitcase, stickers, a world map and an activity book. With World Edition (ages 6-10) or USA Edition (ages 7-12), kids learn about a new country or two new states each month. Science Expeditions (ages 9-plus) has hands-on science experiments.
What You Get: Our sample box, the World Edition, contained a parent’s guide, a great 2×3-foot map of the world, a passport that looks like the real thing, a letter from cool kids Sam and Sophia who are traveling around the world on a magic scooter, an activities booklet and a Boarding Pass with a secret code for access to online games and activities.
What It Costs: Subscription boxes range from $12.95 to $21.95 per month for a month-to-month subscription, depending on the age group, with discounts for six- and 12-month subscriptions.
For Young Chefs
Kids can have great fun cooking while developing a lifelong skill and a love of fresh ingredients. They’ll learn to shop for food and use science and math skills for measuring and figuring out how much ingredients cost. Each month’s kit includes kid-sized cooking tools, three recipes developed by food experts (chefs, cookbook authors, nutritionists and more) and three games or activities; 12 months of kits create a cookbook of dishes kids can prepare.
What You Get: Our sample box for ages 5-10 contained a vegetable peeler and ice cream scooper, and easy-to-follow recipes to make Toaster Oven S’mores and Summer Sips – smoothies, shakes and a watermelon drink – and suggestions to customize those recipes for different taste buds. Kids would learn how to use a vegetable peeler to peel a cucumber and a spoon to remove seeds and how to use a blender, among other kitchen skills.
What It Costs: One-month or three-month subscription, $15.95 per month; six-month subscription, $14.50 per month; 12-month subscription, $12.95 per month.
For Kids Who Love Reading
Ages: 1-Young Adult
Librarians, authors, educators and booksellers collaborate to select great books for all ages. Pick an age category and an interest, and see the recommendations. Don’t like one? It’s easy to switch that month’s book for another book that GiftLit recommends or a book that’s one of your favorites.
What You Get: Our sample box for ages 5-12 contained a sampling of four gift-wrapped books, “The Phoenix of Destiny” by Geronimo Stilton, “Click Here to Start” by Denis Markell, “Futhermore” by Tehereh Mafi and “Real Friends” by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. We were impressed with the presentation and each of the books, especially a beautifully illustrated Scholastic book following the fantasy adventures of the mouse Geronimo Stilton (ages 7-10).
What It Costs: For a three-month subscription, about $20 per month, depending on the age of the recipient and the type of book.
Each box contains about 10 activities built around a children’s book for that month. Families read the book, then do the crafts and games developed by early childhood teachers to encourage curiosity, problem solving and creativity. Most kits have enough materials for two siblings to share.
What You Get: Our sample box for ages 3-8 had activities built around the illustrated storybook “Are You a Ladybug?” It contained the book and tips for parents to discuss the book with their kids, a clay model of the bug’s life cycle, Forget-Us-Not wildflower seeds to plant a ladybug garden, and materials for a ladybug paper plate, observational drawings, a ladybug keepsake box and more, plus activities such as “catch the aphids” and painting ladybug rocks. What fun!
What It Costs: One-month subscription, $38.95; three-month subscription, $36.95;
six-month subscription, $34.95.
– Amanda Miller Allen