By the time many kids reach elementary school, they have more than enough toys. While children will always want more play things, thanks to playdates and YouTube (7-year-old Ryan from Ryan Toys Review makes $11 million a year!), many of us are overwhelmed by the toys cluttering our houses.
Introducing subscription boxes: an educational gift for children that arrives each month by mail. Each small box contains learning activities–think of it as fun homework–that engage children while simultaneously teaching them about science, geography, nature, or literature. It’s the gift that keeps on giving–without adding more junk to the playroom.
Most subscription boxes cost around $20/month, and we kid-tested some of the most popular ones: Little Passports Science Expeditions, Green Kid Crafts Junior Discovery, and Little Passports USA Edition. Each of the activities incorporated the use of household staples–vinegar, baking powder, pens–and provided other necessary items. All items were disposal and waste was minimal.
Little Passports USA Edition (ages 7-12)
Cost: Starts at $12.95
Shipping not included | Renewal automatic
The USA Edition is informative, and they do an excellent job of introducing rather dull state details in an interesting manner. My 5-year-old and 3-year-old couldn’t do much on their own, but they enjoyed the scratch art and analyzing the USA map. I would be interested in trying the Early Explorers edition, which is geared for ages 3-5.
I think this subscription would be useful as a compliment to your child’s education, so if s/he is learning about the states, then this would be perfect.
Little Passports Science Expeditions (ages 9+)
Cost: Starts at $18.95
Shipping not included | Renewal automatic
Grandma accidentally ordered this box for our 5-year-old. Grandma also failed to read the fine print: all subscriptions renew automatically “for your convenience,” so if you simply want to gift one box for one month, you must cancel immediately after buying the first, and most expensive, box.
That being said, this box was pretty neat. Since the activities were geared for older children, my parental involvement was heavy, but my science-minded 5-year-old thoroughly enjoyed learning about the solar system and assembling and painting a diorama of the planets in their rotational orbit. Of course an exploding volcano was also included. It can’t be home science without one of those!
Recommend? Yes, but I agree with the 9+ age classification. The activities are also rather time-intensive, and if your child is busy with extracurricular activities and homework, it might be better to save these boxes for summer learning. If your child loves science experiments and will make time for these educational activities, then it’s definitely worth the time and money.
Green Kid Crafts Junior Discovery Box (ages 2-4)
Cost: Starts at $17.95
Does not renew automatically | Sibling option
The most expensive option, Green Kid Crafts blew the other subscription boxes out of the water. The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) company is a bronze Green America certified business, and many of the materials in the box are made from 100% recycled materials AND can be reused. One of the activities even encourages children to reuse the box by finding science materials around the house to put in their “science box.” Those are just some of the selling points for parents.
While this box is slightly more than the others, you get your money’s worth. Each bag contains two projects, for a total of 6 (or more) fun backyard/household experiments. The experiments were appropriate for ages 2-4, including more visual images and minimal text, and that meant less parental involvement. Win! These projects would easily engage older children as well. I have no doubt our neighbor girls, who are 10 and 12, would be just as interested as my 3- and 5-year-old. This could also be a great way for an older sibling to teach a younger sibling.
Speaking of siblings, Green Kid Crafts also provides a sibling package: 2 identical boxes each month, starting at $26.95. For less than $10/month, get an additional box–and avoid the bickering. The only tricky part is that the boxes must be the same, so if your children have a large age gap, you may have difficulty deciding which box will work best.