The best subscription boxes for children
Subscription boxes – packages full of goodies that are delivered to your door once a month – are a hot new trend, with a whole range of options ranging from chocolate to beauty products.
There's a wide choice of subscription boxes aimed at primary school children, and they make the perfect gift for Christmas or birthdays. Many of them can also be ordered as a one-off if you don't want to commit to a monthly subscription.
We ordered 13 of the bestselling boxes and used them with our children. Read on to find out what was inside!
Best for budding scientists
From £9.50 per month, including postage. Age 6+.
What’s inside? The Explore box includes everything you need for three to five science experiments and explorations, adding up to one to two hours of fun. The bigger Investigate box, for ages 8+, contains everything in the Explore box plus additional investigations and collectible lab kit.
We tried out an Explore box with a Hidden Rainbows theme. There were three activities: a chromatography experiment using sweets and inks, make a pair of rainbow glasses, and make rainbow spinners. All we needed to add was water!
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Best for tight budgets
From £8.95 a month, plus £2.95 postage. Age 3-8.
What’s inside? There are three types of toucanBox: Petite (delivered fortnightly or monthly) contains one craft project and a themed activity box; Grande (monthly) includes the equipment for two craft projects and an age-appropriate reading book; and Super (monthly) contains four craft projects and a reading book.
A nice touch is that for an extra fee, you can order craft materials for a sibling to complete the projects, too.
Our Petite box had a Pirate Adventure theme and included the materials to make a feathered cardboard parrot puppet and a tea-stained treasure map. The activity book suggested other craft projects, including making a pirate’s hook from household items.
Best for learning about the world
£35 for the first month, then £12 per month. Age 4-10.
What’s inside? The Geo Journey starts with an Explorer Kit, which includes a personalised letter, wall map, travel journal, passport, activity booklet, stickers, and a travel ticket, all packed into a hardwearing child-size suitcase – my daughter loved packing her case for a trip to Edinburgh, and filling in her journal while we were there.
From then on, each month, your child will receive a package focusing on a different country, including a personalised letter, photos, fact postcard, stickers, activity booklet, travel ticket and a souvenir, such as a boomerang from Australia.
Best for environmentally conscious kids
From £6.95 per month, including delivery. Age 3+.
What’s inside? These boxes have a different seasonal theme each month, and include at least three activities, which could include craft, baking and puzzles. There’s a sticker chart, with stickers to add each month, and instructions for an extra monthly recycling task using household materials.
We tried out the Enchanting Woodland Creatures box, which contained a feathered ‘flying owl’ craft activity, a 3D squirrel magnet to make, and a woodland sticker scene. Our recycling task was to make a badger out of a toilet roll tube.
Overall, we found the instructions less clear to follow than many of the other subscription boxes we tested – and our poor squirrel sadly fell apart!
Best for craft lovers
First Wonder Box have announced they will no longer be offering subscriptions from 1 May 2020, but they will be selling single activity boxes for £9.99.
What’s inside? Created by team behind the children’s newspaper First News, First Wonder Boxes are themed activity kits (themes include the human body, bugs, under the sea, dinosaurs, castles and art). Each one contains a book, all the materials needed for creative projects, a toy and collectable cards and stickers. We love the fact that the box itself transforms into a game, craft or activity.
Bundles of activity books and stickers are also available.
Best for voracious readers
From £4.99 per month, including postage. Age 0-11.
What’s inside? This is a subscription box with a difference: each month, you’ll be sent one, three or five age-appropriate and completely personalised books for your child, depending on your subscription level. The box also includes educational activities and stickers. You can choose which books you’d like to receive online, delete books you've already got, or let the Bookabees team select books based on your child’s age and interests.
There's a subscription to suit every budget: you can choose to either keep the books forever or return them for free in the pre-paid packaging. There are thousands of titles to discover, from classic Bookabee favourites to hidden gems.
Our ‘Bigger’ box contained five fiction and non-fiction books: The Little Mermaid, Stories of Mermaids, The Great Fire of London, The Wizard of Oz and Camille and the Sunflowers. There was also a craft activity to make a cardboard money box.
Best for making history fun
From £7.95 per month plus £0.95 postage. Age 7-11.
What’s inside? Mysteries in Time boxes each feature a personalised ‘time machine’ box filled with activities relating to a specific period in history, including a story, history booklet, puzzles, sticker sheet, colouring pages and more. The first box also contains a wall map and timeline to add to each month.
We tested the Bumper box, which also includes a history themed craft activity and gift. Our Ancient Egypt box included timeline sticker, Max and Katie’s Egyptian Adventure story, a quiz and puzzles, a craft to make and decorate a clay amulet, colouring sheets and pencils, and a replica canopic jar to keep.
Best for learning a language
From £13.99 per month, including delivery. Age 4-9.
What’s inside? One Third Stories is a language-learning programme for kids, available in French and Spanish. Each box includes a book that’s written predominantly in English, but introduces more and more foreign words as the story progresses.
There’s also a code to download the audiobook, vocabulary flashcards and an activity book. Our French pack contained The Duck’s Journey, and a book of activities including a die to make and games to play with it.
Best for literacy
From £5.15 per month. Age 5-8.
What's inside? Technically, this isn't a box but a personalised letter from Banjo Robinson, a globe-trotting cat who writes to your child twice a month from a different geographical location each time. The letters can be personalised with details about your child's life, such as where they live and the name of their pet. The aim is that, after reading their letter from Banjo, your child will want to write back. They then pop their letter into the enclosed envelope, add a special stamp (provided), slide it under the sofa and wait for it to be collected by Cat Mail (AKA Parent Mail!) overnight.
Each letter comes with reply stationery, stickers, a colouring activity, and the occasional surprise, and the first package also includes a map of the world so your child can mark off every location that Banjo visits using a special pawprint sticker.
Best for green-fingered kids
From £10.95 per box. Ages 4-8.
What’s inside? Mud & Bloom boxes are packed with activities and equipment to encourage children to get hands-on with nature.
The box we received included two packets of seeds to plant (sunflowers and courgettes), instructions and supplies to make a butterfly feeder, and a flower head printing activity including a lovely set of gouache paints. There was also a nature quiz and a butterfly spotting guide.
The seeds contained in each box are organic, and organic peat-free compost pellets are also provided. Packaging is plastic-free and biodegradable where possible. You can also order a sibling box, which contains enough supplies for two children to do each activity.
Best for kitchen inspiration
From £8.33 per month including delivery. Ages 3-10.
What’s inside? Little Cooks Co aims to get kids involved in the kitchen, building healthy eating habits and encouraging dinnertime conversations. The recipes included are developed by a nutritionist and free from refined sugar.
Each box includes the recipe and dry ingredients like flour and spices for a sweet bake (pumpkin blondies in our Halloween themed box), to which you’ll need to add fresh ingredients: pumpkin, honey, butter, milk and vanilla essence for the blondies - so bear in mind that you'll need to go shopping. There’s also a savoury recipe without ingredients (cheesy pies in the box we tried out), plus three Table Talk cards with questions and activities to spark conversations around the dinner table, and a bonus extra gift or activity.
Your child will get a record book in their first box, where they can jot down the skills they’ve learned and what makes the recipe healthy. They ‘level up’ after every three boxes, and if they complete all 12 boxes, they’ll get their next box free. A donation is also made to the Magic Breakfast charity with every box.
Best for broadening reading horizons
From £39.95 for a rolling subscription, including postage. Age 5-11.
What's inside? Parrot Street sends out a new book that they're unlikely to have read before each month, alongside supporting activities like book club-style questions, craft projects with supplies, puzzles and recipes.
You can choose whether to receive a book suitable for KS1 or KS2; if the book is too difficult for your child to read independently, it's suggested that you read it to them. Books are chosen to be gender-neutral and introduce authors and genres your child may not have discovered - we received Pie in the Sky, the story of a boy who emigrates from South-East Asia to Australia. If your child has read the book before, you can email for a replacement.
Children are encouraged to review the book by writing a report or drawing a picture on the enclosed card, and asking an adult to post it on social media.
Best for getting children cooking
£20 per fortnightly box for a rolling subscription, including delivery. Age 5+ with parental help.
What's inside? Cook School is a nationwide initiative helping children to understand nutrition and give them the skills and confidence to cook at home through affordable cookery classes and recipe boxes.
Cook School’s recipe boxes are delivered every other Friday, containing a detailed recipe and every single ingredient for your child to make a healthy vegetarian family meal such as cauliflower curry (which was absolutely delicious) or harissa bean burgers, with help according to their age. Ingredients are sustainably sourced with fresh British veg, and the packaging is all recyclable.
Inside, you’ll also find facts and activities on the food in the box, and how-to cards demonstrating a particular kitchen technique like chopping or slicing. There are QR codes to scan with your phone so your child can cook along, and if you’re not sure whether to commit, you can buy a one-off single box to try.
Best for STEM projects
£29.90 per month including delivery. Age 5-10.
What’s inside? MEL Kids is a subscription box that delivers science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) projects direct to your door. There are 18 monthly kits to collect, each containing all the equipment for a specific experiment, such as building a projectile cannon and discovering how sound travels.
We tried out the gyroscope box, which contained everything we needed to build a robust wooden gyroscope, with instructions for constructing and using it and an explanation of the science behind it in the form of a colourful comic. The step-by-step guide was easy to follow with a little help from a parent, and using the finished product was a fascinating introduction to the science of spinning objects and how they’re used in real life.
There’s also an accompanying app, with a QR code to scan in every kit that lets your child into an augmented reality experience exploring the scientific principle in more detail.
Best for exploring physics
£29.90 per month including delivery. Age 8-14+.
What’s inside? Introducing children to the wonderful world of physics, each MEL Physics box includes two or three experiments linked by a particular principle, such as magnetism, non-Newtonian fluids, or reflections.
The polarised light kit that we tried included everything we needed to explore this fascinating concept using natural light and a smartphone torch. We made a wooden phone stand and a frame for light-filtering films, and then discovered how changing the light source and filters polarised the light hitting a variety of enclosed objects, such as a plastic spoon and a test tube, producing amazing coloured light effects.
Each instruction card features a detailed explanation of the science behind the experiments; these concepts can be quite complex, so you’ll need to read them with your child to help them understand (top marks for not dumbing the explanations down, though).
You can also download the Mel Physics app and scan the QR code enclosed in every box for bonus experiments and videos.