The holidays are approaching. It’s a joyous season, to be sure, but one that always presents challenges on what to give the people in our lives – especially children. Many start thinking of holiday gifts even as summer turns to fall, browsing the aisles at the local malls to find just the perfect present, but nothing seems quite right. The options are either too paltry, too feminine, too masculine, too boring, or just plain too expensive, and the stress grows. Some abandon the search and instead give cash. But come on, where’s the fun in that for kids?
Now, many online companies are offering the perfection solution: subscriptions. They’re not your standard magazine subscriptions, either, but rather new presents that arrive just as the old ones’ novelty wears off. They really are the gifts that keep on giving, perfect for school-age kids and relatively affordable compared with most things on kids’ lists these days. Plus, they provide the children with a once-a-month delivery so they can get excited all over again.
So for something truly different for the little ones in your heart, check out this rundown of the best of subscription gifts. Heck, the kids might even learn something new – just don’t tell them we said that.
Best Subscription Gifts for Kids
1. Wonder Box
The go-to learning site Education.com offers a monthly subscription activity box called Wonder Box, which aims to develop the skills kindergarten teachers consider most essential for kids ages three to six. Each box of fun is packed with three handpicked projects on themes ranging from crafts to science, complete with all the necessary supplies.
For instance, the “Once Upon a Time” box includes materials to build your own puppet, concoct a story based on your tale, and a bonus recipe for stone soup that encourages shape recognition, fine motor skills, and color exploration. A subscription to Wonder Box is $19.99 per month.
Sprung from the mind of mom-of-two Jessica Kim – a powerhouse of creativity named to Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40″ list for 2011 – BabbaCo knows kids. The company’s BabbaBox doesn’t just fill a box with “stuff” and ship it out. Each package for kids ages three to six has useful, reusable, and “giftable” projects based on a worthy topic, along with materials, a relevant book, and interactive downloads.
From the “Gratitude” box, they can make a serving tray, thank you cards, and a hot pad (perfect for holiday festivities); there’s also a disposable camera, photo album, and the book “Giving Thanks.” Each box is built around the question “What do you want to do today?” which makes the experience all the more enriching. BabbaBox costs $29.99 per month.
3. Kiwi Crate
The monthly craft box from Kiwi Crate delivers hands-on fun sure to unleash imaginations of those ages three to seven. Each crate is based on a theme designed by parents, reviewed by experts and tested by kids, and all include three projects and bonus online activities.
The “Dig into Dinosaurs” box gives children everything they need to design fossils, as well as a wearable tail and feet. The “Growing Gardens” box lets them do just that, with materials for a window garden and veggie pots; there are even recipe cards so they can extrapolate their new-found garden knowledge to the kitchen. Kiwi Crate costs $19.95 per month.
While the other subscriptions in this roundup feature crafty activities, kids of all ages enjoy watching worthy TV shows and movies – and Netflix puts the choice right in their little hands. The kids can be king of their own on-demand empire, and everything is viewable at home or on any mobile device, so it’s great for rainy days, weekend nights, and road trips. The best part is they no longer have to wait for DVDs to arrive in the mail. Netflix currently costs $7.99 per month.
5. Little Passports, USA Edition
Stir up a little wanderlust in the 7- to-12-year-olds you love, and they just might grow up to be world travelers. Sam and Sofia are the globetrotting mascots of Little Passports, and each month they send home souvenirs of their jaunts. There are letters, stickers, maps, postcards, scratch books, and a disposable camera, and everything is connected to further activities online.
Rather than cross oceans in this particular edition, the kids explore the U.S., so your little ones will learn about the unique geography of each state. It gives armchair travel a whole new meaning. Little Passports costs $10.95 per month.
6. Magic School Bus Science Club
If you know a budding scientist between the ages of 5 and 12, he or she will enjoy these kits based on the popular PBS TV series. The 12 monthly packages in the Magic School Bus Science Club subscription are designed to spark a curiosity about wondrous things like magnets, chemicals, volcanoes, planets, and even weather, as children follow along with the adventures of Ms. Frizzle and her young scientists.
Adult involvement is recommended with many of the activities, but even we big kids can learn. This club costs $19.99 per month.
Instilling a love of literature in children at a young age is one of life’s best lessons. Now the book-of-the-month club GiftLit helps make that possible. Selections are made by literary experts and are divided by age and theme. Current featured books for ages 10–12, for instance, include the action-packed “Missing on Superstition Mountain” and the 2012 Edgar Award mystery “The Wizard of Dark Street.”
If for some reason the recipient is unhappy with a particular selection, everything is exchangeable through the website. Better yet, if a book is returned, the subscription extends for an extra month. GiftLit costs $219.95 per year.
8. Spark Box Toys
If your kids are the type who play with a toy for a few weeks and then never pick it up again, Spark Box is your saving grace. Designed for the littlest ones up through age two, every box contains four or more toys. A look at one box for a 24-month-old includes Eggspressions by Hape, Leapfrog alphabet toys, mirror blocks by Guidecraft, and Fun Stacker by Plan Toys. And yes, everything is sanitized to be germ-free.
When your child has had enough, simply pack the toys in the prepaid box and return them to Spark Box to exchange for another shipment. It’s never-ending fun, and the service costs $34.95 per month.
It’s not easy to buy the kids in your life a gift they will remember. By trying subscription gifts, however, you can be sure their delight will linger. And if you weren’t their favorite before, you sure will be when they’re reminded of you every 30 days with a package on the doorstep.
What other subscription gift ideas can you suggest to “wow” the kids on your list?