Let’s start with the most salient fact: Most toy subscriptions, loot boxes, and subscription loot boxes for kids are absolutely awful. In most cases, parents wind up overpaying for bad toys that end up under the couch before the next shipment arrives. As such, it’s important to remember that the subscription model has a point and that the point is anticipation and repetition. Great subscriptions inspire enthusiasm, traditions, and good habits. Fortunately, there are plenty of subscriptions that can accomplish that — some are just toy-adjacent or a bit unexpected.
Each of the subscriptions for kids below encourages deeper investment in activity and play rather than plasticine clutter. The idea? Subscribe to excitement. Take that approach and everything tends to work out just fine.
For the next generation of coders and tech gurus.
Ideal for kids ages six to 12, this coding subscription box starts them out by coding from examples and then they progress to inventing their own apps. Who knows? You might have the next iPhone creator on your hands. Kids learn to make everything from greeting cards to video games.
Little Passports delivers luggage-shaped loot boxes designed to inspire children’s interest not only in travel — the Grand Tour aesthetic gives that away — but in the broader world. The Early Explorers Premium subscription, aimed at kids between 3 and 5, is a standout. The subscription comes (don’t say we didn’t warn you) with a wall-sized map, a host of activities and genuinely educational books. There are also stickers. There are always stickers.
Take it from the recovered magazine editors currently staffing Fatherly, the newsstand industry is in a tailspin. But kids don’t read like adults. Kids sit with books and magazines and images, puzzling over strange words, new ideas, and the visual language of graphic design — something they take years to take for granted. Along with Kazoo, which is also on this list, National Geographic Little Kids is the best print product for the under-7 set. After that, they’ll be stealing your computer.
Surprise Ride activity boxes are marketed as STEM toys. For those keeping track, no evidence supports the idea that STEM/STEAM toys provide children with outsize benefits. That said, plenty of evidence — largely anecdotal, some clinical — suggests that fun projects are fun. These kits are designed for children between 5 and 12, but best for those in the 6 to 9 range. Will they need help? A bit, but not much.
Think of Kazoo as a punk zine for kids. It does not exist to sell anything. It exists to put forward a message. That message is this: You can do stuff. Each unpredictable issue offers not only the chance to read and look, but to interact, tackling puzzlings and drawing new ideas from new inspirations. Brilliantly edited by parents who know what they’re doing, Kazoo keeps kids entertained or, to put it better, teaches them to entertain themselves. That’s a gift that keeps on giving.
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