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11 best subscription boxes for kids: From gardening adventures and science experiments to foodie fun

We recruited a cohort of little testers to put these boxes through their paces

Sarah Dawson
Thursday 10 February 2022 17:24 GMT
<p>We’ve included options for every age group </p>

We’ve included options for every age group

If you’re looking for a solution to the constant cries of “I’m bored!” from the kids every weekend, a subscription box could well be the answer. Offering hours of screen-free fun, there’s a huge choice of boxes to suit all ages and interests, from baking to art, which arrive in the post, ready to get stuck into.

While some boxes cater to toddlers or teens, the bulk is aimed at three to ten-year-olds. Older children can usually be left to their own devices to explore the contents and activities independently, whereas younger kids may need a bit of help to make the most of the boxes. We found that many of the subscription boxes we tested made a great family rainy-day activity.

As well as being lots of fun, subscription boxes also offer huge educational and developmental benefits – from literacy and learning about science, to encouraging creativity and boosting fine and gross motor skills in the littlest testers.

While the themes of children’s subscription boxes vary, so does the price. Many work on a rolling monthly basis (which you can cancel at any time), but you can usually get the best price by opting for a longer subscription period and paying upfront. A lot of companies do offer payment plans to make it more affordable. The boxes we tested ranged in price from less than £10 a month to almost £75 a month, although we found that for those at the higher end of the price scale they were packed full of quality, ‘keep forever’ toys and games, to justify the spend.

Many companies also give you the option of buying one-off boxes, which is a great way to test out if it’s the right option for your kids before committing. Some also offer sibling boxes at a discounted price, if you predict there might be a riot over sharing.

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How we tested

We tested the subscription boxes for a month – with our two-and-a-half-year-old, five-year-old and eight-year-old – putting them through their paces. We looked at value for money, how long they held our tester’s attention, how much fun we had exploring them, if they’d really look forward to it arriving each month and any educational benefits.

The best subscription boxes for kids for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Mud + Bloom box: From £13.95 per month,
  • Best for crafts – Toucanbox: From £7.95 per month,
  • Best book subscription – Books & Pieces storybook subscription: From £12.08 per month,
  • Best for baking – Baked In junior baking club: From £8.25 per month,
  • Best Montessori subscription box – Benedykt & Sylvester box: From £32.99 per month,
  • Best for budding artists – Make & Wonder box: From £15.50 per month,
  • Best for celebrating diversity – Little Box of Books subscription: From £17.99 per month,
  • Best for supporting maths learning – Cubie Education box: From £32.91 per month,
  • Best toy subscription – Lovevery box: From £80 every two months,
  • Best for little chefs – Foodini Club box: From £11.50 per month,
  • Best science subscription box – The Curiosity Box: From £39.95 every three months,

Mud + Bloom box

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

This gardening and nature subscription manages to pack so much into such a small, letterbox-friendly box; we couldn’t believe how many activities were included. Each box features four activities, which are a mix of nature-inspired crafts and seasonal planting.

The idea behind the Mud + Bloom boxes is to encourage your children to get outside, finding what they need for their crafting on family walks and adventures, while learning about the seasons and nature. Our outdoorsy five-year-old was a huge fan and loved heading out on walks to find stones and twigs to decorate with the gouache paints and paintbrush included in our box. We all had great fun growing our own cress heads, using the seeds provided, and although the boxes are aimed at three to eight-year-olds, our toddler loved getting involved, with plenty of adult supervision.

What we particularly loved about this box is how you don’t need a garden to enjoy it. Compost pellets are included in every box, along with seeds or bulbs, to help you start growing whatever vegetables, plants or flowers are in season, in a plant pot on your windowsill. Encouraging a passion for growing your own flowers and vegetables and getting your hands dirty – what’s not to love? We can’t wait to see our testers’ excited faces when their hard work starts to sprout.

With easy to follow instructions (simple enough for older children to read independently), lots of activities and recyclable packaging, all at an affordable price, we are sold.

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Best: For crafts

Rating: 9/10

From the fun and colourful packaging, down to the projects inside, the toucanBox has a serious amount of kid appeal. Aimed at three to eight-year-olds, this Montessori-inspired craft box aims to encourage creative play, while championing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) for primary school children.

Each toucanBox comes with a magazine (filled with stories, games, experiments and fun pictures to colour in) as well as almost everything you need to make two craft projects – the only thing you’ll need to dig out are the basics like scissors and a pencil. Our five and eight-year-olds made a great team, following the written and illustrated instructions to make the cutest spring-themed bowling pins on their own – then had an equally fun time knocking them down with the ball included in the kit.

There are a number of different subscription options to choose from and you get to pick the two projects for your first box, with every subsequent box a surprise. The projects are quite involved and will easily keep the kids busy for a couple of afternoons, and we were impressed with the quality of the materials – no corners have been cut here. You can buy one-off boxes too, so if you’re not wanting to commit to a subscription just yet, it’s a great kit to have stored away for half term.

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Books & Pieces storybook subscription

Best: Book subscription

Rating: 9/10

Get the kids excited about bedtime with a book subscription to seriously up your bedtime story game. Books & Pieces is one of the best value book subscriptions available, delivering three children’s books to your door each month for just over a tenner (well below the RRP). Each package is tailored to your child’s age, so you can pick from under twos, two to three-year-olds or four to five-year-olds, to make sure you get send books they’ll really enjoy. We particularly liked the family subscription option, where you’re sent books to appeal to all siblings, so no one has to miss out on post day.

As well as your three books each month, as a subscriber you get access to the Beyond the Books resource hub (which has some fun ideas and activities based around the books), free postage and the option of adding extra books from the online store to your subscription if you want. We liked the handy tote bag that comes with your first subscription too.

What appeals the most is having expertly sourced, handpicked, quality picture books arrive each month to add to our little testers’ bookshelves, with zero effort on our part. Our toddler and five-year-old loved the books we received, and we were grateful for some new stories to add into the mix at bedtime. It’s a great solution for time-poor parents who want to encourage a love of books and reading.

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Baked In junior baking club

Best: For baking

Rating: 8.5/10

If you’ve got a mini Great British Bake Off fan on your hands, this monthly subscription box is a great way to help them expand their baking repertoire and skills. Each month’s box comes with everything you need to make a particular bake – apart from perishable ingredients like butter and milk – including tasty treats like apple crumble bars and lemon cupcakes.

Inside the box, all the ingredients are in numbered (fully recyclable) plastic bags, as well as the accessories you might need for the bake (in our case, cute cupcake cases and piping bags). The step-by-step instructions are incredibly clear, and we appreciated the parent-friendly touches like writing the steps in bold when an adult is needed to help, and large “careful it’s hot!” warning illustrations. This meant our eight-year-old tester could work through the recipe on their own for the most part, with just a little assistance from us.

Baking can sometimes feel a little chaotic with kids, but having everything already prepared (bar the odd egg or measurement of butter) really helped streamline the process, making it a lot more enjoyable for the grown-ups and kids alike.

We guess the proof is in the pudding, and we can safely say both of the recipes our little testers tried out were a huge success and tasted delicious. We’re more than happy to keep up this subscription if it means we get served handmade cake each month.

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Benedykt & Sylvester box

Best: Montessori subscription box

Rating: 8/10

With its roots in Montessori learning (a more child-centred method of education rather than formal teaching), the Benedykt & Sylvester subscription boxes are aimed at children aged three to six. Each themed box (previous examples have included “space”, “shapes” and “body”) includes a variety of learning materials ranging from paper workbooks to wooden toys and accessories, which are ideal for home-schooling or as an educational activity to do for fun with your pre-schooler.

The boxes range from the basic subscription to the premium subscription (which we tested) and you can choose to receive them every month or every two months. Our testers couldn’t believe their eyes when they opened the premium “body” subscription box. It was absolutely packed with activities, but the stars of the show have to be the unique, handmade wooden learning tiles, detailing everything from the nervous system to the digestive system, in realistic detail. All of our reviewers were obsessed with these, asking endless questions about what each part does and why. Thankfully all the information you need is included in the kit, in case you get stumped by one of their questions.

Another massive hit was the “organ jigsaw” where our testers took turns trying to fit all the wooden internal organs into the cut-out space in a wooden body. To be honest, the adults got a little competitive over who could complete this quickest, too…

Word and picture flashcards, puzzles, learning tiles; it’s all here and it undoubtedly has sparked a huge curiosity about the human body with our testers, so it’s done its job. Yes, the premium box is expensive, but this is the kind of content you can return back to for years. We found even our oldest tester was fascinated by the box and continued to learn from it, so we feel its age appeal stretches way past six.

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Make & Wonder box

Best: For budding artists

Rating: 9/10

Aiming to nurture creativity and individuality, the Make + Wonder art boxes are wonderfully unique. Each month the box focusses on a different female artist, introducing children to their work and their life in an accessible and exciting way. Celebrating the talents of artists like Paula Rego, Sheila Hick and Frida Khalo, expect to find four artist-inspired activities, with plenty of materials to get started in every box.

There are no step-by-steps here, the box is much more open-ended and the idea is for parents to leave their children to explore the contents, read the story of the artist and come up with their own creative versions of the suggested projects – quite simply, there are no rules.

Our Frida Khalo box came with a set of oil pastels, a small artists’ sketchbook, lots of embellishments, patterned paper and glue to make a collage, portrait and a Frida-inspired headband. Our five-year-old loved the freedom of just being left to it, getting stuck in with colours, sticking and doodling. The results were amazing and crazy and unique – Frida would have been proud.

If you have more than one child at home, you can opt for the sibling box, which includes one set of the creative idea cards and the artist’s story, but enough craft material for them both to have a go.

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Little Box of Books subscription

Best: For celebrating diversity

Rating: 9/10

Curating a diverse book collection for your children is incredibly important, and this monthly subscription box from Little Box of Books is a brilliant option if you want to expand their reading choices. Each month you’ll be sent up to four books (depending on the subs option you go for) which all promote gender equality, racial diversity, disability representation and all kinds of family units – while, of course, being great reads your kids will love.

Offering three subscription types, from babies up to three years, four to seven-year-olds and eight to 11-year-olds, it will see your child from birth right up to secondary school, nurturing a love of reading while presenting an inclusive look at the world. You can choose to receive two, three or four books each month, and each package comes with a little gift for your child, as well as some activity sheets focussed around the books. And, for every subscription you buy, Little Box of Books donates a book to Doorstep Library, a charity that helps to inspire a love of reading with children living in disadvantaged areas of London.

We tested out the zero to three-year-old’s subscription, as well as the four to seven-year-old pack and were impressed with the variety of stories included. They all felt very age-appropriate, with the older picture books and early chapter books opening up some great conversations with our five-year-old. Our two-and-a-half-year-old was a big fan of the wooden car magnets that came in her box, as well as the sweet board book When Mummy Goes To Work, despite being very disappointed to discover her mummy doesn’t actually drive an ambulance every day.

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Cubie Education box

Best: For supporting maths learning

Rating: 8/10

Most parents find it easy enough to fit in some reading with their children each day, but when it comes to supporting them with maths, it doesn’t always feel so straightforward. This clever subscription box from Cubie Education is designed to help kids in the early years and key stage 1 with maths through easy to follow, bitesize exercises.

The box includes everything you need for a month’s work of maths learning – right down to a pencil, ruler and reward stickers for that all-important wall chart. In the box you’ll receive a booklet aimed at the right level of learning depending on what year your child is at school, which features enough work for around 15 minutes of maths a day for the full month. No need to print out anything – hooray! You’ll also receive a parent’s book with all the answers and there’s plenty of help on the website if needed.

At the front of each booklet is a handy key, with picture symbols to let your child know if they need to write, say, match or colour the activities on each page. There’s also a stop sign which shows where your child needs to work up to that day.

Although it’s presented in a fun and clear way, we were not entirely convinced our five-year-old would be up for an extra 10-15 minutes of maths a day, but we were pleasantly surprised. The way Cubie is designed makes the short maths session feel like a game, and our tester enjoyed working his way through the booklet on his own until he reached the stop sign. The excitement of ticking off his day’s work and adding a sticker to his reward chart was enough to convince him to give it a go most days, although we occasionally skipped a day if he really wasn’t feeling it.

Yes, it might not have the wow factor of some of the other subscription boxes, but its educational credentials really impressed. This is exactly the kind of thing we wished we’d discovered during lockdown, when our attempts to help with maths during home-schooling were more than a little shoddy.

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Lovevery box

Best: Toy subscription

Rating: 9/10

The first subscription box featuring stage-based play essentials for newborns up to three-years-old, Lovevery makes play kits specifically designed to meet your child’s developmental needs. The idea is that each kit targets a very small two to three-month window of your child’s life, providing toys to support their learning and development. All we know is that it was absolute catnip for our toddler.

We tested the enthusiast play kit, suitable for 28 to 30-month-olds, and from the moment we opened the box, our two-and-a-half-year-old was hooked. Lovevery’s USP is that it designs toys that are built to last – using sustainably harvested wood, organic cotton and nontoxic paint, everything in the box is excellent quality and made to be passed down to younger siblings or repurposed as your child grows. We cannot fault the contents of our box at all – everything looked like it had come from a stylish, high-end kids’ store and we were happy to have them around the house. The wooden weighing scales and peg puzzle were instant hits, and the cute enamel picnic set – complete with organic linens and basket – has already hosted a number of picnics for our toddler’s dolls and dinosaurs. However, it was the water mister and squeegee that we’ve been unable to prise off her since they arrived – who knew that’s all a toddler wanted in life?

At £80 a box every two months for babies, rising to £120 every three months from one year in age we appreciate it’s not a cheap option, but if you can afford it, we can’t recommend Lovevery enough. For a full month now, these toys have been the ones our youngest tester has reached for first and they have also captured our five-year-old’s imagination. We can’t wait to see what’s in the next box.

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Foodini Club box

Best: For little chefs

Rating: 8/10

“Kids who cook, eat” says the Foodini Club website, which is why this subscription box is all about getting kids excited about cooking and eating new food. Introducing different flavours, providing plenty of meal and snack inspiration and encouraging a real hands-on approach to food, this subscription is ideal for little foodies (or for trying to entice less-than-adventurous eaters to try something new).

Not a box as such, more a brightly coloured A4 envelope featuring the cute Foodini Club logo, it’s truly stuffed to the brim with activities. There are sweet and savoury recipe cards (the jewelled pilaf was *chef’s kiss*), pre-measured herbs and spices to use in the recipes, a “kitchen skills” card, a guide to seasonal produce every month, as well as a monthly meal planner. There’s also a kitchen science experiment to try each month (ours was how to make egg-free meringues, in honour of Veganuary) with the ingredients you need.

Each pack includes a craft kit, and our five and eight-year-olds really enjoyed making a moon phase mobile, using the cornflour and bicarbonate of soda mixture provided – they just needed a little help when it came to baking the shapes in the oven.

All our testers loved the vibrant feel of the Foodini Club pack – the bright colours, fun fonts and cute animal illustrations made it all feel really kid-friendly. It’s a great price for a kit that will easily keep the kids busy all month.

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The Curiosity Box

Best: Science subscription box

Rating: 8.5/10

These ridiculously fun STEM subscription boxes are split into two age groups – four to six and seven to 11 – each providing everything you need to conduct two (or more) science experiments, depending on which level of box you choose. You get sent a box each month, paying for three months upfront (or six or 12, if you prefer).

Everything you need is included (we just had to provide a bowl for our experiments) and the instructions are easy to follow, although younger children will almost certainly need a little adult help. We liked how each experiment had a key to let you know how messy it can be, how much help you’ll need and how long it will take, as well as whether it fell under chemistry, biology or physics. It’s worth knowing that some of the experiments include chemicals that need to be handled with gloves (provided) and kept away from small children and pets – it’s not something to leave out with your toddler.

Our five-year-old tester and his friend had the time of their lives playing around with the experiments – and, unsurprisingly, the biggest hit was making their own edible poo to match the Bristol stool chart. We don’t think it’s possible to appeal to a five-year-old any more than that.

The Curiosity Box never uses single-use plastic packaging (some of its suppliers do, but it is working on that) and it definitely get extra marks for the very cool cardboard box everything arrives in. The inside of the box is covered in cute illustrations of robots, rockets and spaceships and our testers spent ages colouring it in.

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The verdict: Subscription boxes for kids

We were so impressed with the incredibly high standards of all the children’s subscription boxes we tested, but Mud + Bloom takes out the top spot as best buy. It’s such a versatile box, mixing a bit of gardening, crafting and nurturing a love of the outdoors, all at an affordable price. Every little detail has been so well thought through and all of our testers loved it.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on toys and activities, try the links below:

If you have a little chef on your hands, check out our round-up of the best kids’ cookbooks to get them excited about food

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