Disclaimer: I received sample boxes from Bitsbox, Tinytivity, and Bookroo in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts below are my own.
Subscription boxes are the hot thing in parenting and homeschooling right now. As we’ve all gotten used to ordering things online and getting them in the mail (raise your hand if you love Amazon Prime!!), it seems like prices on kid subscriptions have gone down and quality has gone up. I used to be involved in a couple of subscription services when Eva was a baby and, not surprisingly, all of those services are now out of business because they didn’t really deliver for what you paid for them.
The good news is that in the last five years, it’s gotten pretty competitive out there and companies are really stretching to make sure that you’re happy with every delivery. So, I wanted to check out some of the most popular subscriptions that my friends are currently signed up for and found three that are definitely delivering bang for your buck!
Bitsbox, Tinytivity, and Bookroo are all monthly subscriptions for kids but they each deliver a very different product and they have their own quirks and perks. As you check out my reviews, see if you can guess which one we signed up for as soon as we opened our sample box…
Bookroo is a children’s book subscription service (be still my heart!) that delivers either two picture books or three board books each month. The books arrive gift wrapped with a little note that explains that month’s selection. I wasn’t sure how the quality would be since kid books definitely run the spectrum from Maurice Sendak to those stapled coloring books you get at the doctor’s office, but we were so pleased with the books we got!
I’ll review these books more in depth when I do my book reviews for March but the books are both darling hardcover picture books with really nice illustrations and smart stories. They are definitely heavy on pictures and light on text even though we didn’t choose the board book options, but I wouldn’t say that they were too easy. Eva reads at about a second grade level and both of these are a great pace for her – enough reading that she feels accomplished but not so much that she gets overwhelmed and forgets to check out the pictures.
Side note – I can’t speak for every month but the two we got were distributed from major publishing houses (Penguin and Candlewick Press). I don’t necessarily dislike self-published or small run children’s books per se, but I do think you’re taking more of a gamble with those if you purchase before you read so I was relieved that I recognized these two as coming from vetted, quality brands.
The friend who recommended this service to me is building up a quality picture book library for her daughter and wanted to keep it fresh by adding something new every month. She’s since given subscriptions as baby shower gifts which is such a cute idea because it’s unlikely that they end up with duplicate titles as you might if you buy the classics for baby on the way. I know we ended up with a few different copies of Goodnight Moon when Eva was born!
Winner: Best Children’s Subscription to Give as a Gift
Tinytivity is a monthly subscription services that delivers complete craft kits right to your door. The crafts are themed to the season and designed to be done by the parent and child together with enough flexibility that kids of all abilities can still do them. For example, one of the crafts in the sample box we received involved painting a bird feeder and while I’m going to have Eva do it because she’ll meticulously decorate it, Calvin could have still had a good time with his messy three-year-old style.
Because we got a box themed for springtime, the craft above did contain seeds so that was an allergy problem for us that I hadn’t anticipated. The good news is that everything was packaged separately and very neatly so I just took the seeds away and Eva was able to enjoy the rest. This is something that we run into occasionally (we once got a nature exploration box filled with loose pine nuts – yikes!) but it’s probably not something that comes up very often with a craft subscription. The other craft has pressed flowers but that’s not likely to be a problem for us.
The thing about this subscription service is that it provides an opportunity for at least two moments where you can hang out with your kid without having to worry about planning and prepping a craft project. Prepping craft projects is kind of my nemesis. I have bags of craft supplies hanging out in closets because I always plan big things and then we never get around to actually doing them after I buy the supplies. With these crafts being easy, timely, contained, and prep free, we are much more likely to actually do them.
I should note that Calvin was most excited about the picture books when we opened them but this was the box that Eva was really excited about because she wanted to immediately get her little artist hands busy with the making. I don’t even know if a weekly craft subscription could keep up with that one!
Winner: Best for Grandparents, Babysitters, and Getting Right Into Making Fun Family Memories
Bitsbox is a monthly subscription designed to make kids love coding. Coding is inevitable and unavoidable for kids because it’s the new language they need to be fluent in to keep up with how fast tech is changing. Unfortunately, parents who are my age (shout out to those kids of the eighties!) are at a real disadvantage because we grew up typing but not coding. I didn’t even learn coding in college because it was something only fringe computer geeks were doing and ended up having to go back to take classes at my alma matter after I graduated from law school because by then basic HTML was a lot handier than anything I had learned in college the first time around.
My coding skills are rough around the edges and Kyle’s are basically non-existent so we need some way to start our kids on the coding path without having to lead them ourselves.
Each month, Bitsbox sends out a kit that contains a set of coding activites for kids. The box we received was the deluxe version of the first kit that you get so I was expecting something really basic like flashcards or a nice board book with the ABCs of coding in it and had to admit that I was a little overwhelmed when I pulled all of these brightly colored goodies out of the box:
Once I figured out what everything was, though, it’s such a cute little kit! First off, you get an Apper Keeper (eighties kids??) that’s a little binder with a big pocket to hold all of your activity packs, trading cards, etc. You put the activity cards into the binder as you go and each card has a simple coding project that you do on the Bitsbox website to create apps that work on your tablet, phone, etc. So the coding is done on a computer but the product your kid creates can be used on your iPad, if that makes sense.
The deluxe box also included a guide for parents, a fantastic sticker book, and some other goods like stickers and trading cards. I put the smaller goodies aside after I opened the box but when Kyle came home and saw the trading cards he was all over them. Each of the cards has its own coding project so there was even more to do than what we have in our binder. Note: the site and guide make it clear that parents don’t need to have any coding skills beyond basic computer savvy in order to help their kids with the projects. Hooray!
The age range starts at six years old but after looking everything over I’m not quite sure that Eva (turning six this Saturday!!!!!) is up for these activities yet. I think she’ll be there by early summer for sure so we might do a little coding bootcamp then when she has less going on. It’s also going to take that long for me to get the activities back from her father, who pounced on the trading card and activity binder combo and wanted to know exactly how soon we could get some more because obviously we need to fill the binder and collect all the cards. (Seriously, eighties kids! Up top!)
PS – they gave me a discount code so if you use EVERCLEVER20 you can take 20% off your Bitsbox subscription!
Winner: Best Subscription for Giving Kids Mad Skills You Don’t Have
Well, did you guess which one we signed up for? We’re strongly leaning toward getting all three eventually because it was a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation with all of us getting excited about different boxes BUT the Bitsbox subscription was the one we started right away. The crazy thing is that we didn’t even start it for the kids – Kyle and I want Bitsbox! I wasn’t kidding when I said my coding skills are rough, even after a couple of college courses, because coding is overwhelming and boring when you learn it in a classroom. The Bitsbox subscription is a much more fun place to start and since Kyle is really starting at the beginning we figured it makes sense for us to get the subscription, use it ourselves, and then play with it with our kids after we have a binder full of coding projects for them to do. If they’re lucky, we might even share some of our trading cards with them. Well, the duplicates anyway.
As for the other two, I was really impressed and understood why I have friends with active subscriptions to these services. The only reason I’m hesitating is because we happen to have a huge library of picture books already, so I’m not building one like my friend is, and as I mentioned I have a ridiculous stash of unrealized craft projects hanging out in closets so I want to tackle a few more of those before starting a subscription. That being said, the kids were so excited and it’s not like books and crafts are something you can have too much of in childhood so we’ll see…