Getting something fun through the post is exciting enough for adults, let alone kids who love the opportunity to open a parcel or two. And here lies the beauty of subscription or activity boxes. Many of these products focus on hands-on learning opportunities and whether your child is 4 or 11, and interested in construction or cooking, there’s something to appeal to them.
Make sure the box you order is geared towards the right age bracket and check exactly what it contains – while most options are packed with interesting and thoughtful activities, you may find that some (none of which are featured here!) include ideas that you could easily recreate yourself.
With this in mind, we’ve asked children, mums and toy experts to test a whole range of boxes – here are our top picks…
1. Mysteries in Time, from £6.95 per month – best for education
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Subscription Box – Gold
What it is: This fun and educational subscription box allows your child to travel back in history and solve a mystery. There’s an illustrated adventure story, and colourful history booklet packed full of fun facts, as well as a craft activity and engaging puzzles.
Why we love it: This brilliant subscription box scooped gold in the MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019, and for good reason. The innovative idea sees children receive a time machine each month – the first takes you back to Ancient Egypt, while other stops in history showcase Ancient Greece, the Victorians and WW2.
Our judges commented on the fact it’s great value and said the product was excellent quality. “There is so much in the box to play with,” said Clare Loggey, MFM tester and mum to Jack, 8. “We made the clay amulets, read a bit of the book and spelt our names in hieroglyphs which my son really enjoyed.”
This is a really reasonably priced option compared to others on offer and we love how it inspires their imagination.
Available from: Mysteries in Time
2. Explorer Tots, £23.99 – best for hours of fun
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Subscription Box – Silver
What it is: These themed boxes are sent on a one-off basis and allow your little ones to learn about the world around them through fun STEM-inspired activities.
Why we love it: This award-winning activity box came highly recommended by the testers in the MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 and was given a silver accolade.
The themed box contains for individually packaged activities, materials and instructions, fun facts cards and great ideas for other ways to explore the topic. We love the fact that the contents inspire children to be active, investigative and imaginative and think the focus on STEM is really beneficial.
MFM tester Emma Weiss, who’s mum to 5-year-old Finley, says: “This is a brilliant subscription box for children fascinated with STEM themes or a great way to introduce the topics in a crafty fun way. It is a lovely way to spend time together learning and creating while honing motor skills and sparking new interests. I would definitely recommend this to other parents.”
Currently the boxes available to buy look at woodland themes, space exploring themes and science themes. These are a one-off purchase, not a subscription service like Mysteries in Time, and at £23.99, they are more expensive than some of the other offerings on the market, but they do provide hours of fun.
Available from: Explorer Tots
3. Little Box Of Books, from £18 a month – best for bookworms
Suitable for: All ages
What it is: A service that sends 4 beautiful, interesting, lesser-known stories hand-picked for you based on your child’s age.
Why we love it: Books are a magical way to ignite your little one’s imagination and the Little Box of Books subscription service wants to encourage a passion for reading in every child.
A Silver winner in our MadeForMums 2019 Awards, the idea behind the service was developed by a single mum who struggled to find books that represented her family and all the reads are diverse, inclusive and representative of the world in which we live.
For £18 a month you’ll receive up to 4 unique stories to enjoy together as a family. Unlike the Bookabees service, which is more like a library, with Little Box of Books, you get to keep each title, making it fantastic value.
Available from: Little Box of Books
4. Little World Builder, £14 (plus £2.95 P&P) – best for construction fans
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Subscription Box – Bronze
What it is: A series of boxes designed to help your little one learn about important world buildings, and allow them to build them at home!
Why we love it: This is a great way to get little ones interested in both history and architecture. Assembling the 3D versions of the buildings at home inspires creativity and practical thinking and children will love the themed crafts and activities.
Each box comes with learning sheets, colourful maps and postcards, 3D puzzles of the buildings and other activities too. Just be aware – the first box is a builder kit, which contains all the tools needed for subsequent boxes, so there’s no actual craft activity in here – which may be a bit disappointing for some children.
MFM tester Kate Evans, who’s mum to Jacob, 8, said: “We had great fun building the model of Big Ben and was simple enough for my 8-year-old to do with very little help. The self-inflating balloon was brilliant!”
When compared to other offerings, such as Mysteries in Time, this is a bit more pricey, but the collection of 3D models you’ll end up with makes it worth the investment.
Available from: Little World Builder
5. Rainy Day Letterbox Club, from £6.99 per month for 12 months – best for value
Age: 3 to 8
What it is: This fun-filled box is packed with a variety of creative activities and drops through your letterbox once a month. The boxes are themed and seasonal and include 3 fun activities, as well as a bonus recycling task, reward chart, reward sticker, instructions and tools.
Why we love it: These creative activity boxes can really help ignite your little one’s imagination. We love the fact they’re themed and seasonally relevant, and the reward chart and stickers are a nice touch.
They’re less obviously educational than the likes of the Toucan Box, but the variety of activities is a real bonus. The company also offers one-off boxes, such as The Animal Magic Big Activity Box (which comes with cookie mix, a snakes and ladders game, two craft kits and dinosaur stickers for £12.49) and The Spring Big Activity (which comes with a cookie mix, mini pop-up pirate game, butterfly and flower craft kits, and bug stickers for £12.49).
Available from: Rainy Day Box
6. Bookabees, from £9.99 per month – best for flexibility
What it is: This brilliant book subscription box allows parents to choose between receiving 1, 3 or 5 books per month and also includes fun activities and stickers to inspire a love of reading.
Why we love it: This box is ideal if you want to get your little one excited by books. We really like the flexibility of Bookabees – you can choose between receiving one, three or five books a month and can easily skip a month or schedule a holiday.
There are books for all ages – from 0 to 11 – and the experts at the company handpick the books every month to suit your child’s age and interests. These choices can also easily be viewed and changed online.
It might not be as hands-on or activity-focused as some of the other offerings such as Rainy Day Letterbox Club or First Wonder Box, but anything that helps encourage a youngster to pick up a book is a winner in our eyes.
Available from: Bookabees
7. First Wonder Box, £8.99 every fortnight – best for a mix of themes
What it is: These are fun themed boxes that cover everything from dinosaurs and pirates to science and ancient Egypt, and are packed with things to do.
Why we love it: We love the fact the box itself turns into the activity, craft or game, and that full use is made of the packaging. The focus is very much on learning through play and helping your little one make sense of the world around them, and each box looks at a completely different theme. We like the fact the box arrives fortnightly, rather than monthly (like most of the other offerings in this list), and you can choose what theme you begin with. You can also download free activity sheets on the First Wonder Box website – great if you’re looking for a way to keep kids entertained before the next box arrives. It’s reasonably priced compared to the other boxes mentioned here too.
Available from: First Wonder Box
8. toucanBox, £8.95 (plus £2.95 delivery) per month – best for craft lovers
What it is: These imaginative subscription boxes are inspired by Montessori learning and help develop your child’s key skills. The craft activities, fun magazine and stickers all come in a personalised box making it extra special.
Why we love it: A previous award winner in the MadeForMum’s Toy Awards, these boxes are brilliant for curious and imaginative kids. We love the fact they’re inspired by Motessori learning and champion STEAM learning – using science, technology, engineering, arts and maths as key touchpoints.
They include materials and easy-to-follow instructions for hands-on creative play activities as well as stickers and a magazine with STEAM-inspired challenges, including puzzles, games, experiments, recipes and more.
Available from: toucanBox
9. Little Cooks Co, £8.99 per month (or £25.99 for three months, £50.99 for six months) – best for foodies
What it is: A food-based subscription box which includes all the dry organic ingredients you need to make a healthy snack recipe.
Why we love it: All the recipes included with this subscription are designed by a registered nutritionist and tested by a team of little cooks – so you know that they’re not only going to be good for your little one, but also fun to make. Recipes include the likes of strawberry bombs, lovely cinnamon swirls and delicious blackberry and lemon bars.
Another bonus is the fact that everything is recyclable – even the packaging for all the food. The only downside (although we can understand it for practical reasons) is that the fresh/wet items aren’t included and you may need a blender or food processor. This also maybe slightly messier than some of the other activity boxes Bookabees or Mysteries in Time – but surely kitchens are there to get messy?
Available from: Little Cooks Co
10. Geo Journey, £25, then £12 a month, (or £85 for six months and £155 for a year) – best for keen travellers
Age: 4 to 10
What it is: A fun and educational subscription box that helps your child learn about the different countries in the world.
Why we love it: The only box in this list that’s geared solely towards geography, this is a beautifully designed package that you’ll love. Geo the owl and Atlas the puppy will become your kids favourite new travel companions and they will send your little ones photos, stickers, activities and fun souvenirs as they visit each country, like a boomerang from Australia or mini wooden clogs from Holland.
As part of the package, your child will receive a journal and passport, which they can fill out as they go along. All activities are gender-neutral, designed by experts, hassle-free for parents and delightful for children. Compared to others in the list, this is fairly expensive (over £4 more than the toucanBox and the Mysteries in Time box) but we love all the details of the box. There’s also a space subscription box available from the same company.
Available from: Geo Journey
11. Curiosity Box, from £11.95 – best for STEM
What it is: A subscription box designed for all sorts of curious minds, with plenty of flexibility in ordering. Previous themes including engineering, water-based fun and fossils.
Why we love it: The themes of this box are really great and are sure to appeal to your little one. STEM-based learning is at the heart of the product and hands-on interaction is key. We love the fact there’s lots of flexibility with ordering from this company – you can choose The Jumbo Box, which comes with 3-4 activities for 7-11-year olds, and is priced at £19.95, the Nano box, with two activities for 7-11-year-olds, priced at £11.95 a month, or the Curiositots Box, with 3-4 activities for 4-6-year-olds delivered every other month for £19.95. Plus there are plenty of one-off options too. Like the Little Cooks Co box, the makers of the Curiosity Box are keen to reduce their environmental impact so all the packaging is biodegradable and the contents of the box are sourced with the environment in mind. It is slightly more expensive than some of the other offerings mentioned in the list (a Mysteries in Time box is only £7.95 for example), but we love the thought that’s gone into this.
Available from: Curiosity Box