These days it’s no exaggeration to say kids are born with the world at their fingertips. They can summon an Uber or Lyft. Have any food delivered within minutes. Google answers to every question that pops into their head, or just ask via Siri or Alexa. And when it comes to education and entertainment, the options available on Youtube or Spotify for free are truly endless.
But the ubiquity of tech also presents challenges. Fear of overuse leads many parents to limit screen time, but it’s not easy to keep kids engaged without modern gadgets.
Luckily a new crop of subscription boxes has emerged to solve this exact problem. Offering a wide range of educational experiments and projects for kids of all ages, a few of these curated boxes are designed to build interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), while others are built breed curiosity about art and culture. Either way, they present an enriching experience that fosters a lifelong love of learning and gives your child a much-head start (they’ll thank you later). We’ll compare three of the most popular kids’ subscription box providers on the market today – KiwiCo, Little Passports and Amazon STEM — to help you decide which might be most compelling for the youngest learners in your life. Ready? Let’s go.
So wait, what exactly is a kids educational subscription box and how do they work?
All three subscription box brands — KiwiCo, Little Passports, and Amazon STEM — start with you selecting a product line by age-appropriateness. Next you decide on a length of subscription (1 month trial? 6? Annual subscription?), and then finally you add a payment method. Naturally they are happy to charge your card for the entire subscription upfront, or you can opt to pay monthly. When all’s said and done, a curated selection of fun educational activities are shipped at the cadence you specify, addressed to your child, and ready to explore in depth upon arrival.
Each comes loaded with everything your child needs to become a more effective problem solver or budding artist. The core benefit of these boxes is to get kids to unplug and feel more excited about the endless possibilities of the real (i.e. non-virtual) world. Oh, and by investing in an education subscription box, you not only help your child learn, you might actually pick up a fact or two yourself! One of the most important steps in the process that we cannot stress enough is to actively participate in the projects and activities alongside your child. The activities in the box are not meant to replace your babysitter or act as an exercise in solitary study. Each is designed to spark the desire to learn more and change the world, but that requires parents to team up with — and ultimately invest time in! — their kid’s intellectual and artistic development.
Comparing the 3 best subscription boxes for kids
Without further adieu, let’s dive into what each of these subscription boxes has to offer so you can begin to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses. Check out this chart to quickly compare three of the most popular education box brands for kids — Kiwico vs Amazon STEM vs Little Passports. We’ve gathered data on price, subscription length, suggested age range, educational area of focus, and finally, discounts:
KiwiCo vs Amazon STEM vs Little Passports: Education Box Subscription Comparison
|Price||$19.99 per month||$19.99 per month||$15-$22 + shipping per month|
|Age Ranges||0 – 2 (Tadpole)
3 – 4 (Koala)
5 – 8 (Kiwi)
6 – 11 (Atlas)
9 – 16+ (Doodle/Tinker)
14 – 104+ (Eureka)
3 – 4
5 – 7
3 – 5 (Early Explorers)
|Educational Area of Focus||Arts and CraftsEngineeringForeign Cultures||STEM||GeographyForeign Cultures Science|
|Introductory Discounts||30% off your first month with code: SHARE30||–||$20 off annual subscription with code: EXPLORE|
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KiwiCo and Amazon STEM’s education boxes all cost the same ($19.99 per month) regardless of age group. The one exception for KiwiCo is their Eureka crate, which goes for $29 and is designed to stimulate inquiring minds over 14, including inquisitive adults. If you want to see how these boxes work before purchasing one for your child, I highly recommend the Eureka crate.
Little Passports’ pricing is a bit more complex, with boxes ranging from $13 – $22 per month. All three services offer a small discount if you can commit to 6 months or more. Now that you have a sense for pricing, let’s add further color on each offering so you can better differentiate.
Just as the name suggests, Little Passports is built to help kids learn about the world beyond their immediate neighborhood. From geography and foreign culture, its contents are curated to provide a global adventure for kids without hopping on a plane. They also offer an exciting STEM experiments box called Science Expeditions, so you shouldn’t think of them as a liberal-arts-only box.
So what exactly is shipped each month? The first package is addressed to your child and contains a fully-packed suitcase. No, there aren’t clothes and a plane ticket inside. Instead your child will find a wall-sized world map, luggage tag, stickers, activity book, and welcome letter. Subsequent boxes include new luggage tags and various themed items (including the activity book) designed to help your child learn about the given topic or theme. Here are a few examples to help further illustrate each type of box:
Early Explorers (for ages 3-5)
- Example contents: photos & toys of global landmarks, art, oceans, space, music, and dinosaurs
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn5EIfSmOTE
World Edition (for ages 6-10)
- Example contents: Photos & souvenirs from countries like Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Israel & Russia
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IihZyvO1d3s
USA Edition (for ages 7-12)
- Example contents: Postcards from all fifty United States
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMp_xGRr9M4
Science Expeditions (for ages 9 and up)
- Example contents: activities and experiments that teach the fundamentals of aerodynamics, forensic science, and hydrology
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4401S97VQY
KiwiCo offers a variety of educational subscriptions appropriate for infants all the way up to full-blown adults. They specialize in STEAM — STEM with the addition of Art — and definitely live up to its claim as an ‘the innovation factory’. Each crate contains everything kids (or adults for that matter) need to learn something spectacular, and even includes online tutorials for the project. Their goal is to get kids engaged and interested in exploring both science and art through hands-on learning. Thus each of their activities requires physically creating or building something, which is often a lot more fun for kids than worksheets. Here’s an overview of each of their subscription box options:
Tadpole (for ages 0-2)
- Example activity: develop motor skills by creating a mailbag from scratch that requires tracing, cutting, and folding fabric to learn about our mail delivery system.
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVg4WhDQrM
Koala (for ages 3-4)
- Example activity: Make your own snake plush toy among other creative arts & crafts.
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHAq0vdeOwo
Kiwi (for ages 5-8)
- Example activity: construct a claw just like the ones in the claw machine arcade games.
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbghU-mINzQ
Atlas (for ages 9 – 11)
- Example activity: explore the world and learn about new cultures with photos, fun facts, and even simple recipes for foreign snacks
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-qY2gtBbC0
Doodle (for ages 12 – 16+)
- Example activity: design and build a unique wall clock — the perfect intersection of art and science.
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oav05WVKZxY
Tinker (for ages 12 – 16+)
- Example activity: build your own trebuchet from scratch (and learn about physics in the process.)
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mcma0nLflrc
Eureka (for ages 14 – 104+)
- Example activity: Gloves off. It’s time to fully flex your engineering muscles by building a desk lamp or a ukulele.
- Unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qkYx-nVj6Y
Ready to get started with KiwiCo? Take 30% off your first box by using the coupon code: SHARE30 or clicking the image below:
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Amazon STEM Club
STEM Club leverages Amazon’s powerhouse brand name and extensive product catalogue to help your kid learn math and science concepts. With so many of us already relying on Amazon for many household items on a regular basis, why not add a few toys to boost your child’s interest in marketable skills? It’s hard to argue with that kind of convenience.
Once subscribed, Amazon will send a mystery STEM toy or game to your child every one, two, or three months — your choice. These toys range from simple car building kits or small puzzles, all the way up to Erector-style model kits that encourage kids to build, destroy, and rebuild to their heart’s content. Younger kids will get toys that are meant to inspire curiosity with bright colors and moving pieces. Other toys include DIY Water Rockets, a crystal growing kit, and even an electronic coding kit (see images below)! While STEM club isn’t super flexible — you only choose your age range and leave the rest to Amazon — I’ve been pretty impressed with what Amazon has been able to curate for various age ranges. Here are a few examples:
Moving on, we will take a look at what vocal parents and other customers have posted about KiwiCo, Little Passports, and Amazon STEM. It’s mostly positive, with thousands of families advocating for their kid’s education subscription box of choice, but there’s also room for improvement.
What are consumers saying about KiwiCo, Little Passports, and Amazon STEM online?
Here’s one perspective on Little Passports, both from the point of view of kids and an adult observer:
Making geography fun these days is no small feat, especially with a just a simple paper map. Luckily Little Passports excels at helping kids visualize foreign places and cultures, including pictures of cities, landmarks, and the local population.
This parent had a lot to say (both good and not so great) about their KiwiCo box on reddit:
On the one hand, the customer really enjoyed the process of putting the project together, but had some minor complaints about the physical integrity of its materials. I’ll add that just because something fell apart a day after completion does not mean it was a failure. If anything, it may encourage kids to rebuild or tinker with their initial creation further. Meanwhile…
Amazon STEM Club has nearly 1,250 reviews and an overwhelming majority are positive. But it is important to acknowledge the shortcomings. Apparently some parents have felt the toys Amazon chose weren’t exactly age appropriate, and of course delivery mishaps put a damper on even the best product experiences.
Kiwico vs Little Passports vs Amazon STEM: The Verdict
So what’s the verdict?: Which is the best for your child? While all three kids education box subscription brands share a common goal, they go about achieving it in very different ways. STEM Club and KiwiCo are more focused on developing skills via hands-on projects, while Little Passports relies more on workbook exercises.
To be clear, we aren’t implying that Little Passports is worse. Everyone learns differently, and they provide a solid foundation for children growing up in a globalized world where it’s critically important to be aware of diverse cultures and customs. We’ve heard a ton of positive feedback about their science box as well.
While Little Passports won’t teach children the nuances of politics in the Middle East or bring them up to speed on our foreign relations with China, it doesn’t have to. The important part is that it exposes children to different world-views. In a country as diverse as the United States, being open to new groups is an investment that more than pays for itself. We recommend Little Passports to anyone who wants to help their kids better appreciate cultures well beyond their immediate neighborhood.
STEM Club is another fantastic option, especially since Little Passports has a much smaller emphasis on math and science education. Amazon STEM Club provides access to one curated toy each month at a discount. It gives kids the chance to have mini adventures every month, and in our opinion, Amazon’s STEM Club is the most convenient way to provide fun engineering activities your kids will love. No need to create a new account and add payment details, just login to Amazon and give subscribe. Of the three, STEM Club is make it easy to purchase discounted, appropriate STEM education toys at a regular cadence.
KiwiCo seems like the clear winner for life-long, hands-on learning. Whether you’re an infant or 100 years old, they offer a subscription that can immerse you in all subjects — science, art, foreign culture, and more. While KiwiCo is extremely popular among kids, it’s the only box that can engage your children as they age into their teenage years and beyond. If you’re looking to build well-rounded skills and choose a box that offers variety — both in terms of subject matter and age-appropriateness — KiwiCo is ideal.
Final word on education subscription boxes
Ultimately, education subscription boxes are a fun way to lure kids away from smartphones and immerse them in fun STEAM activities. Instilling curiosity and developing foundational problem solving skills gives children an opportunity to shape the world, so testing a few education-focused boxes sounds like a worthwhile investment. While you can’t really go wrong, start with the box that you think your kids will like the best. Take note of how he or she responds, and don’t forget to get involved in their activities.
Measuring impact probably impossible, but you can sleep well at night knowing you supported in your kid’s early education. Ultimately, if you’re dead set on teaching your kids about foreign cultures, it doesn’t get any better than Little Passports. For parents who prefer their kids focus on science, there’s Amazon STEM Club. And anyone who appreciates a more balanced education has KiwiCo.
If you’ve already tried one or more of these boxes, let us know about your experience in the comments below!