Monday, April 21, 2014

Are subscription boxes ruining our children?

Subscription boxes seem to be all over the place now.  I'm not sure who originally came up with the idea, but even big retailers like Amazon and Target are starting to send out monthly boxes of products. I see the value in having a needed product arrive at the front door every month (lotions for my baby's eczema or medical supplies for an elderly family member). Some subscription box programs have surprise contents: you have no idea what you'll receive each month. 

The Median Mommy recently posted about her frustration with subscription boxes and I can relate to some of that sentiment.  In our materialistic world, what do kids (or parents) need with a box full of... stuff.  Maybe the stuff is needed, maybe it's not, but it's still stuff.  I also have a love-hate relationship with stuff.  I love quality items that last and that make a difference for my life.  I can do without the junk. I often go on cleaning sprees where I donate away items until we are down to the bare minimum: to the point where my husband has to grab me and say "Wait!  Let's keep a few things for ourselves!"

Since I am so anti-stuff, our kids do not receive many gifts during the year.  Even birthdays and Christmas are limited to one or two gifts and we constantly encourage our relatives to skip the gifts. If our daughter wants a special toy, she has to work for it by doing chores, earning "magnets," and "paying" for the special item.  Since our daughter is only 3.5-years-old, it can take 3-4 months for her to earn enough magnets for a $15 item: she appreciates it when she gets it. So what does someone who hates clutter have to say about all these subscription boxes?

We started subscribing to Citrus Lane (referral link) in December of 2012 and have had a good experience with it.  The subscription was not continuous because there were a few months where I canceled and waited for a new coupon code to come out or I didn't feel the need to have a subscription at the time.  Overall, we have been very happy with the program.  There were many times where I was planning to purchase a particular item and it arrived at the ideal moment in a Citrus Lane box.  The boxes are very well tailored to our daughter's age and development level. The boxes also seem to contain a good mix of helpful products (like sunscreen or shampoo), while still containing a few things for the kids to get excited about (a new book, puzzle, or toy). The toys have been downplayed in recent boxes and replaced with things to do or read (this is probably because my daughter is getting older).
Citrus Lane Box April 2014: Gender neutral box for an (almost) 4-year-old.

The subscription boxes really made a difference in our lives.  For example, one box encouraged me to introduce more difficult puzzles to our daughter when I didn't think she was ready.  She ended up loving the puzzle and we later purchased some even more difficult puzzles to keep challenging her. Citrus Lane also introduced us to the wonderful products from Cloud B and solved some of our nap-time woes.  We also fell in love with the Skip Hop straw bottle in a Citrus Lane box add-on and the kids fought over the bottle so much that I purchased another one. The subscription box really works well for my over-busy lifestyle where I don't have the time to thoroughly research products that might be really helpful for our family or stimulating for our children.

We are now trying a new 3-month subscription from Kiwi Crate (referral link). This box is more tailored to preschool children (3-5 years old).  I liked the idea of a more project-driven box that would allow for conversations about math, science, and art.  Our daughter is in an enriching preschool program, but she looks to us for ideas about things to do on the weekends. I thought this would be a fun thing to try, so we will keep you posted!
Our first Kiwi Crate is designed for preschool children.

In my experience, subscription boxes are not all bad. I do remove some things from the boxes to save for a later date or give as a gift.  I appreciate that subscription boxes are not for everyone and some of them can be expensive.  We tried a subscription to Bark Box and quickly decided that we love our dog, but we don't love her that much!  However, we will continue with the subscription programs that seem to make the most impact on our lives.  I think subscription boxes are here to stay and I'm glad that someone is taking the time to simplify my life by sending me a monthly care package.

What do you think?
Subscription boxes: yay or nay?

This post contains referral links. We may receive a credit if you start a new subscription to Citrus Lane or Kiwi Crate through our referral link.  You'll receive $10 off by using our link: thank you!


  1. We've tried a handful and I have to say, now that so many have hit the market, you need to 'sift' through the junk to find a quality box. We loved Misto Box and did not love Wittlebee at all. So I think the appropriate box is there for the right people. Great, thought-provoking article!

  2. I think they are neat and make a nice gift (for example buy a 3 month subscription for a friend or family member). I agree with using it as a way to get some cool stuff to stash away as gifts for special times of the year rather than just the expectation of "getting something" every month. Our budget is pretty tight and though I like surprises, I'd rather spend the money on exactly what I want or need. I think a book/educationally specific box would have the greatest benefit without seeming like it's all about getting toys.

  3. We like Green Kid Crafts because they are eco-friendly and have won tons of awards for green business practices. Similar to Kiwi Craft but my kids like the projects more and I like that they are eco and filled with more activities than kiwi.

  4. i actually am looking forward to starting a subscription for our first born as our second gets closer to being done "baking" in the "oven". i think it'll be a great way to make sure she knows that she's loved and important while we (and others around us) get more distracted by the new addition to the family.

    any suggestions on when to START a subscription that's intended for this purpose? should i start it before the new kid arrives or wait until s/he is here in person to "give" the gift to his/her big sister? thanks!

    1. We started our subscription a month before LO was "scheduled" to arrive and that worked well for us. This was mostly because I didn't want to worry about placing an order when I was very close to my due date. We saved our first box and that was the gift to big sis from the baby. It really depends on your LOs personality though. Ours was more interested in baby brother, but then began acting out and having more issues the second week after he was born (she realized he was staying!). You could always separate out box contents/activities to use throughout the month when you feel like big sis needs something special.