Monday, September 8, 2014

Sparkbox Toys #Review: #PlayLearnReturn

If you are like most parents, you love to see your kids playing and having fun. There is nothing like seeing your child with a new toy: she explores the toy, identifies different ways to play with it, and maybe even finds a way to incorporate other toys into playing with it.  I love seeing my kids trying new things and stretching their minds.  However, because kids are naturally drawn to "new" things and figuring out all the things they can do with something unexplored, they grow bored of the same old toys.  This is one reason that I am very reluctant about buying toys for my kids: I hate clutter and I know their obsession with the toy will be short lived. That was why I was ecstatic about trying Sparkbox--a new toy rental program that gives kids the opportunity to try new toys.

Toys are sanitized and wrapped for shipping

I was really excited to hear about Sparkbox because I knew there was a need for something like this! Coincidentally, as we were preparing to review Sparkbox, a friend emailed me asking if I had heard of this, "Awesome new company." She wanted my thoughts about the Sparkbox toy rental program versus other subscription boxes we had tried.   Subscription boxes are becoming incredibly popular, but the issue is that you quickly become buried in stuff: stuff that is often lower value, not exactly what you want (or need), and kids can become spoiled by expecting "gifts".  Sparkbox is the complete opposite from this: you keep the toys for as long as you like and return them when you're done (and ready for a new set of toys), you get high value (and high quality) toys that the kids actually want to play with, and your kids can appreciate the value of caring for toys that are "shared." My 4 year old daughter understood the concept immediately after I explained that the toys were, "Kind of like books from a library."

When our box arrived, I opened it before the kids were home from daycare and I was incredibly excited about the contents.  There were four toys: two toys for my 4-year-old and two toys for my 18-month-old.  I knew they were going to have a lot of fun with these items, so I decided to let them open all the toys at once!!!  OK, this may have been a bit crazy.  I could have held off and given them each one toy and saved the second toy for a few weeks later, but they actually played with everything and continued to play with the toys throughout the next few weeks.  I don't think I would have done it differently if I could go back.  As part of our review we got to keep one toy, and we struggled with making the decision about which toy to keep because the kids genuinely liked all the items.

At first, I questioned how we would be able to return the toys: what if there were a few toys that we couldn't part with? My fears were calmed because if you have a toy you absolutely can't part with, you can buy it out of your Sparkbox for about 20% off of the Amazon list price. However, I tried reminding myself that it wasn't the kids whom were struggling to adjust to the "borrowing" concept, it was myself!  The kids loved the Sparkbox toys, but a few of the toys were already getting ignored after a few weeks.  In particular, we received a Green Toys Flatbed Truck that they had been obsessed with for the first week: they figured out that match box cars would fit under the flat bed and there were a few spats over who got to play with the Truck.  However, the focus on the truck soon turned to a focus on Match Box cars and what other things the cars could do.  The Green Toys truck was soon in the corner while they began loading up other vehicles with Match Box cars.  This play process was incredible to witness, but it wouldn't have happened had I been trying to force the Green Toys truck on them (which I may have been tempted to do if I just spent $30 on it--the retail value of the truck).  The truck instigated the play and lead to creative thought: it was a true educational experience.

Fun on the go with the Leap Frog Count and Draw.

While some toys were a total hit, not all toys are going to be instant favorites.  That was the case for the Magic Moves ($21.99 value) toy we received.  This was intended for my daughter, but neither kid really seemed to understand it.  To me, the toy seemed genius and the Amazon reviews are fantastic. It encourages the kids to move like different animals. However, the kids just sat, stared at the lights, and didn't move.  I tried to show them how it was done (thank the Lord there was no video of THAT!).  They thought I was hilarious, but they still weren't interested in "Prowling like a cat" or "Slithering like a snake." They did like to push the buttons and pretend it was a microphone. I was so happy that this wasn't a toy we bought because we didn't need all those extra features when the kids weren't going to participate in the movement activities.

Our other two toys (Plan Toys Dancing Alligator $20 and Leap Frog Count and Draw $34) were pretty consistently played with and really fun.  The alligator was a companion for my 18-month-old, but even the 4-year-old was busy with it.  Both kids were interested in the Leap Frog activity and even I played with it for about 30 minutes!  We were really happy with our Sparkbox and felt like it was a fantastic value.  I love that the kids got to experience and learn from new toys without the added toy clutter and expense. I'm already thinking about getting a subscription for the winter because it can be so painful trying to keep the kids stimulated and happy during the bitterly cold days in Minnesota. Sparkbox would have been perfect for my maternity leave: it would have been something to occupy my daughter with while I was exhausted from caring for the baby.  We also don't often let our kids watch TV or movies, and sometimes I need times where I can be uninterrupted for a few minutes.  There was one day that I actually had two hours to clean and cook dinner while the kids played with the new toys from the box! We also had a peaceful car ride while the kids were occupied with the toys.

You will get a reminder email when it's time to return your toys.  Be sure to save your original box, attach the prepaid label, and drop the box off somewhere that ships UPS Ground. My husband usually mails UPS packages from work, but he didn't want to take it since the box was big and he has to drop the kids off at daycare in the mornings. I was a little disappointed to see that it would cost extra to schedule a pickup from my house, but I didn't look to see how much that extra fee would have been. The mailing fiasco ended up working out because we discovered that there was a UPS store within 5 minutes of our house. Now that we have gone through the shipping process once, it was actually very straight forward and worth it to have the fun of new toys! 

I'm planning to recommend Sparkbox to my friends because this was such a fun, very educational, and it avoided the clutter.  Learn more about Sparkbox and check out the different subscription options: 8 weeks for $23.95 or 4 weeks for $35.95.  After our experience, I'm leaning toward the 8 week plan because it gives you more time to enjoy the great toys.

Disclosure: We got to try Sparkbox for free and keep one toy from our box.  We were under no obligation to publish a review or provide a positive review.  These thoughts are our own.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of a rental program rather than a box you buy each month. My daughter has so many toys already, but we buy most of her things secondhand for pennies on the dollar. Of course, her favorite toys are usually the boxes that my Amazon stuff comes in, so sometimes I wonder why we get her toys at all!