My daughter loves playing with these toy kits that encourage brain development in babies and toddlers

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Lovevery play kits review: best subscription for childrens' toys
Starting at $36 a month, Lovevery’s curated play kits for babies and toddlers help foster child development in fun ways.

  • Lovevery offers curated play kits with age-appropriate toys sorted into 2-to-3-month age groups.
  • The toy are designed by early childhood development experts to entertain and support a child’s learning.
  • You can subscribe to a plan or buy kits separately; subscriptions start at $36 a month and solo kits start at $80.

Finding the best toys for babies and toddlers can be a serious challenge. My wife and I wanted to make sure our daughter had great toys that would make playtime both fun and meaningful in terms of cognitive and motor development. In the past year, we found that trusting toy curation to the team of experts Lovevery works out quite well.

The experts at Lovevery come from the fields of psychology, development, occupational therapy, and education. When these folks set out to create a company that produces toy and activity kits that would help foster brain development, they went all in. But calling Lovevery a toy company would be like calling a forest a place with trees. Yes, there are trees, but there’s so much more going on among them.

What are Lovevery play kits?

Scarlett with Lovevery play kits
That’s my daughter Scarlett playing with the Slide and Sleek Ball Run toy from the Babbler Play Kit.

Lovevery play kits are broken out into six kits (or subscriptions, if you choose a plan) intended to be swapped out every two months for babies, and into four kits intended to be swapped every three months for the brand-new toddler kits. Each kit contains carefully selected items that will engage, entertain, and enlighten children.

Each kit contains items that are developmentally appropriate for kids of the respective age. But kids don’t simply move on from the earlier toys when they outgrow the kit’s intended age group. Instead, the way a child engages with the toys evolves as their abilities and interests expand.

There’s the Looker Play Kit intended for newborns and babies through the first eight weeks of life. It contains things like a soft silicone rattle, cards with simple high-contrast images, and mittens with geometric patterns. Most of the objects in the Looker kit use only bold black and white colors because that’s what a newborn’s eyes can see. The toys are also designed for use by a little human who’s not yet using their hands with any sense of control or is just rolling over and still acting largely by instinct.

As for the instincts that make them put toys into their mouths – each item included in these kits is made with nontoxic water-based paints or dyes, organic fabric, sustainably sourced wood, and other safe, eco-friendly materials.

For older children who are between 11 and 12 months, the Thinker Play Kit contains a colorful doll, weighted balls, books with full-color images, and multiple toys that require manipulation and basic dexterity.

What they’re like to use

My daughter Scarlett still loves many of the toys she has played with for a year, and now she carries them around while walking and talking instead of kicking at them as she lies on her back on a play mat. The lasting power of these toys makes the $40 monthly expense seem quite affordable.

As kids enter their first full year, their development continues rapidly, but each child will hit milestones at different times, so the toddler kits are spread over three months instead of six, with four kits making up the whole year.

Scarlett with a Lovevery play
Here’s Scarlett playing with the Circle of Friends Puzzle from the same Babbler Play Kit.

The toddler kits are larger and include more items in each box, allowing caregivers to consider which toys to introduce over each three-month period to meet the abilities of a growing child and coax out their best efforts at problem-solving and critical thinking. This might be hard to believe, but don’t worry, the kids will have fun in the process – they’ll just form some new neural pathways while doing it.

What makes Lovevery stand out

While the kits are great, the play guide that comes with each kit is what truly sets Lovevery apart. The guides, which include full-color images, are broken down into easily digested sections that explain when and how each toy or item should be introduced. They also advise on how an adult can help a child engage with the item.

Going beyond the toys themselves, these guides also explain what’s going on with your child (“Learning to control his arms and legs” or “Recognizes people who take care of him,” for example), what each toy is designed to help with (like sensory exploration or making connections), and even what you as a parent are likely experiencing at each stage. The guides even offer ideas for other activities beyond using the toys themselves.

The bottom line

Now, I’m not a doctor so I definitely suggest talking to yours before incorporating these toys into playtime. In my experience though, Lovevery makes wonderful toys and well-curated kits that my daughter loves playing with. But to my wife and me, they’re more than that. They’re developmental tools that greatly benefit the child and caregiver who’s also engaged in a learning process.

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KiwiCo subscription boxes for kids are loaded with fun, educational activities – the box for toddlers was perfect for my 18-month-old

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The KiwiCo Panda Crate subscription box is a win-win for babies & parents
The “Solve With Me” box came with four different activities, all designed to help toddlers learn shapes.

  • KiwiCo subscription boxes contain fun and educational activities designed by child development experts.
  • I tested the Panda Crate for babies and toddlers, but KiwiCo offers subscriptions for kids of all ages.
  • My toddler didn’t just engage with these toys – she wanted to go back to play with them again and again.
  • Depending on your subscription, prices range from $20 to $30 per crate.

I often feel overwhelmed by making sure I’m teaching my daughter everything she needs to know and appropriately stimulating her to help her development. She doesn’t go to daycare and she’s not old enough for preschool, so it all falls on me.

According to the US Department of Education, up until age 5, it’s important to talk, read, and sing with your child every day. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advocates for regular play to support the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and so parents can fully engage with their children.

This is where play subscription boxes like Lovevery and KiwiCo come in handy. KiwiCo sent me its Panda Crate subscription box for babies and toddlers (ages newborn to 24 months) to try out with my daughter, so we could see for ourselves.

What is the KiwiCo Panda Crate?

KiwiCo offers different versions of the Panda Crate for five age bands: 0 to 2 months, 3 to 6 months, 7 to 12 months, 13 to 18 months, and 19 to 24 months. Each box has fun educational activities designed specifically for a child’s age.

The boxes are created by experts, including former educators and child development professionals, and tested by kids. This certainly makes my life easier, knowing I can spend less time researching which activities are appropriate for my daughter and more time playing with her.

The crates deliver activities in your child’s zone of proximal development, according to KiwiCo. This is a fancy way of saying the activities provide a little bit of a challenge so your child learns – but not so much of a challenge that they give up. It’s the sweet spot of learning, and as a former teacher, I’ve seen how students flourish in this zone.

What KiwiCo is like to use

The box definitely hit the sweet spot for my daughter. She is currently 18 months old, and her “Solve With Me” box came with four different activities, all designed to help her learn shapes: a peg puzzle, lacing beads, squishy shapes, and beanbag shapes. It also came with the book “Poppy’s Shape Search.”

My daughter immediately started exploring the activities, attempting to stack shapes onto the correct peg and playing with the large plush shapes that can be used for multiple games and activities.

panda crate ellie
Many lacing toys are too difficult for my daughter, but these beads are designed to  allow her to have success.

My daughter rotates through the activities pretty evenly but seems to gravitate toward the lacing beads. Many other lacing toys are too difficult for her, but these beads are designed to perfectly hit that zone of proximal development and allow her to have success. For that reason, the lacing beads are my favorite activity in the box, too.

She also enjoys playing with the three large squishy shapes. The magazine in the crate provided a song to sing about the shapes, and she often holds them and dances while we sing the song.

What makes KiwiCo stand out

My favorite thing about the Panda Crate is that it comes with activity cards that explain how to play with each of the toys. The box also comes with a an issue of “Wonder Magazine” and “Beyond the Crate” cards that offer many additional ways to play with your child and support their development.

When my brain is fried from sleepless nights or I’m just not feeling creative, these ideas are a lifesaver. After my daughter was done exploring the box on her own, I used the ideas to encourage her to learn more.

panda crate 1
My daughter and I keep returning to these toys and activities to learn and play more.

Open-ended toys like the ones in the Panda Crate help extend play and ensure that kids won’t just engage with toys once and then toss them aside, never to be played with again. My daughter and I continually come back to her box to learn and play more.

How the subscription works

When you sign up for a subscription, KiwiCo will send you a crate every two months. Each crate is specifically tailored to meet the developmental milestones of your child’s age.

Because it’s a subscription-based service, you can save money by purchasing a longer subscription. Depending on your subscription, box prices range from $15.50 to $39.90 each. For an extra $9.95, you can also upgrade your box to include a book like the one I received in my box.

The bottom line

Babies and toddlers don’t need a lot of stuff, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on toys to make them happy. Play with them, read to them, sing to them, and talk to them, and you’re setting them up for success.

Sometimes, though, we all need a little help when it comes to planning and setting up activities that will enrich our kids while they have fun. If you’re like me and you want some structured ideas for play and to encourage proper development, the KiwiCo Panda Crate makes it easy. It will give you the confidence and peace of mind that you’re continually providing educational activities for your child at each stage of their development.

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