The pandemic has renewed interest in such subscription boxes for kids as families spend more time at home and parents seek out meaningful ways to engage their little ones.

On Oct 2, the National Library Board (NLB) piloted its version of this, called The Little Book Box, which delivers eight English children’s books to customers every month for a fee of $10.70. The service will run from next month until July next year.

All 1,000 slots were snapped up in five days – the figure includes 200 subscriptions sponsored by The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund for children from low-income families.

The service delivers to customers eight curated English children’s books a month.
Photo via The Straits Times.

The NLB is “heartened by the overwhelming response” says its chief executive officer Ng Cher Pong, who adds that it underscores “the importance of cultivating the love for reading at home”.

While there are many overseas-based services, there are now at least seven home-grown suppliers, often helmed by parents who saw a business opportunity based on their own parenting needs. These local businesses offer everything from sensory play kits to Montessori learning packs and Mandarin activities.

#1 Elliefun Box

Former secondary school teachers Abigail Chee and Matilda Huang, both 37, both became mothers in 2011. Abigail holds a Diploma in Montessori and wanted to spread the word about the Montessori learning approach, which inspired their foray into business four years ago.

Their curated boxes of Montessori-inspired learning materials are sequential – each one building upon the previous activities – and in English and Mandarin to encourage bilingualism. Each box contains a Chinese book and about eight to 10 activities covering phonics, Mandarin, maths, science and art and craft. Suitable for kids aged 21/2 to six.

Prices: Buy individual boxes at $53, shipping included. Subscriptions are available about three times a year.

#2 Josh & Cherie Books

Married couple Julius Chen, 30,and Cheryl Ang, 29, launched this children’s book subscription service in 2016 when they could not find good books for their nephew. It curates titles that are not usually found in general bookstores and targets children from newborns up to age seven, with different themes and early learning objectives.

Each box for newborns and babies up to age two contains three board books, while a box for kids aged three to seven has two picture books. There are four age categories.

Prices: From $31.90 to $33.90 a box, depending on the length of subscription. Add $10 for a Mandarin book. There are Sibling Box options.

#3 My Messy Box

When Jeff Lim, 34, saw how his son Medion, now nine, benefited from sensory play as a toddler, it sparked the idea for his business as he found it difficult to source for sensory activities in 2013. Each box contains three to four activities and caters to four age groups between one and six years old. It also sells sensory kits and gift sets.

Prices: A box costs $42, but prices are lower with a subscription. A three-month subscription, for instance, is $114 or $38 a box and shipping is free in Singapore.

#4 One Happy Book

Sisters Shanice Goh, 33, and Shernice Goh, 28, who love books, founded this book subscription service last year. It caters to children from newborns up to age seven and customises books based on the development stages, as well as the child’s interests. There are seven categories.

Prices: From $19.90 a month for two books for newborns to six month olds, to $45.90 a month for four books for kids aged five to seven. Tracked delivery costs $3.90. It has family bundle packages for families with two or more children.

#5 Squizzel Box

Hoping to nurture lifelong learning in their young children, Austen Ho, 43, and a partner set up Squizzel Box last year to offer learning activity boxes for kids aged three and up. The activities aim to develop skills in areas such as language, numeracy and social and emotional development. It offers additional resources on its Facebook and Instagram pages.

Prices: Pay $39.90 a month for a box that can be cancelled any time, or commit to prepaid plans from three to 12 months that cost less per box. It also sells single boxes. Shipping is free for subscribers.

#6 Da Box

Da Little Arts School founder Eileen Yeo, 42, first ventured into the learning box business seven years ago with a photography-themed kit. She resurrected the idea during the circuit breaker when her art enrichment centre was forced to close. DaBox proved to be a hit, with variations launched every three weeks or so.

The boxes are seasonal and new themes are launched on social media as she lacks the resources to operate it on a subscription basis. The next theme is Christmas. Eileen also offers DaBox Mini, a smaller-sized craft box that is popular for birthdays. Boxes come in two variations, one for ages three to six, and another for kids aged six and older.

Prices: $38 for DaBox. Add $5 for shipping or collect it from the centre at Rochester Mall. DaBox Mini costs $10 to $12 for a minimum order of 10 boxes, with three weeks’ advance notice, and delivery is $12.

#7 Le Box

Tutor Janice Wong, 41, started her Chinese learning box service three years ago when her son Kaeven, now six, disliked the language. She could not find engaging activities to pique his interest, so she created them. As she runs it alone, she does not offer a subscription plan but debuts new themes every 90 days or so via Facebook and Instagram.

Boxes are limited to about 30 to 50 units a theme and tend to move fast – her space-themed box last month sold out within 24 hours. Suitable for kids aged 21/2 to about eight.

Prices: About $55 a box

This article was first published by The Straits Times.