Toy Rental Services

From renting to purchasing, a review of some of the options

What is the toy situation like in your house? Probably pretty overwhelming. And come holidays and birthdays, they keep increasing. A good option to help keep the toys under control are toy subscription services. Available in rental and purchasing options, toy subscription services offer fresh toys every few weeks or months. Not sure which will work for your family? While both send products especially geared at your child's developmental stage, rental services will help you reduce the clutter; with a purchase subscription you don't have to worry about lost pieces or having to return something your child loves.

Hispanic mother and baby playing on floor
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BabyPlays offers two options: memberships that start at $24.99 a month and let you borrow and exchange toys every 30 or 60 days, or a "Play as You Go" plan that lets you borrow toys once on an à la carte basis. (The company says this is also a great option for sending toys to a vacation site.) In either case, toys are sanitized and include brands such as Melissa & Doug, Manhattan Toy and LeapFrog. You choose the toys you'd like sent, which are sorted on the site by age, category and brand. Orders are shipped by UPS and should be placed about 10 days before you wish to receive them. If you want to keep a toy, it can be purchased for a discount. No late fees, but the à la carte plan can be switched to a membership if you need more time.


Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate. Kiwi Crate

For $19.95 a month ($220 a year), Kiwi Crate sends your child a box filled with crafts and activities, all revolving around a theme. Containing at least two projects a month, the crate includes all the supplies your child needs to make something. Our box, with the theme "space exploration," included the projects "my space mobile" and "my rocket." Geared at children ages 3-7, the crates have enough materials for one child, a "no fight" crate for siblings can be added for $7.95 a month. While you don't choose what theme your child will get, Kiwi Crate promises that each month will offer up something different, covering arts and crafts, science and imaginative play. All crates are designed by a team of experts including parents and educators.


Spark Box Toys
Spark Box Toys. Amanda Rock
Geared at children up to four years, Spark Box has plans that start at $22.95 a month for a box shipped every eight weeks. Toys are categorized on the site by age, learning type and skill sets and include a host of popular manufacturers. When signing up for the service, you indicate your child's age and the skillset you'd like to work on or toy type you'd like to receive. With that in mind, toys are chosen for you, with each box building on the skill that was sent in the previous box (you do have the option of choosing which toys you'd like). With each box comes an incredibly detailed and helpful product card that includes the development benefits for each toy and playtime ideas. Toys are sanitized and can be purchased for a discount.


The first month of a Toyconomy rental is $1, after that you'll pay $9.99 per month. You choose the toys you would like and then pay a fee to rent it for 30 days. Non-members can rent too, but the prices on the toys are higher. Toys on the site are organized by age, category and brand and you can choose as many toys as you like. For a small fee, TOYsurance can be added to the rental of each toy, which protects you if a toy is damaged or if a piece is lost. All toys are sanitized and shipping is included in the price of the rental.


Overall Thoughts -- Rental

While I was initially nervous about the idea of renting toys -- What if we lost a piece? What about broken toys and batteries? -- I found that the companies were really understanding and had fair policies (they cater to kids after all). For example, Spark Box founder Alice Wang told me that broken toys and lost pieces actually happen very rarely, but if something can't be found, they give the family extra time to find it or ask them to pay $1 per piece. If the toy can't be repaired, it can be bought. Other rental companies had similar policies.

I liked that not only could my child try out a toy, so could I. We received one toy that I had considered buying but after getting it, I realized I would never purchase it. I loved sending it back!

Overall Thoughts -- Purchase

As someone who stands in toy and craft aisles overwhelmed, the idea of someone else choosing toys and projects for my kids was freeing, especially when you consider the panels of experts charged with creating the boxes. In my case, the purchase-based subscription services we tried were of the craft/activity/active play variety and we had a positive experience with both. The projects and activities were perfectly geared at my son -- he loved the "story cape" we received from Wonder Box and his older siblings enjoyed the story cards and puppets. The projects from Kiwi Crate he couldn't do on his own, but they made for a wonderful family activity, we spent a fun afternoon together working on a space mobile and a rocket. A great gift option!


In some cases (Kiwi Crate, Spark Box), a review box was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our .

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