KiwiCo's Panda Crate line got a serious overhaul in 2023 with elevated toys, deeper parent education, and an expanded product line. Overall, I think Kiwico's new Panda Crate Plus line is a fantastic change with a justified price and our preferred option (use discount code TCM for ~$20 off your first month as a new subscriber here!).
In this KiwiCo Panda Crate Review we'll look at the updated pricing, changes in quality, comparison to some of the old crates, a look inside new ones, and more to help you decide if it's the right toy subscription service for your child.
Which is better: Kiwico Panda Crate or Panda Crate Plus line?
Without a shadow of a doubt I can wholeheartedly say the Panda Crate Plus line is the way to go.
While the basic line has made significant improvements (we'll chat about those in a minute), the Plus toy(s) have the most longevity to them. Additionally, if you were to purchase the Plus toys from their storefront individually, you'd basically pay for the box in full, or extremely close to it.
For instance, one of the crates I received came with the Sensory Play Lightbox as the Plus toy – this costs $79.95 in the storefront. And if you recall, the most you'd pay for the Panda Crate Plus line is $80 if you subscribed for just one box; which I don't recommend, I've always done a minimum of 3 crates when subscribing to KiwiCo which would bring the cost to $76 per crate.
What are the 2023 Panda Crate changes?
Aside from the expansion into their Panda Crate Plus line, the actual Panda Crate's themselves have changed from the names and quality of the items.
I would say the most significant change from the old Panda Crates to the new one's are the quality of the items.
I think in the past, I've said the quality of KiwiCo's wood just wasn't there compared to competitors. It felt more raw/unfinished and plywood-y but now it feels really nice and more durable.
One of my biggest pet peeves with subscription boxes is getting a bunch of items with no way to store them. KiwiCo's updated Panda Crate's all include storage bags or boxes where it makes sense and I'm forever grateful for that!
While the original Panda Crates included a parent flyer and some cards explaining each item, the new Panda Crate's have a little booklet with more details and information. Personally, I prefer this change as the little cards were hard to keep track of and quickly landed in the trash. Now the guidebook feels like a true resource to refer back to on a rainy day when you need some new ideas.
Originally you pretty much always got a book in the Panda Crate, with the option to add-on a second. It seems the new Panda Crates no longer include a book in the basic crate and you only have the add-on option or hope you get one in the Plus items.
The original Panda Crates used the “(blank) With Me” format and the new Crates use “Let's (blank).”
I bring this up because the “blank” in both situations is the same (e.g. “Solve With Me” is now “Let's Solve”) so if you are trying to figure out the KiwiCo Panda Crates and get a rough idea of the items included, you can still search that way as there is some overlap in the types of products but with a noticeable improvement in quality.
Example: Let's Solve (new) vs Solve With Me (old)
The original “Solve With Me“ included a puzzle, bean bags, lacing toy, squishy shapes, and book. The updated version includes all of those (with some tweaks) and no book. However the Plus version comes with the book Shapes by John Reiss, which was previously just a recommendation for more reading, and the Sort-And-Stack Puzzle blocks which retails for ~$55 in their store.
You can see here, the changes – especially when doing the Plus line – seem to be in relation to customer feedback and aren't cutting any corners.
The items also got some upgrades. The lacing kit now features wooden ends, the puzzle now is screwed together instead of just glued, and one of our favorite items, the squishy shapes are still the same great material and size, but now they have textured versions to make them even more enriching.
What comes in a KiwiCo Panda Crate?
Basic Panda Crate
- Three to six toys
- 1 In depth parent guide
Panda Crate Plus
- Three to six toys
- 1 In depth parent guide
- One to two “grow-with-me” Plus toys
- Additional one to two play guides that correspond with the Plus product
A look inside the new Panda Crates for 2 to 3 year olds:
Previously, Panda Crates were for newborns to 2 year olds and Koala Crates were for 2 to 4 year olds. Here's a look at a few of the newly released 24 month to 36 month old Panda crates, some of which are an upgrade of the old Koala Crates with some nods to the hits:
Let's Sort (25-30 months)
Let's Sort helps with matching colors and building early math sense, and it includes the old fishing game similar to their “Ocean Games” Koala Crate line, which was a fan favorite. They added some texture to the animal shapes, upgraded the mat, and added a carrying bag.
It also includes a really fun popper toy. The bubbles have the numbers 1 through 50. My son loves fidget toys with this and out of the box this kept him engaged for 15 to 20 minutes. He didn't use it for numbers, but instead practiced his colors.
Next is a wooden puzzle base with three squares, then translucent squares and rectangles pieces. My son solved this in about 4 minutes which is why I can't recommend the “Plus” line enough.
The “Plus” upgrade was the Sensory Play Lightbox, which the puzzle pieces from base kit work with as blocks. The lightbox includes four shapes, each with smaller pieces to do little puzzles or make pictures. My 4 year old spent an hour playing with this one morning so it's definitely a toy that's going to last in our house.
Let's Create (31-36 months)
Let's Create helps toddlers build dexterity through play to prepare them for writing, and features an improved upon water mat from their old Koala Crate “Neighborhood Fun” which included a colorless mat, paint brush, and water tray. The new mat features a blank side and a colored playscape and includes a refillable water pen, shapes, and folds into a carrying bag with zipper pocket for the accessories. It also includes a box of scribble crayons in fun shapes with different pre-writing grips.
And a carrying box that fits all of the following: two containers of play dough, rolling pin, tweezer, scissor, and two little animal heads with open mouths. The idea is kids can feed the hungry bears as the heads fit on the containers.
The Plus toy is the Stacking Wood Tree Set which comes with a wooden squirrel on wheels that is a total blast on its own. It has a wooden tree base and four pieces of three different wooden leaves as well as four wooden acorns to balance on the tree base.
Let's Go (31-36 months)
Let's Go is similar to the “Camping” Koala crate as both featured a backpack and “snacks.” It aims to help your toddler practice independence and strengthen social & emotional skills.
This Panda Crate’s backpack has snap buttons, zippers, velcro pouches and is a real deal functioning toddler backpack you could send your child to preschool with; plus a comfort lovey. The “snacks” are really nice too. There’s a plastic orange which opens to reveal six wooden orange slides. Next is a silicone and plastic cheese container with a ton of felt cheese slices. Lastly, a plastic and silicone breadbox features eight wooden bread slices.
The Plus line item we received was the “Doctor Kit” which was originally a Koala Crate too but has seen some significant improvements.
The original featured a flimsy felt bag that’s been replaced by a really nice zippered canvas carrying bag. The original thermometer was just a piece of wood, and now it includes one with a button.
Formerly, the Doctor’s Checklist had pull tabs to move the selections which my 2 year old ripped out, the new one is more instructional and includes a slider that’s harder for kids to destroy.
Beyond that it includes a medicine bottle, arm pressure cuff, injector, and ice pack with the only things “cut” being the book and felt stickers (shown in video).
What age is KiwiCo's Panda Crate for?
The revamped KiwiCo Panda Crate now delivers boxes for newborn to 36 months old.
Previously the Panda Crate line solely served newborns to 24 months old and then it switched to the Koala Crate line by KiwiCo for 2 year olds to 4 year olds. Now Koala Crate is for 3-4 year olds.
With that said, even my 4 year old loves the items!
How much does the KiwiCo Panda Crate cost?
KiwiCo's Panda Crate line costs between $33.90 to $80 per crate depending on which line you choose and how many months you subscribe for.
The pricing essentially stayed the same for the basic line, with the option to simply expand the crate to include more items.
For the basic Panda Crate line pricing ranges between $33.90 to $43.90.
For the Panda Crate Plus line, pricing ranges from $68 to $80 per crate.
In both lines you still have the option to add on a bonus book for $10.95 per crate.
How often do Panda Crates ship?
KiwiCo's Panda Crate ships every other month.
Are all Panda Crates the same?
No, each Panda Crate is different and KiwiCo historically makes minor improvements to crates quite often.
When you see a review or unboxing of a KiwiCo crate you can always expect something comparable, but I wouldn't bank on it being the exact same. The changes aren't usually huge, one time it was swapped out a felt tip for a wood tip; another it was a slightly different ramp set up.
Can I see what all of the Panda Crates are before subscribing?
No, KiwiCo does not offer a complete preview of all their crates for any of their lines, including the Panda Crate. Instead they offer sample Crate previews.
If you subscribe from birth, you'll definitely get the “Let's Bond” Crate. From there it really depends on how long you do your subscription.
I’d say if there’s is a preview crate you really want, like the Let’s Explore looks fun for 7 to 12 month olds, I’d start a 6 month subscription at 7 months and you’re most likely going to get it as you’d be getting 3 crates during that period so one will probably be the preview crate.
Again that's not a guarantee, but the odds are more in your favor when you time it at the start of the previewed crates age range compared to subscribing at 9 months where you may miss the preview crate from both the 7-12 and 13-18 months.
Do you have a Panda Crate promo code?
Yes! Click here and use code TCM for 50% off your first month as a new subscriber!
Are KiwiCo Boxes worth it?
Overall I'd say yes the KiwiCo Panda Crates have made significant improvements, particularly when opting for the Plus line.
I haven't done an in depth financial comparison of all the items we've gotten yet vs. competitors but right off the bat I can say their pricing estimates seem fairly accurate.
In some areas they oversell a little, like the cost of the Pretend Doctor Kit being ~$60 in the storefront (obviously, this comes in way less when doing the subscription), but you can find comparable one's for ~$45.
While others items they grossly undersell like the lightbox (~$80 in their storefront) which often retails for $90-150 – and that’s without the storage box or play pieces that KiwiCo includes!
Given the other changes they made, and my toy pricing knowledge, I'm going to safely assume self curating the crates will either be break-even, at the sacrifice of quality, or cost more than KiwiCo.
It seems like they really took customer feedback to make a significantly more competitive toy subscription box that turned out great! Get it here with code TCM for a discount!