The short answer is wholeheartedly Lovevery. It really is the best baby subscription box in my opinion after testing out KiwiCo's Panda Crate and comparing the two to Monti Kids. I've been reviewing individual Lovevery and KiwiCo Panda Crates for a while now and just finished our Panda Crate subscription. Below you'll learn all my thoughts, plus my initial impression of the Koala Crate overlap with Lovevery's Toddler Play Kits!
- Video Review Panda Crate vs. Lovevery:
- Price comparison
- Quality Comparison:
- Intended Age Range:
- Length of use:
- Hitting the developmental mark:
- Thoughts on the under 1 year Panda Crate compared to Lovevery:
- Is Kiwico Panda Crate or Lovevery better?
- Koala Crate vs. Lovevery 2-3 year old Comparison:
- Should you get both Panda Crate AND Lovevery?
- Which baby subscription box is best?
- Shop Lovevery Play Kits:
- Shop KiwiCo Crates:
Video Review Panda Crate vs. Lovevery:
KiwiCo's Panda Crates cost $19.95 / month and you get a box every other month making each box about $40. You get about 5 toys per Panda Crate which brings the cost per toy to roughly $8.
Lovevery's play kits for 0-12 months cost $40 / month and you get a box every other month, making each box the first year $80. You get about 7-10 items in these play kits which brings the cost to about $8-11 per toy.
From 1 to 3 years old the cost is still $40 per month, but the boxes come quarterly so you pay $120 per box and you get between 6-8 items in each box bringing the average cost per toy to about $17.
Like I said in my first Kiwico vs. Lovevery review, Lovevery just feels high end as soon as you open the box and touch each item.
Lovevery focuses on CLEANER materials though. Organic cottons, non toxic everything, sustainably harvested woods, etc.
KiwiCo's Panda Crate feels more like opening a grab bag. The items are smaller, lighter, and just don't feel as nice in your hands. For instance, the left is KiwiCo's version of a magic tissue box, featuring a plush base and the right is Lovevery's, featured a wooden box and organic cotton tissues:
I've never received a damaged item from either, nor has my 2 year old damaged/destroy any item from either subscription box.
Lovevery pretty much never runs sales or offers discount codes. You can get up to 10% off if you do a bundle purchase during step 2 of checkout.
KiwiCo CONSTANTLY runs sales. You can get 30% off your first 1st month of a subscription here. Currently the following KiwiCo promo codes can get save you even more:
Intended Age Range:
KiwiCo's Panda Crate line is for 0 to 24 months old. Then you'd move to their Koala Crate line which is for 2 to 4 year olds.
Lovevery currently offers play kits for 0 months to 3 year olds.
For the purposes of keeping this cohesive, I'm going to strictly talk about the 0-2 subscription boxes initially, and then I'll add a note at the end about the 2-3 year comparison of Koala Crate vs. Lovevery…
Length of use:
My daughter has always played with Lovevery items for at least an hour straight after we open a box. Typically she uses the items non-stop for at least a week before slowing down and I move them into toy rotation.
Even at 18-24 months, she'd still go back to items she received in her baby subscription box from Lovevery. When I'd cycle toys back out, she'd often play with them for 40+ minutes at a time all over again. They ENGAGE her and really keep her focused.
KiwiCo on the other hand has always been a lot more underwhelming… I do think it's important to note that you get more toys overall in a Lovevery box though which probably plays a role.
She'd typically play with the Panda Crate items for about 40 minutes upon opening. Then she'd maybe play with them for random 20-40 minute spurts throughout the first week. As I'd move the items into toy rotation and cycle them back into her playroom, there have been a handful of times where she never touched them – even after not seeing them for a while. Other times, they'd get much shorter use of like 15 minutes compared to Lovevery.
I also found that a lot of Lovevery items from previous play kits end up working together; which extended the use. And some of the KiwiCo items work with the larger Lovevery items. However, the bulk of the KiwiCo items didn't really work with other items from either toy subscription box.
Hitting the developmental mark:
Lovevery Play Kits:
I'd say overall they hit the developmental mark quite well with their toys and really focus on making sure the kits last for at least a year.
For instance, their updated Babbler play kit has a coin bank set with different lids that grow with your 1 year old as they work on their fine motor skills. I remember when we first got the original coin bank, I'd always have to sit with my daughter because she didn't have the strength to pull the bottom off yet.
Fast forward 6 months later she was able to reset it and continue using it. Now this item completely encourages independent play and I know it'll continue lasting for pretend play in another year or so.
With that said, I got the Lovevery play kits before my daughter was born. So I always introduced Lovevery play kits anywhere from 2-6 months before the recommended age (minus the first one of course). Meaning she received The Realist play kit (intended for 19, 20, 21 months) at like 13 months old.
KiwiCo's Panda Crate:
The Panda Crate always felt a little confused about who the crate was for… like baby-ish items in an almost 2 year old crate?
Now they did surprise me and prove me wrong a couple of times. I remember opening one box and it had these big soft shapes and thinking “uh is this for a baby or an 18 month old?!?” Only for that item to be my daughter's absolute favorite Panda Crate item we've ever received.
The Discover With Me Panda Crate, which we received around 24 months, felt like it was either for a 10-13 month old or for a 3.5 year old – not a 2 year old. Only to find out that they ended up moving it to the 13-18 month range which I still don't think is quite right?
It's like the items in each Panda Crate either are too young or too old and rather than just revamping the crates fully, they keep making small tweaks that just fall short.
Now with that said, I did only start testing the Panda Crate out after 18 months. I always thought KiwiCo was for older kids and didn't know they had a baby subscription box until around that time.
Thoughts on the under 1 year Panda Crate compared to Lovevery:
I won't go into every Panda Crate that comes between 0-12 months, because they often swap items out or send things randomly, so anything I write here could be quickly outdated/wrong. Whereas Lovevery you know exactly what you're getting and they keep their website updated.
Which I guess leads me to my first thought: I don't love that beyond the first 2 crates from KiwiCo, you have no idea what you're getting. With Lovevery you can cherry pick the boxes you want and feel confident.
Next, someone asked if I planned to get the earlier Panda Crate's or the updated Lovevery play kits for my second baby and the answer is most likely no. In our toy rotation video I talked about how we moved when my daughter was 6 weeks old (yep, we bought a house at 39 weeks pregnant!), so reducing clutter/baby items was REALLY important to me. Our house is also older, so we don't have a ton of storage space. I found just having the Lovevery play kits the first year worked for us and don't feel like I “need” anything else.
But out of curiosity, I did look at the first few months of the Panda Crate and compare it to Lovevery and here's my thoughts:
Panda Crate Bond With Me vs The Looker (0-2 months old):
The Bond With Me Panda Crate really only has 2 worthwhile items (mirror and high contrast cards) in my opinion…
for $40 that just seems extreme. I'd much rather buy the items and an organic swaddle or milestone cards that fit my style separately.
Compare that to The Looker Play kit, which comes in at about $10 per item:
It has some of our favorite items from the first year (high contrast flash cards too, but also a standing card holder, travel card holder, and wooden board book – the last two we STILL use with our 2 year old in the car). Definitely worth the higher price tag IMO and is worth getting for new parents!
Panda Crate Sense With Me vs Lovevery The Charmer (3-4 months old):
NOTE: I've heard KiwiCo has since removed the black/white transfer disc from this Panda Crate and did NOT replace it with anything (again, they always make changes and you just don't know what you're getting).
Both of these focus on teethers/rattles. Personally I prefer Lovevery because of the framed mirror, which we still use at 2 years old for teeth brushing, and because they focus on overall cleaner materials (organic, sustainably sourced, etc.). I found that this was a worthwhile box for us, since we didn't do a baby shower/gifts and it gave me all the “small things” I needed. Other parents I've talked to didn't care for it because they'd been gifted similar items or already had some similar items.
Panda Crate Travel With Me vs. Lovevery The Senser (5-6 months old):
This Panda Crate focuses on travel items (hanging rattles, a blanket to lay out at a park, etc.)… which are nice, but if you have a play gym you can probably just take any hanging pieces off that with you, making this feel unnecessary.
Lovevery The Senser Play Kit on the other hand has some quality toys wooden toys like the spinning rainbow and magic tissue box.
Panda Crate offers a similar “tissue box” item (pictured earlier in this post), but later in the year between 7-12 months (you won't know when you're getting it) and it's soft, not wood, and high contrast (which beyond the newborn days isn't as important)… which kind of plays back into what I talked about earlier with the Panda Crate: they just don't seem to have a great grasp on WHO the crate is for developmentally.
The Senser box though does have some items that are duds which may make this a “skip” for some parents. For instance, my daughter never loved the tummy wobbler (most kids do though), but she loved the play socks (most kids don't); and we never got a huge amount of use out of the rainbow ball, but we loved the Parts Of Me book.
Is Kiwico Panda Crate or Lovevery better?
I think you get what you pay for in this situation. No toy subscription box for babies is going to be perfect. Lovevery does a better job at ethically sourcing, providing high quality, open ended items that seem to engage babies and grow with your child into the young toddler stage better than KiwiCo IMO.
The Panda Crate from KiwiCo I look at as a grab bag. You essentially spend $8 per item to let your child test out a bunch of different stuff and discover their interests. From there you can get the Amazon dupes of the items that tend to last/engage toddlers better in my opinion.
Panda Crate 100% wins in being the most affordable/budget subscription box option. However, don't be surprised if you need to supplement with other toys between 1-2 years old or if the 0-12 month old items don't last beyond your first child.
With Lovevery Play Kits, we never felt like we “needed” anything else. When my daughter turned 1, I think we just asked for a toddler learning tower and our pikler triangle. At 18 months, we asked for a dollhouse and scooter she was obsessed with them. But as you saw in my toy rotation video, we basically only have Lovevery and KiwiCo toys and have never really bought anything outside of that. Everything we received from Lovevery is still in perfect condition and baby #2 gets to enjoy it.
Read/Watch all my Lovevery Play Kit Reviews from the first year here!
Koala Crate vs. Lovevery 2-3 year old Comparison:
Around 2 years old, kids really start to love activities and aren't quite as into toys. I remember when Lovevery came out with their 2-3 year old play kits and looking at them feeling quite disappointed… paper shapes and glue?! are kidding me?! I was not pleased that for a $120 price tag there were items in the play kits that my child would “use up.”
Let's be honest, if you're paying $120 you probably want the items to last forever…
However I have to say, Lovevery nailed it! I never would've bought tempera paint sticks, but my daughter LOVES them. And the glue kit. I love that even once we use up the materials from our original play kits, I'll have containers to replenish them in.
The Koala Crate in the 2-3 year old range, from what I've seen watching other Youtube videos and their website, just isn't necessarily worth it IMO. I think it definitely looks more interesting in the 3-4 year old range.
Koala Crate is more parent intensive in that they have a “structure craft” versus Lovevery who has more unstructured crafts (i.e. their glueing set vs. Koala Crates Ocean Games “mosaic” glueing activity). As someone who follows montessori, I appreciate the child led approach of unstructured materials at 2-3 years old that foster independence rather than require a parent's help.
Where I'm at with KiwiCo:
I did receive a Koala Crate and planned on doing Koala Crate reviews but am not going to at this time…
I think we'll revisit it and have a few Koala Crates in the closet for rainy day activities when my toddler is 3+. And I think we'll end up using them a lot more as R gets older since we do plan to homeschool after the preschool years.
First, they sent me a Koala Crate for 3+; my daughter is 2. It required A LOT of parent involvement, which isn't in alignment with how we typically do things in our house (I really focus on fostering independence, especially at 2!). And I honestly don't have time to do something with SO much involvement right now.
Second, after getting the older crate, I did extensive research on that 2-3 year old range to see if it was even worth resolving with them and decided it wasn't… The Koala Crates for 2-3 years old I saw underwhelming and didn't really work on any new skills. I saw a mat you “painted” with water or wet toys that seemed kind of boring and very similar to the activity mat in their Discover With Me Crate. The Ocean Games one I initially that had a gluing activity, but then realized it was just a sticker activity.
Third, I am due with our second baby in June and my daughter starts preschool in August. We'll be going through so many changes and spending SO much less time with her over these next 6 months that I decided to just keep the Koala Crate for a 3 year old and see how she does with it as we settle into the new routine and she's turning 3 before revisiting the Koala Crate.
From my experience so far, both toy subscription services include items that my daughter has continued playing with past the age range it was intended for (i.e. our KiwiCo box was for 13-18 month olds but she is 20 months; or the previous example about Lovevery's baby play kits in her toddler years).
Both toy subscription services have a montessori element to the items they include, meaning they are open ended items that can constantly be reimagined and reused in countless ways. For example, my daughter takes one of the pieces from her cylinder puzzle from KiwiCo and uses it in her Lovevery racetrack as a “car.” Or she uses the geometric 3D puzzles from KiwiCo while building with her Lovevery toys.
Should you get both Panda Crate AND Lovevery?
Personally, I don't think it's worth getting both baby subscription boxes in their entirety.
I don't regret getting the KiwiCo boxes in addition to Lovevery during the 1-2 year old stage since I knew we were having a second. If R was our last baby, I don't think it would've been worth it since the Panda Crate items were shorter lived.
However, they gave me great ideas of other toys to get that I think would ultimately last longer, so if you don't want to get both, but also don't just want to get one, check out my Amazon Dupe suggestions in each KiwiCo review!
Which baby subscription box is best?
Honestly it's a personal choice. If your sole guiding factor is price, then 100% KiwiCo (shop them here!)
If your top concern is the most natural/organic, ethically sourced items that are aesthetically pleasing, and developmentally appropriate to grow with your child while being durable enough for future children, then 100% Lovevery (shop them here!).
In my experience, you can resell used Lovevery toys or KiwiCo toys pretty easily – but items from Lovevery tend to be higher in demand and hold their re-sell value. If you want some items, but not all, don't be scared of the high price tag, just sell the ones you don't want on Facebook Marketplace or ebay.
If you want the most traditional “montessori materials” then MontiKids (which is also the most expensive).
For us, Lovevery was the perfect “middle of the road” option. High end, quality materials that honor Dr. Montessori's philosophies, without being too expensive. Plus it saved us a ton of time and decision fatigue as new parents curating a clean and engaging environment for our newborn!