This is the latest subscription box for kids from Pley: the National Geographic Kids box! Each Junior Explorers box is designed for kids ages 5-11 and includes activities, toys & accessories, including educational digital games.
This box was sent to us for review purposes. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).
This is a review of the Great Barrier Reef Mission Box, which is the 2nd box a paying subscriber would receive.
What is the National Geographic Kids Box?
The Subscription Box: National Geographic Kids Box
The Cost: $19.99/month + $4.95 shipping
The Products: Each box is designed for kids ages 5-11 and includes activities, toys & accessories, including educational digital games.
Ships To: US Only
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add National Geographic Kids Box to your subscription list or wishlist!
October 2017 Review: Mission Great Barrier Reef
This is our first time checking out the National Geographic Kids Box from Pley. Everything comes packaged in a cute suitcase-style case with a handle, convenient for storing things in or excellent for dress up and imaginative play. The case is just big enough for an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper inside, and about 1 to 1.5" inches thick.
This is the second box in the series, The Great Barrier Reef, so all of the items inside have an oceanic theme.
My first impression was that this is heavy on the paper goods and a little more educational "feeling" than Pley's Disney Princess box. Let's see what's inside!
Mission Great Barrier Reef Activity Book
This activity booklet leads you into the theme for this box. It includes instructions for accessing your online account as well as some other fun things to engage your kids.
They jump right into a big topic relevant to the Great Barrier Reef: coral bleaching.
While there are lots of facts and some pencil-and-paper type activities here, the booklet is really as a companion to the online learning game that is included for subscribers. The booklet, for example, doesn't explain anything about coral bleaching, so I logged into the game to see what they had to say!
The game introduces you to Kia and Kyle, your kid companions, and with their help, you load up a bag of gear and fly to Australia to help a scientist examine what's happening to the coral.
This is an easy click-along type game, with a few simple tasks at various stages in order to keep advancing. Kids will need to interact with a map, a compass, learn about various types of gear, and more in order to complete the storyline. There is an audio component but it's not totally needed, as they also display all of the text on the screen as you walk through the game.
At the end of a learning task, you're rewarded with a digital version of the cards included in your box:
Collectible Animal Cards
(I had no idea that sea turtles eat sponges?)
I've referenced Wildlife Fact File in previous kids box reviews (my first childhood subscription from the 90s!), and this stirred similar nostalgic feelings for me. I thought it was interesting that the digital cards have the same format, but I didn't actually receive the same card physically in the box, so I suppose they're all unique?
National Geographic Sea Animals T-shirt - Value $9.99 - $16.99? (Similar shirts in the National Geographic Store)
Also included in the box is a bigger ticket item, this sea animal t-shirt! I couldn't find this exact design online but linked to some other shirts from Nat Geo for reference.
This is a 50/50 cotton/poly blend, which I actually love for kids' clothes because it seems to wear a little bit better over time. The illustrations are bright and I love the facts too!
When you sign up, you'll get to select your child's size for this box.
National Geographic Kids Chapters: Diving with Sharks! - Retail $5.99 (Amazon Price: $4.92)
The next item in the box is this dense little National Geographic Kids Chapters mini magazine featuring sharks. It's about half the size of a normal NatGeo magazine.
I loved browsing my dad's National Geographic magazines growing up, so I loved that this little book is about the same thickness as those and has a nice glossy cover. It feels significant and weighty.
The magazine is thematic and has a number of articles in kid-friendly type for young readers, including a suspenseful story about a married couple who swim with sharks and more:
This book is 112 pages and according to Amazon is suitable for kids in grades 2 - 5 (or ages 7-10). I was pretty happy with how much was packed into here despite the small size; this would definitely be some enjoyable reading for a kid who loves learning about the world.
Great Barrier Reef Stickers
The next item is a simple sheet of 12 oceanic stickers, each one about 2" across.
Perfect for decorating your suitcase or school notebooks!
This fabric bracelet is adjustable with a small black plastic bead, although you'd need to tie a knot in order to prevent it from slipping off your child's wrist.
It's bright and colorful, but it doesn't add a lot of value to this box for me personally. It acts as a marker of achievement for this box's mission, but I'd have rather gotten something that feels more substantial– like an embroidered patch. (It sounds like they send one bracelet with each box for subscribers to collect as they complete each mission.)
That said, I know plenty of kiddos that would happily wear something like this.
Mini Animal Figurines
I'm always surprised at how much detail are in these things for how tiny they are; they'd each easily fit on top of a quarter.
This is another item that will arrive in each box, so kids can collect examples of the various animals they've learned about in their missions. My son is only 2.5 so he's not really into organizing and collecting things yet, but I definitely remember having many little collections of things in elementary school and would have definitely thought these were cool.
You've probably seen these before; you can usually grab them in bulk bins near the checkout line of toy stores and the like.
Kids seem to be always enamored by their twee tiny-ness, but speaking as a parent: they're also one of those things that will get lost almost instantly. Thankfully they are a soft rubber and won't destroy your feet like a LEGO, but I'm sure these will turn up in some unlikely places in our house.
Finally, we have a certificate of achievement for this mission certifying your kid to "teach others about the Great Barrier Reef."
Despite some of the small additions to this box feeling a little underwhelming, I thought the National Geographic Kids Box was an enjoyable kids box, and I thought it had a lot of great educational material. In the pre-internet days of my somewhat nerdy youth, I'd have loved getting this in the mail for sure! I'm a little disappointed that so much of the experience seems to be online, but also glad they included the chapter book and other activities (plus the cute shirt) to help round it all out.
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? If you subscribe to this box, the Great Barrier Reef Mission will be the second box you receive in the series. (All subscribers receive boxes in the same order, starting with box #1.)
Is the National Geographic Kids Box worth it? A strict value statement for these types of educational boxes is really difficult to nail down! The items that do have an estimated retail value (the t-shirt and the chapter book) would be close to the $19.99 price for the subscription if I were to purchase them directly, so to get those items plus the online game, activities, and throw-ins feels fair overall.
This box is most similar to Little Passports ($14.95/month + shipping). While this box is a little more expensive at ($19.95/month + shipping), you are getting some additional items (t-shirts, books, online access) that make this box different and help justify the higher price.
What do you think?
What do you think of the National Geographic Kids Box? Do you like boxes that include digital content in addition to getting something in the mail?