Monthly subscription buying for kids can be hassle-free fun

is among the services that let parents buy clothes and activities for children by subscription. Most services offer free shipping. Some say they are cheaper than going to the store.
is among the services that let parents buy clothes and activities for children by subscription. Most services offer free shipping. Some say they are cheaper than going to the store. (
Posted: August 26, 2012

NEW YORK - Want to cut the time and hassle of shopping for your children?

Subscription buying services with such names as FabKids and Kiwi Crate have emerged over the last year, catering to parents who want help keeping their children dressed and entertained.

Think of it as a modern, kid-friendly spin on the "Beer-of-the-Month Club" model.

For $20 to $40 a month, selected items arrive at your doorstep, saving time and gas money. Most services offer free shipping. And some say they're actually cheaper than going to the store.

But shopping experts say you could also go broke if you don't do your homework. Those monthly fees can add up. Not to mention the temptation to go "subscription happy," signing up for a host of services that just clutter up the house. And you have to weigh which services best suit your needs.

"This saves shoppers time," says Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst. "It creates a shortcut in their lives. But the challenge is whether the quality of merchandise is good, whether it's useful and whether you get value."

Here's what to think about:

Figure out your needs. First, consider how useful or enjoyable the service is. Check out the sites' Facebook and Twitter feeds to see what others are saying about them.

For arts-and-crafts activities, sites such as Kiwi Crate, Green Kid Crafts and Babbaco offer projects the companies say are selected by panels of experts. These projects, which are different each month, range from papier-mache moons to paper robots.

Do you want to be surprised? Not all the services let you choose exactly what you get, which may be a bigger issue for clothing.

Some services try to customize the experience. FabKids personalizes the three-piece outfits for girls based on a 15-question quiz. That includes questions on size and age but also the child's favorite color and even personality traits.

Based on that profile, FabKids e-mails you three top outfit picks. If you don't like them, you can go to the site to pick something else.

But if you like the luck of the draw, you might be better off with Wittlebee, which sends six different items each month. The site targets newborns to 5-year-old boys and girls. Members can specify style preferences and needs. But the company throws in a twist. Wittlebee CEO Sean Percival says, "You get half of what you want." The other half is a surprise.

Be clear on what you get. Consider what you're getting in that box. For example, Kiwi Crate and Babbaco provide the first pair of scissors in the first shipment, and always provide glue. But for Green Kid Crafts, you're buying your own. That service's hook is that all its materials are eco-friendly.

Green Kid Crafts and Kiwi Crate both charge $19.95 a month. Babbaco is $29.99.

As for clothing, are you a brand snob? Wittlebee features such brands as Calvin Klein and smaller labels like Laughing Giraffe, for $39.99 monthly.

FabKids' three-piece outfits for a monthly fee of $39.95 are designed by the company.

Is it worth bypassing stores? Jodi Furman, author of a blog called, says parents looking to save money on art supplies, rather than trying to find unique projects, should just go to a store like Wal-Mart or Target.

But Kiwi Crates and Babbaco argue parents waste money because many times they buy art supplies in bulk and then never end up using them.

Look for flexibility. Make sure you can return for a refund.

At FabKids, you can skip the month at no cost if you don't like the options. You can also cancel your membership at any time, as is the case for many of the sites.


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