Back in the Box
Unbox a better kind of playtime
July is independent retailer month. Before it comes to an end, I want to make sure I write about one of my favorite family-friendly start-up suppliers, Oli’s Boxship.
There’s a good chance you already know about this cute and quirky monthly subscription box designed for kids 4 to 9 years old. Since they sent out their first box in late 2016, sisters and business partners Stef and Bem Lim have garnered quite the following. Their growing fanbase already includes prominent social influencers like Joy Mendoza of Teach with Joy and Jackie Go of Go Jackie Go.
It’s easy enough to see the appeal behind the trademark purple and yellow shoebox-sized packages. I mean, come on—we’re talking about a monthly surprise for kids delivered right to the doorstep! But I was keen on learning more, not only about the boxes and their contents, but also on the values and principles behind them that have resonated with so many of their regular subscribers.
I was lucky enough to get to meet Stef and Bem in person to discuss the idea behind their brainchild. My kids, meanwhile, were lucky enough to score a box of their own. After all that, here’s what we enjoyed the most about our Oli’s Boxship experience.
1. It’s a great alternative to toys and screen time.
If you’re like me and you’re already living with a growing pile of toys—toys that are often ignored in favor of smart phone apps—these boxes are a welcome change. As much as I’ve tried to raise my boys away from the sticky grasp of materialism and the slippery slope of screen time, when left to their own devices (pun!) my kids can turn playtime into something that doesn’t look at all like playing to me. So when my sons went through their Oli’s Boxship, it was quite refreshing to see their little heads huddled over printed instructions (and not a screen) and their little fingers busy with (manually) cutting and pasting (as opposed to swiping and tapping).
It'll be refreshing to see the kids this excited about something they can't just tap or swipe.
2. Kids get to learn through play.
Aside from a ton of commercial merchandise and gadgets, Stef and Bem also observed that kids now are made to master academic skills at an earlier age. But what may seem like a head start can actually impede children’s natural impulse to explore and learn on their own through play. And really, they’re only kids this once! In response, the sisters design each Oli’s Boxship to revolve around a fun, educational theme that can be explored through creative play. Past monthly themes have included music, world travel, and space exploration. Kids learn about these topics through a comic strip or book and a craftivity they complete on their own, with just a bit of help from Mom and Dad. And as opposed to sitting your child down with, say, a workbook, learning through Oli’s Boxship has a more holistic approach. The themes promote STEAM through facts, trivia, and experiments, while working on the craftivities (craft + activities) ignites creativity and hones fine motor skills.
Put away the worksheets for the meantime. It may not look it, but kids learn loads when they're having fun.
3. Old-school materials get creative juices flowing.
Speaking of creativity, Oli’s Boxship is all about igniting creativity through play. In a time when nearly everything is automated, Stef and Bem are decidedly going against the grain by opting to fill their boxes with old-school materials. Simpler supplies like yarn, string, paper towel tubes, rubber bands, and plastic bottle caps give kids more room to explore and create independently.
Get ready to introduce your kids to the joys of crafting with everyday items.
4. No additional purchases necessary.
From batteries to accessories, the sheer amount of add-ons that come with toys (and even some apps) these days is yet another pet peeve of mine. In case you’re worried about having to purchase extra stuff along with your subscription box, rest assured that everything needed is already contained within. Our solar system box, for example, came complete with scissors, glue, glitter, and nylon string. My boys were able to use those to put together their own model of the solar system. Even better, there wasn’t a single unnecessary item in there either. Every item is needed to put together the craftivity, including the box itself! Anything that doesn’t contribute to the clutter at home earns points in my book.
All in! Everything you need to learn and have fun is already in the box--nothing more, nothing less.
5. It encourages family time AND sharing between siblings.
We’ve all been guilty of outsourcing our parenting roles to toys and gadgets. Instead of playing with our kids, we pass them the things that effectively pacify them. But this, thankfully, isn’t what Oli’s Boxship is about. The boxes are curated to contain materials that are supposed to engage both grown-ups and their kids, whether it’s completing the craftivity together or learning side-by-side through the books, comics, or maps enclosed. Stef and Bem also recommend a one-box-subscription-per-family policy to encourage siblings to share and work together.
They're only young once. You won't regret the time and energy you put in playing and reading alongside your kids.
TRY IT IF: You want to clock in some bonding time with your kids, without the lure of commercialized cartoon merchandise and/or gadgets.
NOT FOR YOU IF: You currently don’t have the time or energy to really sit down and do a project alongside the little ones. Oli’s Boxship is really best enjoyed as a family.
Oli’s Boxship is a monthly subscription service aimed at helping kids ages 4-9 years old to learn about a particular theme through play, experiments, and crafts. Check out www.olisboxship.com to learn more.
471 General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila