Citrus Lane is a company that specializes in sending a box of goodies monthly for children based on their gender and age from birth to age 3. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure this kind of thing would be my bag. Or box, to be precise. I mean, it sounds perfect for parents who don’t have the energy or the time to carefully choose the right toys or books for their child. But that’s not me. I have Amazon Wishlists divided by age groups, for crying out loud. I thrill at finding affordable but unique (and hopefully educational) toys to capture my toddler’s attention. I kind of resent the idea of handing that power over to someone else. With only a budget of $20 for new toys/books per month, we’d be hard pressed to buy any extra items in addition to the box subscription.
What persuaded me to try it out? By partnering with toy companies hoping to get parents hooked on their brands, Citrus Lane is able to offer a bevy of items for less than their retail value. Assuming you enjoy most of the items in your box, that means that the subscription actually saves you money. My fear was that my box would have one item I loved and four items I didn’t care for, making it a bust.
I was willing to set that reservation aside, however, because I had a fabulous coupon for the month of March. It not only knocked 40% off the price of the box, but it also gave me a bonus free Skip Hop backpack and straw bottle (a $20 value). At that price, I just couldn’t resist! So let’s get down to what you came here for, shall we?
This box was ordered for my 15 month old daughter.
Pearhead Handprint Wall Art, $9.72 on Amazon
I have mixed feelings about this one. I love the keepsake aspect, but with a 15 month old, we can’t really use it. A younger child would be compliant enough that I could gently place her hands where they needed to go, while an older child would have some understanding of what we’re doing and go along with my instructions (hopefully). But at her age, she would just freak out when I tried to hold her hand down on the canvas. I don’t feel that this is quite developmentally appropriate (which is a big disappointment because that’s the perk Citrus Lane sells itself on). I think I’ll save it for when she’s closer to 2.
Green Toys Airplane, $13.63 at Amazon
I have to be honest, this is exactly the kind of toy I would not buy for our little girl. To begin with, it’s plastic. I know the company boasts that it’s made from recyclable materials, but meh. If I was going to buy a toy airplane, I would get one made of wood, like this. The plastic feels cheap and not very durable. I foresee the propeller breaking off. Secondly, taking a regular toy and then painting it purple and pink is ridiculous. “Hey! It’s an airplane…for girls!” Planes come in many different colors, ranging from silver to blue to red. But have you ever seen a purple plane with a pink underbelly like this one? No. There is no such thing. It’s a cheap gimmick that doesn’t even work–either a little girl is going to love planes regardless of color, or she’s going to want a doll instead.
Bear on a Bike, $6.52 at Amazon
Our toddler loves books! Just not this one. I don’t know if it’s the weird artwork or what. She won’t sit through it. She’ll even lunge for other books to read instead (and she’ll sit through those, so it’s not that she’s just not in the mood to be read to). We’ll probably end up giving this book away.
Ella’s Nutrition Shake, $2.50/shake at Target
$2.50 for a 4 oz. drink that’s not even alcoholic?! It’s mostly milk and sugar, with some pear, plum, broccoli and coconut oil mixed in. We don’t give our toddler any sugary drinks (including juice), but I don’t fault Citrus Lane for not knowing that. Of course, we’re too frugal to let it go to waste, so it will be a special treat.
Skip Hop Insulated Lunch Bag and Straw Cup, $12.99 and $5.99
As a special gift, I received a free Skip Hop straw cup and backpack. I wish I’d scored the ladybug one instead of the giraffe, but free is free, right? Skip Hop always has great quality.
With the coupon, the total cost for my box was $17.40. The regular price is $27/month (3 Month Plan), $24/month (6 Month Plan), or $22/month (Annually) + Free Shipping.
Excluding the Skip Hop bonus items, Citrus Lane’s April box has an estimated retail value of $32.37. If you had a 3 month subscription, you would have a savings of 27% off retail. With the coupon I used, I saved 55%…plus I received another $20 for the Skip Hop stuff. Not too shabby!
Is it truly worth it? There is real value here, not only in the items you receive, but also in the time the subscription saves you. It’d make a wonderful baby shower gift. I think this is an especially attractive option for parents with multiple kids, and for older children who can dive into the art and science kits from similar subscription services like Kiwi Crate (ages 4 – 8) or Tinker Crate (ages 9+). On the other hand, even if you can get more items for the money with the boxes, sometimes more is just…more. A single toy that a parent lovingly, carefully picks out for $22 holds more value than five items in a $22 box that are just okay.
I couldn’t resist trying it out with the coupon. However, I will be honest and say that I was pretty disappointed with this box. I saw plenty of other boxes from previous months that looked really cool. I think that’s the inevitable risk with subscription boxes–some will be fantastic, some will be mediocre, and some will be a bust. I’m calling this one a bust.
Want to try it out for yourself? Use the promo code TAKE40 to get 40% off your first Citrus Lane box! Expires July 1, 2015.