These kits helped get my kid outside—and away from screens
Think Outside boxes encourage a love of the great outdoors.
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I have been desperate to get my kid to spend more time outdoors—and away from a screen. While there are plenty of amazing hikes in Los Angeles, unless a friend goes with us I have to put up with my daughter complaining the entire time. So when I heard about Think Outside boxes and their monthly subscription boxes full of outdoor gear and resources, I was intrigued. I had my doubts that it would actually entice my daughter, but when we received the box, she saw the gear and was interested. The excitement grew and she wanted to plan a camping trip immediately—but we settled for some near-home adventures instead.
What are Think Outside boxes?
Think Outside is a subscription service that sends monthly themed boxes containing cool gear and an outdoor curriculum for developing adventure skills. The 12-month subscription focuses on outdoor survival and adventure. The intro box that all subscribers receive—regardless of the month in which they sign-up—includes basic gear and resource cards, and each month to follow has a theme. For example, January starts with knot-making basics, February brings the know-how for building shelter, and October's Fire Box prepares them for fire-building. Plus there’s lots of interesting stuff in between.
How does Think Outside work?
Think Outside boxes are set-up as a monthly subscription. You can pay monthly, quarterly, or yearly, and discounts apply. The more you commit to upfront, the bigger the discount. Cancel at any time and the next billing cycle will not renew. Boxes ship on the 5th of every month, though introduction boxes are shipped on the 5th or the 15th.
How much does Think Outside cost?
Think Outside Boxes cost $39.95 per month. If you pay for four months upfront, which includes the introduction box plus three others, your cost is reduced to $36.95. If you know that you want your child to learn all of the adventure skills, then you can commit to paying one year upfront and the cost goes down to $33.95 per month. For siblings there is a $2 discount when you order more than one box, but I think that the subscription could easily be shared in the spirit of working together. Shipping is free.
What are Think Outsides boxes like in real life?
We received two boxes: The introductory “Building Box/Take a Hike,” and a themed box on nutrition.
The introductory box includes a foldable, orange nylon backpack that has an emergency whistle attached, space for a water bottle, and a chest strap. In the box there is also a pencil, an emergency contact tag, a carabiner, and a short paracord. Most importantly, the box has a pamphlet of activities to inspire your kid—this one starts with detailed descriptions on how to pack your bag—and includes challenges and puzzles.
Our first challenge instructed us to use the paracord to make a simple knot, and then weave the sticks together to create a raft. This is a model raft—not one you can actually ride on—but the skills introduce the concept of raft building. Next was a family challenge: Who will win the Ultimate Survivor title while practicing your new packing skills? Also included in the pamphlet is a section on the Morse code and a DIY paracord keychain. You practice your new vocabulary in a crossword puzzle and then go on to read the global feature on the Andes mountain range. Hiking etiquette fills a page and then the booklet finishes with an empathy section on homelessness.
The second box, “Your Nutrition Box,” came with a camp mess-kit made up of a pan for cooking and a full set of foldable utensils. There was a silicone collapsible cup, water-resistant camp cooking cards, and a telescoping roasting fork that extends a good distance so that you can roast marshmallows at a safe distance. The booklet is über cool, breaking down nutrition science into digestible bits of information. Then your kids are tasked with using the information they learned to mix-up a batch of trail mix where they can create a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that will fuel their body. They learn about nutrients and how to combine foods to complete their needs.
Another section focuses on re-growing food scraps, like placing the end of a celery stalk into a cup of water and watching the center sprout leaves. Once the roots grow, kids are urged to plant them in the dirt, which is paired with a lesson in composting to create a nutrient-rich soil. In the guide there is an introduction to finding wild edible plants where they recommend doing more research for your part of the world. “Beware” of poisonous plants is a key message.
Want your kid to know how to pack their own meal? There is a section on it! There is also an “Outdoor Cooking” section which explains campfire cooking—make foil packets, and use the telescoping fork for marshmallows or pigs in a blanket. Then DIY a solar oven, play a family game and word games, read a global feature on the Outback in Australia, and finally check out the empathy section on the malnourished. This box is packed with information and activities to interest everyone.
Can kids play with Think Outside boxes independently?
Think Outside recommends the boxes for ages 4 to 14, but younger kids will definitely need adult guidance. There is a lot to read and things might need to be simplified. Think Outside says that the 9- to 14-year-olds can interact with the box independently, and I would agree. My 8-year-old was very interested in the activities and the gear, but she did get tired of reading all the detailed information. Doing it together was fun, and it was an engaging activity for me, as well.
Should you sign up for a Think Outside subscription?
Absolutely! This box inspired us to get off the screens and get our butts outside exploring. My 8-year-old enjoyed the hike and carried her backpack, some water, and a snack. We read the pamphlet and worked the word puzzle. Although we usually bike ride in the neighborhood, Think Outside definitely inspired us to plan more interesting adventures.
Whether you are a family who is zoned out on devices more than you’d like to be, or just unmotivated to get outside, this monthly box is a way around those things. It felt so good to make the extra effort and get in to nature. My daughter assembled the trail mix and looked forward to the hike. We got a used fire pit and made s’mores. Think Outside definitely inspired us to put our energy into projects of the great outdoors.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.