I’ve been trying to figure out a good gift for my little guys this year, and one area that they both seem to be gravitating to lately are Science Kits. Raines recently used his own money to buy this Make Your Own Thinking Putty Kit, which he was initially very excited about….but Thinking Putty, we learned, is a reallllly good way to destroy a carpet. Just FYI.
We also tried this Grow Your Own Crystals Kit – it was pretty cool. We did successfully grow a crystal (none as dazzling as promised) — but the process takes time, it required some help from me, and in the end…..it felt less like scientific exploration and more like homework.
So it’s been a frustrating search. Here are these two boys, just dying to do some “real science stuff” and not a kit that fits.
Granted, I can create discovery situations for the boys (one of our favs is to put out a 16×18 pyrex dish with a bunch of baking soda, vinegar, oil and food-coloring and just let them go nuts), and if you like projects like this, I highly recommend Tinkerlab’s book…but, darn it, sometimes a girl just wants to cook dinner while the kids entertain themselves. And when they’re begging for science kits….there’s gotta be one that delivers, right???
So. I’ve been researching and researching, and I found a few worth trying out…..
Keep reading to see which kits I think we’re going to try this year, and my rationale for including each of them in this round-up…
Most Open-Ended: Super Science Discovery Box
This one intrigues me because it focuses so heavily on the process. The exploration, the natural curiosity of kids. There are no instructions, instead, this kit just come with some intriguing materials. And YES, one could make a kit like this themselves (and I’m tempted to do just that…maybe adding in a few exciting elements like hydrogen peroxide for the older kiddos)…but I love how everything is so artfully arranged. This strikes such a good balance between science and pretend play….all while teaching cause-and-effect, and exploration, which is the foundation of all good science.
Best For Littles (Or Pretend Play): Learning Resources Primary Science Kit
I’m actually thinking about getting this kit for Pax, age 7. If it seems a bit young for him, you’re right — it’s rated for ages 3 and up. But here’s the thing: Pax is so into imaginary play, and he LOVES to play scientist. The materials in this set are high-quality — made from really durable plastic — and that magnifying glass is surprisingly good (we already own two of them). But best of all? I think he could (mostly) read the experiment cards that come with the set, and set up the experiments on his own. They’re basic, sure, but something he could do alone and then just expand from there. At this age, I’m less concerned that he knows the difference between acids and bases. Rather, I’d like him to focus on developing a natural curiosity for how the world works. Pretend play mixed in with a bit of real-life potion-making is a reallllly good way to do that.
Promising For Elementary Ages: SICK Science! Super Size
Sick Science Super Size Experiment Kit (6+), $50
While this is the most traditional science kit we have on the list — it comes with a set number of experiments, and isn’t very open-ended — what I like about this specific kit is that the experiments look kiiiind of amazing (kinetic and potential energy is demonstrated in such a memorable, cool way), and each experiment references an online video where Steve Spangler goes through both how to set up the experiment and the science behind it. I can see Raines (age 9) really getting into this kit. And it’s like sanctioned screen time, so he’d be all over it.
Best Subscription Box For Littles: Kiwi Crate (Ages 5-8)
Kiwi Crate, $20 per month (as low at $17 if you sign up for a year)
We LOVE Kiwi Crate! I did a review, years ago, but this is still a great gift (and a perfect one from Grandparents). We stopped our subscription once we moved because life got crazy, but both boys loved them. These kits are never *quite* as open-ended as I’d like them to be….but they’re the best subscription boxes out there. And I found that I could easily make them more open-ended by augmenting each project with supplies of our own. I think Pax is at an age where he could actually do these by himself, so this definitely fits my Make-Dinner-While-Kids-Play-Science-Stuff requirement.
Best Subscription Box For Slightly Older Kids: Tinker Crate (Ages 9-16)
Tinker Crate, $20 per month, but as low as $17 if you sign up for a year
Kiwi Crate finally came out with a seriously cool subscription box for the older kiddos. And YES: that is a catapult. Raines would love building these sets. Again, my concern is that these’s aren’t as open-ended as I would like, but as R gets older, he really wants to build something real, and I do like that he’d be able to both build and take it apart again. There’s nothing like building a pulley system to really see how it works.
If your kiddo is more art-inclined than science-minded, they also have a Doodle Crate for this same age range.
Best Subscription Box For the Serious Chemist: MEL Science (Ages 12+)
MEL Science, $50 per month
OK. I’m so insanely obsessed with this whole thing, MUST. CONTAIN. SELF. The above photo, for example, is just the starter kit. Then, they send out two kits every month with specific experiments. You’ll be heating with Bunsen burners, mixing real chemicals — foam! EXPLOSIONS!* REAL CHEMISTRY!!
*that might just be my excitement getting away from me
Obviously this one is not for the kids to do alone while I make dinner, but this set was so freaking legit I had to include it. It’s a commitment — both time and $$ — but this is the most exciting thing to happen to at-home chemistry sets in a loooong time. The age ranges starts at 12, so my guys are too young, but I’m bookmarking this bad boy. Here are just a few of the experiments you can expect to get with this set (see more here)…
Have you guys come across any science kits that help invite natural curiosity, rather than just following directions??? If so, share in the comments — it’s always so helpful to see what’s actually working. For more activities and fun for kids, check out our kid style blog!