Treating science as a fun activity can be one of the best ways to engage young people. Science, whether it’s chemistry, biology, astronomy, or physics, can feel disconnected from a young person’s life if they only see it as something from a textbook. But once science comes to life, lifelong curiosity can be sparked. Making an explosive baking soda volcano might seem like a game now, but it can inspire an appreciation for the more technical aspects of chemistry later in life. The same goes for any of the major scientific fields. One great way to inspire early engagement is by investing in a science kit.
Science kits often have the same flashy packaging of noneducational toys, so kids will still be excited to receive them. Some kits allow kids to combine ingredients to see how they react, such as making (safe) explosions. Others are more focused on Earth sciences. One of our favorite kits below lets children dig for real gemstones embedded in rocks.
Science kits make great gifts for children because not only are they fun, they’re educational. Kids might not even realize they’re learning something until they’ve already kindled a potentially lifelong interest in science. The options below are designed for kids, but since many have small parts, most are recommended for kids ages eight years and older. Plus, these kits are also a great way for adults to relearn some things they may have forgotten since grade school.
1. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Mega Gemstone Dig Kit
Many science kits focus on chemistry, but there are plenty of other scientific fields that you can explore. Earth science can be hard to fit in a box since it’s generally done in the great oudoors, but National Geographic’s gemstone dig is an excellent way to bring the natural world inside. The kit comes with 15 real gemstones embedded in rock. Included tools like brushes, magnifying glasses, and scrapers allow children an exciting opportunity to dig for minerals, potentially stoking interest in archaeology or mineralogy.
Pros: Includes real minerals like rose quartz, tiger’s eye, pyrite, and amethyst. Gems are embedded in a soft rock-like substance, giving kids an opportunity to dig for minerals.
Cons: Dirt can be hard to break when digging.
2. Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit
Some kits have limited replay value — once the experiment is done, kids may not be interested in revisiting it. That’s what makes this kit such a great option; it’s an affordable box with 11 included experiments. Many of the experiments are designed to help kids understand acids and bases, whether that’s color-changing liquids or “dancing powders.” Plus, you can create volcanoes and jiggly crystals. Additionally, most of the auxiliary materials are things you’re likely to already have, including coffee filters, colored pens, and baking flour.
Pros: 11 different experiments are included in the kit, giving this kit a high reuse value. Good way for kids to learn about chemistry subjects such as acids and bases.
Cons: While there are 11 different experiments, many of them are fairly similar to each other.
3. Smithsonian Mega Science Lab
The Smithsonian is the largest and most important museum and research institution in the United States, if not the world. And while the activities in this kit aren’t as expansive as the Smithsonian museums themselves, they’re highly varied for such an affordable price. You can grow crystals, dig for fossils, make volcanoes, create a bug terrarium, and even run meteorology tests.
Pros: Kit includes experiments in a variety of science fields, including archaeology, meteorology, chemistry, and mineralogy. Produced by a trusted authority in scientific fields.
Cons: Some parts are somewhat flimsy.
4. 4M Crystal Growing Science Experimental Kit
While crystals have become popular for unscientific reasons, that doesn’t mean they don’t still have a scientific value. This kit allows kids to grow crystals as a way to better understand how they form in nature. It’s a good value, too, because it’s not just a one and done. The kit allows you to grow seven different kinds of crystals, which vary by shape and color. Plus, each crystal comes with a display case.
Pros: Allows the user to grow 7 different crystals. Each crystal has a display case.
Cons: Display cases could be better made.
5. Dan & Darci Light-up Terrarium Kit for Kids with LED Light on Lid
This kit is made for kids, but it’s pretty enough for a adults to keep in their home as well. This miniature terrarium allows kids to see plants grow, and there are enough cute details like the miniature rabbit and its mushroom house in the terrarium to keep kids entertained. The terrarium also has a built-in LED light so kids can look at the plants at night. Wheatgrass and chia seeds grow on top of the layers of soil, sand, and rocks.
Pros: Cute, eye-catching design. Good way for kids to learn about plants.
Cons: Terrarium is somewhat small.
6. Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst
If your child has expressed an interest in engineering and technology, then this kit could be a great potential gift for them. It’s designed for children aged eight and older, and it allows kids and teens to build functioning vehicles and robots. This kit isn’t just limited to one car, though. There are 10 different open-ended challenges, including “create a vehicle with a suspension system” and “invent a tool that can cut a piece of paper.” There are 19 wooden components that can be attached in varying ways, opening up nearly limitless possibilities.
Pros: Open-ended design allows kids to create unique, functioning vehicles and robots. Good for older or more advanced kids.
Cons: More expensive than some other options.