Science Toys for Kids
Science Toys to Inspire Learning
One of the great things about being a science educator is that I never stop playing and learning, because it keeps my teaching fresh and fun. During the holidays I'm always amazed to see the new toys that pop up, many of which I wish were around when I was a kid! So, for those of you considering holiday gifts around science, nature, learning or STEM here is a list of some of my favorites this year. (Remember, you can always find a great list of science and nature education/toy providers in the tab "Science Teaching Supplies and Nature Gifts" ). Click on each toy's name to be taken to a site that carries it.
This toy is great, because it involves science and technology, along with a bit of human physiology. It's very simple, but sure to entertain. It's a robot hand, complete with LED lights that light up when the hand moves. Warning though, you'll need a soldering iron for this one, so it's best for older kids under supervision (ages 12+).
Dino-Luminescent Pet ($60)
This is a fun mini-aquarium that you set up with dinoflagellates (plankton) that glow at night. You have to order the "wee beasties" separately, and they come in about 2 days, so if you order this as a gift, you may want to keep this in mind. It's a great biology lesson, and kids will love a living and glowing night-light that is low maintenance. (All ages)
Root View Farm ($30)
Teach kids about plants, and growing food, with this fun farm. It's especially useful for things like carrots and beans. (All Ages)
iPhone Binocular Adapter ($18)
For those of you that love to take your kids birding, or looking for wildlife, this is a great science meets outdoors and technology type of tool. You can take pictures and videos using your phone. I know a lot of adults who would love this too! (Ages 12+)
I love combining science with what you eat or drink. This kit is a fun way to engage kids in how root beer is made, including yeast and fermentation. The nice thing is that you can order refills for this kit and keep the fun going. (Ages 8+)
Geyser Rocket Car ($25)
Who doesn't love making things blow up? With this kit, kids can learn about forces and motion, using soda and a car kit, to make a Geyser Rocket Car. It's reusable and can be incorporated into your physics lessons easily. (All ages)
These blocks are for the younger kids, but a great way to introduce the life cycles of frogs and butterflies.
OWI 14-1 Solar Robot ($32)
Teach kids about solar energy using this fun kit. With all the materials you're given, you can make up to 14 different solar powered models, including robots, boats, and even an insect. The nice thing about this kit is that there are two levels of building, for beginners and advanced. No batteries required! (Ages 8-15)
Kelp Beads ($40 for a classroom kit)
Kids can learn all about the importance of kelp forests and kelp chemistry through this fun hands-on science activity. The kit lets you extract sugars from kelp. The kit seems to be geared towards an entire class, but you could probably call them to see if they offer a smaller set. This group also offers bioluminescent diatoms, much like the ones listed in the aquarium above, that you can put into your own containers. (All ages)
Hydraulic Arm Kit ($32)
I've taught many classes on hydraulics, and everyone loves them. This kit is simple, and yet requires some great engineering design and construction. It's made out of balsa wood, and is fairly easy to put together. A great way to introduce simple machines. (Ages 8+)
Outdoor Exploration Packs ($50-90)
Encourage kids to get outdoors and explore, with these fun kits. There are different backpack combos, from exploring insects to aquatic insects and pond watching. If the backpacks are outside your budget you can always get ideas for assembling your own too! (All ages)
If you're like me, and you grew up with the Magic School bus, then you'll love this series of science kids. This particular one is chemistry. Some are less "sturdy" than others, so pick and choose carefully. For beginning chemistry this one's fun. (Ages 5-12)
Snap Circuits Jr. ($21)
There are various iterations of Snap Circuits, for younger and older students. They all teach basic electricity and engineering design (and they're safe to play with). They come with clear instructions, and you can make up to 100 circuits and electronics with the kit. The advanced version is even more fun, with more complex ideas and building. (Ages 8+)
Help kids explore science with their smart phones. This kit comes with a universal microscope and has 20 different experiments, ranging from exploring how touch screens work to optical filters.
Do you have kids that love to take things apart to learn how they work? This kit is really ideal for those that love to tinker. And the nice thing is that it only assembles in a specific series of steps, so if something doesn't work correctly, you can figure it out pretty quickly. Kids can learn the basics of optics, magnetism, and electronics all in one. They can also upload their own images from the camera they build to their computer.
Track Molds ($8-20)
If you want to follow animals, the best way is to learn their footprints and tracks. You can do this by using plaster of Paris and filling in tracks that you find, but if you can't make it outdoors, of you want kids to be able to learn the tracks without going outdoors, this is a fun set of gifts, reusable silicon track molds. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, of all different North American mammals. I've used this for projects that include recycled paper and native plant seeds put into the molds too. The casts make great ornaments as well. (All ages)
Combine science with crime solving and art in this awesome kit. Kids get to try their hand at understanding how forensic scientists solve crimes using facial reconstruction. They can learn about musculature of the face and how to use clay to reconstruct a person's identity. (Ages 12+)
Gears, Gears, Gears ($18)
Kids can experiment with gears and simple machines using these fun blocks. There are many different ways to arrange them and make them move. The gears turn and crank with handles that the kids put on. (Ages 5-11)
There are many cool science toys for kids, and this is just the tip of the ice berg. BUT, don't forget the simple joys of cardboard boxes, walks in the woods, Popsicle sticks, and just spending time together exploring science and nature.