STEM learning might sound like some kind of fad simply because the acronym is fairly new, but the truth is that kids are hard-wired to find these academic disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math) fascinating. In fact, a natural inclination toward scientific discovery is apparent from infancy since the scientific method—be it a lesson in cause-and-effect or trial-and-error—is the process by which babies become acquainted with their new world. And with a little help, this interest with how things work can continue well into the teenage years. Presenting 20 science kits for kids that will spark their curiosity and enable the next generation of innovators.
1. Learning Resources Learning Lab Set
Preschoolers will be wowed by all 10 of the kid-friendly experiments included with this 22-piece set of lab equipment. The safe and entertaining activities rely on common household items and easy-to-procure ingredients like gummy bears (just a heads up in case you don’t always have a bag of candy on hand). Best of all, the experiments cover a wide range of material—exploring concepts like osmosis, capillary action, surface tension and chemical reactions—in a way that’s both accessible and fun for little kids.
2. Learn and Climb Kids Science Kit
The book of 65 experiments that comes with this science set boasts big educational value and enough kid-appeal to keep a wide age range of budding scientists engaged (from ages 4 and up). All the necessary equipment is included and no obscure supplies are called for, although a trip to the store may be required in order to complete some of the activities. Pro tip: Do the experiments in numerical order and make use of the instructional DVD to help visual learners with their investigations.
3. National Geographic Earth Science Kit
Water tornado experiments, volcanic eruptions, quick-growing crystals and geological digs—this National Geographic science kit covers all the bases. The activities are easy to execute (three cheers for simple and clear instructions) and designed to maximize wow-factor. Extra bonus? The learning guide that comes with the kit ensures that young scientists ages 8 and up are both entertained and educated by each of the 15 experiments.
4. 4M Weather Science Kit
The study of weather is a fascinating subject that’s often neglected in a traditional science curriculum—so there’s a good chance you’ll learn just as much as your kid after doing these experiments together. Young meteorologists (from ages 8 and up) will gain an understanding of everyday phenomena, from wind to lightning, with exciting activities that explore static electricity, air currents and more. The only catch is that this kit is best suited for older kids and should be used with close adult supervision, since alcohol is among the several ingredients included.
5. Creativity for Kids Glow ‘n Grow Terrararium
Nature lovers ages 6 and up can learn about botany and biology with this mega cool science kit that allows children to grow their own ecosystem in a matter of days. It’s exciting enough to watch a homemade habitat spring to life before one’s eyes, but the icing on the cake is that your kid can get creative with glow-in-the dark stickers to give the terrarium extra flair. Note: The magic garden will need to be watered daily, which is a good place to start before you cave and spring for that puppy your kid has been begging for.
6. 2Pepers Electric Motor Robotic Science Kits for Kids
Kids ages 8 and up can make their own robot with a brain-boosting STEM kit that’s sure to encourage and inspire the next generation of engineering geniuses. Young scientists wire their own electric motor in this building activity—and the whole process plays out like a crash course in mechanics. Children will be delighted to see their designs on the move and the step-by-step instructions are crystal clear, so the science is stress-free fun for everyone. (In other words, parents don’t need to be afraid of flunking a STEM test in front of their offspring.)
7. Discovery Extreme Chemistry STEM Science Kit
STEM-ulate (sorry, couldn’t resist) your child with a science kit that includes all kinds of fun activities, ranging from slimy worms your scientist makes himself to exciting taste bud tests. Grade school kids and tweens will get a kick out of all 20 of the age-appropriate, educational experiments—and, best of all, the activities are easy and safe enough for independent learning. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
8. Creativity for Kids Create with Clay Dino Building Set
Even kids more inclined towards crafting can get in on the STEM action with this modeling clay kit, which encourages creativity and open-ended play alongside science education. Children ages 5 and up will love the hands-on challenge of shaping a unique dinosaur—an activity that promises to pique interest in the plethora of dinosaur facts that come along with the fun, artsy materials in this award-winning science kit.
9. Snap Circuits 3D M.E.G. Electronics Discovery Kit
Introduce children ages 8 and up to circuitry and electricity with a Purdue University award-winning science kit that hones critical thinking and fine motor skills with over 160 different engineering and design projects. The process of configuring each 3D module is a guaranteed mental workout—fortunately, the straightforward instructions ensure success, so children benefit from the science education and the resulting sense of accomplishment to boot.
10. Thames & Kosmos Nanotechnology Science Experiment Kit
This engaging kit teaches teens about a side of science they can’t see: nanoparticles. The price tag of this set is a little steep, but the payoff—an interactive experience with the tiny structures behind big scientific breakthroughs—is well worth it. The education unfolds with the help of large-scale models as well as real nanomaterial for play-based learning that turns the abstract world of atoms into something concrete...and fun. Recommended for ages 15 and up.
11. Klutz Lego Chain Reactions Science and Building Kit
Your child is wild about Legos, but you’ve been known to curse this classic toy from time to time—they’re cruel to the soles of feet...and how exactly did you get roped into building that ridiculously complicated Star Wars spaceship while your child just sat there and watched with palpable impatience? We totally get it. But you should still consider this award winning STEM toy for kids ages 8 and up that encourages scientific exploration, specifically the study of cause and effect. The 10 structures come with a how-to guide and differ in the difficulty level, providing a skill-based, age-appropriate challenge. Best of all, each feat of Lego engineering produces a fully functional machine. Neat.
12. Europa Kids Outdoor Adventure Nature Explorer Set
Children love to get their hands dirty and burn off energy with outdoor exploration, so why not combine a backyard romp with ready-made science instruction? This nature discovery set for kids ages 3 and up includes a magnifying glass, binoculars and a whole host of bug-catching devices to encourage kids’ curiosity in biology and entomology alike. Bonus: There’s also a journal in which young explorers can record their observations and questions after each adventure—a beneficial early introduction to the scientific process.
13. Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Experiment Kit
This science kit boasts exciting activities with color-changing effects that are sure to captivate even the youngest students. (Note: The manufacturer’s recommendation states the kit is best for kids 6 and up, but we’ve blown through these experiments with a 3-year-old and found them to be fun and safe—as there’s adult supervision to ensure the materials aren’t ingested.) The experiments—short and sweet—are ideal for children with limited attention spans. Plus, the learning guide is incredibly clear, so playing science teacher will be a piece of cake.
14. 4M DIY Solar System Planetarium
STEAM education at its best, this DIY planetarium will likely make a budding astronomer out of your bored child. Kids ages 8 and up can learn about the solar system while keeping their hands busy with this project, which involves painting and decorating every planet with stencils, paint, and a glow-in-the dark pen. Once each foam sphere has been transformed into a celestial body and arranged in its proper position, kids will be eager to study the educational wall chart that comes with the kit while admiring their own handiwork.
15. Educational Insights Nancy B’s Science Chemistry and Kitchen Experiments
If you’re looking for a way to spark or encourage your grade school girl’s curiosity in the subject, this might be just the ticket: The chemistry experiments in this kit make simple science look like magic. Boasting educational experiences that are both fun and engaging, and with 22 activities total, your child will have plenty of empirical work to keep her entertained.
16. National Geographic Mega Gemstone Dig Kit
Paleontologists-in-training will be head over heels for this National Geographic gemstone dig, which allows children ages 6 and up to chisel, chip and hammer away at a giant brick as they go mining for treasure. The kit includes genuine semi-precious stones (like tiger’s eye, obsidian, amethyst and quartz) and the activity itself is exciting enough to make Indiana Jones feel jealous.
17. Playz Kaboom! Explosive Combustion Science Kit
If you’re looking to give an educational gift that goes off with a bang, this one’s your best bet. There are few science kits that can compete with the thrill of these experiments, because each one ends with an impressive—but totally safe—explosion. One glance at the lab guide, though, and you’ll know the learning is legit—just be sure to plan ahead because some of the activities require additional materials that you may not have on hand.
18. Thames and Kosmos Experimental Greenhouse Kit
This botany kit for ages 5 to 7 will encourage any budding scientist to find his green thumb. The product provides all the materials needed for kids to grow three different types of plants (beans, cress and Zinnia flowers), plus additional laboratory equipment to conduct experiments with plant cells and learn about concepts like capillary action. The coolest part of the greenhouse set up? The kid-constructed automatic watering system. But really every aspect of this one is likely to inspire a love of gardening and all things green. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
19. 4M Water Rocket Science Kit
Water and rockets—need we say more? This 4M science kit for kids ages 14 and up covers classic science experiment ground (i.e., bottle rocket) but with an effect that never loses its luster. If your own middle school memories are a bit hazy, this science kit has your back—all the materials are included, along with simple step-by-step instructions so you can rest assured that your child will be spared the disappointment of a failure-to-launch debacle. However, parents should know that this science activity is best-suited to teens.
20. AmScope Beginners Microscope Kit for Kids
Don’t be fooled by the ‘for kids’ qualifier: This beginners microscope recommended for ages 8 and up by AmScope is the real deal. Surprisingly powerful (40x-1000x magnification fields) and thoughtfully designed to be both comfortable and user-friendly for young scientists, this piece of equipment—which comes with materials that allow children to make their own slides—is an excellent way to encourage kids to investigate and pursue scientific inquiries.
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