This week I received a question from a grandmother who wanted to find a hands-on science/STEM kit for her grandchild and wondered if I have any suggestions.

First of all, kudos to you grandma! You have a lucky grandchild!

A few recommendations for deciding on a kit:

  1. Pay attention to the child’s interests. Although they might not be able to articulate them clearly, children are individuals who have particular questions about how the world works and are often eager to investigate them. What does the child gravitate towards? Does he or she like trees, cooking, building things, or wonder how the human body works? Look for kits that feed the child’s passions.
  2. Pick kits that allow for some open-ended exploration, if possible.
  3. Try to find kits that can be used more than once, so the child can build on their learning by revisiting the experiments.

Some examples of commercial kits (Affiliate links go to Amazon):

Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit

Appropriate for ages six and up, with adult supervision. Comes with supplies for 11 projects/experiments. (Check the video for a better idea of what is included.)

The Magic School Bus – Chemistry Lab

This one is probably for a bit older kids with good manual dexterity. The Magic School Bus kits are well-tested. Some of the experiments require common household items not found in the kit, such as vinegar, salt, pieces of banana, lemon juice, etc. Fun!

Our Family Favorites:

When he was younger, my son enjoyed the physical sciences.

Ben Franklin Toys Geology Lab Pad Science Kit

We found a kit like this one at a yard sale and used it on and off for years.

Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit

Be prepared to have to buy stock in companies that sell batteries, but these were favorites that got used year after year for different projects.

Build your own science kit suggestions:

Maybe not for gift giving, but you can also assemble your own science kits (links go to previous posts):

For Educators:

Because I often work with groups of children, I found the classroom kits at Steve Spangler Science helpful. They tend to have a lot of “Wow” factor, which might entice the more reluctant scientists.

Homeschooling High Schoolers?

We were pleased with the science kits from The Home Scientist, but they really are for teens/young adults. You can see how we used the honors chemistry one at this blog.

The bottom line is that no matter what kit you pick, providing some hands-on science is the right choice.

Do you have any suggestions for favorite science kits for children?