Get Your Kids Into Science With These Fun STEM Kits

••• Getty/ Cavan Images

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Finding the perfect STEM kit is a fantastic way to get kids excited about science. By incorporating scientific concepts and lessons into play, these kits teach basic science, technology, education and math concepts in an effortless and fun way. Of course, there are ​tons​ of kits out there, and not all of them are especially useful or interesting for kids, and they vary quite widely in terms of the ages and levels they address. However, if you’re looking for some great options for a science kit for kids 10 and under, these options do an especially good job of balancing fun with learning.

Elenco Snap Circuits Extreme

••• Elencio (via Amazon)

Electronics projects demonstrate some crucial concepts in physics and engineering, but ordinarily the need to solder and deal with potentially dangerous components makes it unsuitable for young kids. However, Snap Circuits solves this problem by providing a platform for electronics projects where the components simply snap together, so it can be made with no soldering and no tools at all. The kit comes with components including LED lights, switches, resistors, a solar cell and an FM radio module along with many others.

The key to the learning potential of the kit is the manual, which leads kids through increasingly complex projects. It starts out from the very basics – a light circuit with a switch to demonstrate how “completing the circuit” allows electricity to flow – through to more ambitious projects like a solar-powered alarm. Understanding the nature of circuits and how resistors “slow down” the flow of electrical current is just the beginning, with projects also leading to an understanding of the details of the circuits inside things like radios and televisions.

Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Science Kit

••• Scientific Explorer (via Amazon)

The Crime Catchers Science Kit from Science Explorer gives kids ages 8 and up the tools they need to solve two mysteries, with a total of 8 activities. These include fingerprint matching, DNA analysis, testing powders and deciphering coded messages. The kit comes with baking soda, citric acid, pH strips, filters, a test tube, a graduated cylinder and more, with a 15-page booklet included that introduces the mysteries and guides kids through the activities. You’ll need to pick up some rubbing alcohol, dish soap and strawberries separately, but other than that, everything you need is in the kit.

The kit teaches many important concepts and gives kids a feeling for how forensic science really works. Among the concepts kids will learn is pH, which measures where a substance measures on a scale from acid to base, based on the “potential hydrogen” in the solution. This is because acidity is really a measure of the number of free hydrogen ions in a solution, so a more acidic mixture will have less potential hydrogen. But more complex processes like DNA matching are also included, all wrapped up in the structure of problem solving in a real scientific investigation.

K’Nex Education STEM Explorations: Levers and Pulleys Set

••• K'Nex (via Amazon)

People often consider K’Nex to be like Lego, but the greater flexibility and more complicated connections allow for much more interesting projects. The Levers and Pulleys set from their STEM Explorations series introduces many key concepts in engineering and physics, with projects to help kids learn about types of lever, pulleys, mechanical advantage and many other crucial ideas. For example, mechanical advantage is the ratio of the force put out by a device to the force you put into it. In short, by using a lever, you can get more work out than you put in.

The kit contains over 130 parts, which enable one or two kids to build a balance, a wheelbarrow and a sailboat. You can also download an experiment guide, which leads your kids through three science experiments per model, which helps to further cement the key ideas and also helps them gain an understanding of the basics of the scientific method. The guide is aligned with national STEM standards for grade levels 3 to 5.

Sphero SPRK+

••• Sphero (via Amazon)

Sphero’s SPRK+ aims to teach kids key STEAM concepts ("STEAM" also includes the arts), especially programming, through a programmable robot ball. The SPRK+ features colorful LED lights in addition to a gyroscope, accelerometer and motor encoders. The robot itself has a scratch-resistant and waterproof shell (so you don’t have to worry about damage), and is controlled through the Sphero Edu app and a Bluetooth connection. The kit comes with the robot, a charging base with USB cable, a protractor and tape for kids to create their own mazes.

The core idea from a science, technology, engineering and math perspective is to teach kids programming. The app has options for different levels, with the simplest involving just drawing a path for the SPRK+ to follow, increasing to using “code blocks” to program the robot, and finally leading up to full JavaScript programming. The code blocks in particular are a useful learning tool, teaching kids about the structure of code and how the logic works, without requiring them to get bogged down in the details.

It’s among the most widely-recommended STEM toys on the market for ages 8 and up.

Thames & Kosmos Ooze Labs: Soap & Bath Bomb Lab Science Experiment Kit

••• Thames & Kosmos (via Amazon)

In the Thames & Kosmos Soap & Bath Bomb Lab science kit, your child (age 6 and up) takes on the role of chemist for a cosmetics, bath and body products company, tasked with developing and testing products. The kit contains 35 pieces, including test tubes, a beaker, petri dish, equipment stands (as well as a workstation base) and a range of non-hazardous chemicals. It comes with a manual which leads kids through 10 different science experiments, which include making glycerin-based soaps, bath bombs and infused oils.

The kit teaches kids the basics of acids, bases and pH levels, as well as introducing some key concepts about how skin works from a biological perspective. The manual leads your child through the experiments while also teaching about the core scientific concepts, giving a narrative structure to the learning that keeps it fun for your kid.

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