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The State of Science Kits for Kids

Last week, on a radio show, I made the claim that childrens Science Kits (chemistry ones specifically) had become watered down partly due to fears of liability. Of course, seeing as how I haven’t been in the market for childrens science kits for at least a few years, I needed to test my claim.  And so this past sunday, I went to Toys R’ Us… for Science!

And here is what I found out…


The majority of the biology related kits were the habitat type kits where you buy a fancy container and then send off for the creature that’ll arrive in the mail in 3-4 weeks(for an additional fee of course).

Such as this Gel based Ant farm…

Or this Dagobah themed Frog Habitat

They also had fake owl pellets for those who aren’t brave enough to dig through the real thing.

And a few cheap microscopes ranging from $20-$50, the higher priced one claimed resolutions up to 950x  but I would question those claims because the lenses were pretty shoddy and they were made of cheap plastic. If you want to get your child a microscope you’d be much better off spending a few hundred more for a student microscope. Though they did have a digital microscope(20-200x) for $20 that would be useful for examining large objects.

The largest chemistry set was one by Thames and Kosmos and while not quite impressive, it did have chemicals other than NaCl and H2O so that was a plus. Especilly since they had it marked ages 8 and up. While I wouldn’t recommend spending $50 on this kit for larger kids, I’d say it s a good kit for younger children.

But they also had some less exciting chemistry sets lik the one above that primarily contained small portions of things you’d find in the kitchen like vegetable oil,corn starch, cotton swabs, etc. There’s nothing wrong with doing kitchen chemistry but buying a kit containing predominately materials most everyone already has in their houst doesn’t make sense.  The better idea would be to simply google the experiment instructions.


There was only one half way decent physics kit(pictured below) and even it would be lacking for anyone over ~12.  The remainder of the physics related “toys” were  telescopes, estes and water rockets and a couple Mythbusters branded kits that contained simple parts like pvc, soda bottles and balloons(for their air pressure themed one).

The conlcusion I must make from this little survey, is that going to a place like Toys R’ Us might be okay for your childs first science kit when they are 4-8. But for any child with an advanced interest in science, It’ll probably be best if you looked at an online kit store for more interesting experiments and/or let your kid take an active part in your project. You would be very surprised at the complexity of science even the youngest kids can grasp if you let them.
Also this survey’s motivated me to start posting regular experiments for young children because there are too many cool options for any child to be stuck doing subpar science.