STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) is all the rage these days, and that’s a good thing. Without a working knowledge of all of those subjects, our children will be woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of the fast-changing world they’ll be living in when they finally reach adulthood. This week, we take a look at several excellent science-related activities that, besides being a fantastic way for families to spend time together, introduce the kids (and mom and dad) to a number of complex concepts in a fun, engaging way that will keep everyone entertained (and learning) for hours.
Glow-in-the-Dark Lab (SmartLab)
How many synonyms can you come up with for “glows in the dark”? Stumped? Try these: fluorescence, phosphorescence, chemiluminescence, bioluminescence. Those are just a few of the many science concepts that are introduced in this kit. Children and their adult supervisors can work together on as many as 20 separate projects, all of which glow in the dark: including a lava lamp, slime (no self-respecting science kit would be without it), alien blood, ink, bouncing balls, fake snow, and more. Comes with a well-put-together instruction booklet and almost everything you need to do all the experiments. You’ll need to provide your own glue, salt, flour, corn syrup, baking soda, vegetable oil, vinegar. But you won’t need batteries. SmartLab also has a number of other kits, including Squishy Human Body, That’s Gross Science Lab, and All-Natural Spa Lab. All retail for $24.99 and are for ages 7 and up (with adult supervision). http://www.smartlabtoys.com/
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Ravensburger)
Those CSI shows on TV have helped make forensics cool. While real CSI techs don’t generally carry guns and make arrests, they do use science to solve crimes. It all starts with the fascinating booklet written with the help of Mark Benecke, an actual criminologist and forensics expert, who introduces 12 different science-based activities real crime solvers use every day. In it, kids learn how to work a crime scene, collecting evidence, analyzing fingerprints and tire treads, examining drop shapes, literally splitting hairs, and even isolating DNA. Besides the booklet, the CSI kit comes with everything (a magnifying glass, plastic bottles, safety goggles, powdered plaster, crime scene baggies, fingerprint cards, and even a CSI ID badge) that you and the kids will need to solve robberies, catch someone in a lie, make copies of keys, and more. CSI is part of Ravensburger’s Science X series, which also includes kits that teach about crystals and gemstones, fuel efficient cars, electronics, circuits, optics, magnets, and more. $34.99. For Ages 8 and up. http://www.ravensburger.com/
Of all the kits we’ve reviewed, this is our favorite. It’s not quite as hip and cool as the others, but no matter. This kit contains almost everything you’ll need to put together a number of projects that actually work: a radio, telegraph, light generator, and spinning motor (you’ll need toilet paper tubes, cardboard, aluminum foil, glue, scissors, and a D-cell battery). It comes with a nicely illustrated, easy-to-understand, 40-page booklet that goes far beyond simply telling you how to put things together. Penny Norman, the brain behind ScienceWiz, gets deep into the Why, explaining the science behind each project in a way that really brings those concepts to life. Other similarly engaging kits from ScienceWiz explore DNA, chemistry, energy, rocks, magnetism, physics, light, and electricity. Each retails for $19.95. But they’re a little cheaper if you join the Science Kit Club and sign up to receive a new kit every two months. For ages 8 and up. http://sciencewiz.com/