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There is no shortage of science kits available but it can be difficult to parse through all the available options to find a quality science kit that will provide your child with hours of inquiry-based, educational play.
We have combed through available products to bring you the best options for a variety of age ranges and scientific topics (chemistry, biology, and physics). If we had to pick just one, it would be the Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000 Chemistry Set as it is a versatile kit with all the components necessary to perform over 300 experiments and introduce high-school level chemistry to your pre-teen or teen.
- Our Top Picks for Elementary-Age Children (5-8)
- Our Top Picks for Pre-Teens (9-13)
- Best Overall – Playz Explosive Kitchen Lab
- Best Microscope Set for Pre-Teens – AmScope Kids Beginner Microscope Kit
- Best for Science Projects – Evviva Sciences Amazing Bacteria Science Kit
- Best Introduction to Genetics – Thames & Kosmos Genetics & DNA
- Best Chemistry Kit for Pre-Teens – Yellow Scope Foundation Chemistry Kit
- Best Budget Option – 4M Potato Clock
- Best Introduction to Physics – Engino Discovering STEM Physics Laws Building Set
- Our Top Picks for Teens (14+)
- Best Overall – Arduino-Compatible Elegoo Mega Starter Kit
- Best Budget Option – 4M Weather Science Kit
- Best Microscope for Teens – AmScope 40X-2500X Digital Compound Microscope with Camera
- Best Chemistry Set for Teens – Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000
- Best Physics Kit for Teens – KidzLabs Anti-Gravity Maglev
- Best Introduction to Circuits – Elenco SnapCircuits Light Electronics Exploration Kit
- What to Consider When Buying a Science Kit
- Frequently Asked Questions
Related Post: The Best Science Toys in 2020
Our Top Picks for Elementary-Age Children (5-8)
The Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Activity Set allows your young child to conduct real hands-on experiments and gain early exposure to scientific tools and vocabulary – not to mention hours of fun.
The kit comes with 22 pieces including a magnifying glass, beaker, funnel, eyedropper, flask, tweezers, safety goggles, test tubes with stands, and 10 activity cards. Your child can build a volcano, mix colors, and clean pennies.
Please note that some of the required household supplies such as vinegar and baking soda are not included in this kit.
At this age, there are limited options for biology-themed science kits. There are several microscope options and the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope is a perfect choice for elementary-aged children.
The microscope features the voice of Bindi Irwin, a conservationist, host of the children’s wildlife documentary series called Bindi the Jungle Girl, and the daughter of the late Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter. It also includes prepared slides with 60 full-color images and features two modes of play: Fact Mode and Quiz Mode. The content is available in four different languages (English, Spanish, French, and German).
Another great option is the Carson Microbrite Lighted Pocket Microscope. It can easily accompany you and your young child on walks or park visits to get a closer look at the world around you. It can also provide 20x-40x magnification and includes two specimen slides or the base can be removed and the microscope can be used directly onto any surface (tree bark, soil, leaves, etc.).
The My First Mind Blowing Science Kit includes the materials and instructions to conduct 11 chemistry experiments. Some of the exciting experiments include growing crystals, exploring acids and bases, and making an underwater volcano.
The kit comes with all the necessary supplies (two cotton swabs, three test tubes, a stand for the test tubes, plastic cups, pipette, measuring scoops, stir sticks, and activity guide) and chemicals (baking soda, red cabbage powder, citric acid, color tablets, vegetable oil, corn starch, and cross-linked polyacrylamide).
The experiments in this kit are designed to be conducted by a young scientist (ages 6+) under adult supervision. The instructions are easy to follow so the supervising adult does not need to be an expert to facilitate.
The Thames & Kosmos Physics Workshop is perfect for young children and includes all the material to conduct several experiments and activities while teaching them about fundamental physics concepts and equations.
Your child can learn about pulleys, wheels and axles, levers, gears, and inclined planes, as well as build a windmill, a robot, and a hammer machine and more. A 64-page manual accompanies this kit.
Please note that while this is suitable for young children, it does include small parts so be sure to keep it away from siblings younger than 3.
Our Top Picks for Pre-Teens (9-13)
Playz’s Explosive Kitchen Lab includes everything to conduct over 26 experiments in multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, and biology. This kit is easy to use and set up for parents and children as it includes a detailed, 36-page lab guide with pictures and instructions.
It includes 41 tools and ingredients to conduct experiments including fueling a rocket with lemons, changing the colors of vegetables, making a candle out of an orange peel, lighting a bulb with citrus, testing the pH of acids and bases, splitting egg yolks with physics, and more. Importantly, some of the ingredients (like lemons and orange peels) are not included and will need to be purchased separately.
The AmScope Kids Beginner Microscope Kit includes a high-quality microscope expected of all AMScope products that feature six levels of magnification and is lighted by natural light via an adjustable reflecting mirror or by direct illumination via the built-in battery-operated LED light. The microscope comes in a portable case which also holds all 52 pieces of this kit.
The kit includes prepared slides as well as tools such as tweezers, vials, eosin dye, a microtome slicer for preparing your own slides, and more. It even comes with all the materials to conduct a brine shrimp experiment.
The Evviva Sciences Amazing Bacteria Science Kit is a great introduction to bacterial growth and biology in general. This kit is also a great tool for any science project as it can be harnessed to investigate a nearly limitless list of hypotheses. For younger children, it could be used to demonstrate the importance of proper hygiene and how effective handwashing or hand sanitizers are.
You could also use the kit to test the cleanliness of surfaces such as your smartphone or tablet. This versatile kit includes 10 pre-poured agar plates, sterile swabs, two droppers, and sterile water and could be used for nearly any age. The plates come vacuum sealed to ensure they don’t dry out before use.
Thames & Kosmos’ Genetics & DNA Science Kit introduces the basics of genetics and DNA and includes the materials to conduct 20 experiments as well as a 48-page lab manual and learning guide. This kit introduces concepts like inheritance, dominant and recessive alleles, cloning, mutations, and the structure of DNA.
Another great kit to introduce these concepts is the Yellow Scope DNA & Traits Science Kit. Yellow Scope (as you’ll see below) also features female scientists, which is a great way to ensure women and girls see themselves represented in science.
The Yellow Scope Foundation Chemistry Kit includes a 32-page lab notebook and all the components to conduct over 19 experiments covering topics such as chemical reactions, molecular motion, and the effect of temperature. The kit contains equipment including beakers, a high-temperature thermometer, a digital timer, safety goggles, a chalkboard lab mat, and necessary chemicals.
Another great Chemistry Set is the Thames & Kosmos Chem C2000. This high-quality set is suitable for ages 11+, includes 250 experiments, and a 128-page lab manual. As with many of the other kits on this list, not all ingredients are included in the kit.
The 4M Potato Clock is a fun kit that allows your child to explore circuits and electricity by powering a clock with two potatoes. While this kit is inexpensive and entertaining, it does not have a lot of versatility. However, it could be used to investigate other conductive materials (i.e. fruits, vegetables, etc) to see what other everyday items can power the clock (Hint: try lemons) and understand why some items work and some do not.
The Engino Discovering STEM Physics Laws Building Set teaches your child about the basic laws of physics while they have fun building an inertia test platform, rocket launcher, rubber band car, and more. This kit includes an educational manual that includes experimental instructions, educational resources, and quizzes.
Our Top Picks for Teens (14+)
If you aren’t familiar, Arduino is an open-source electronic prototyping platform that allows users to create an infinite number of interactive electronic objects. The Elegoo Mega Starter Kit provides over 200 components including a MEGA 2560 controller board and an expansion board that is all compatible with Arduino IDE.
For beginners, it also includes a free PDF tutorial on a CD with 35 lessons. This kit can be used to introduce multiple physics and electronics concepts. With several add-ons and expansions, the Elegoo starter kit is a powerful science kit to engage your teen in circuitry, robotics, physics, and more.
- These exciting activities will help you understand how our weather works.
- You can experiment with static electricity which causes lightning, build a desktop water cycle model, and even make clouds in your palm.
- Watch air currents that produce wind and study the greenhouse effect and acid rain.
- This item is not intended for children under the age of 8. This experiment uses alcohol, adult supervision required at all times
- Challenge your child's imagination with 4M toys and kits.
The 4M Weather Science Kit includes all the components to conduct six experiments to help illustrate how weather works. Your teen can experiment with static electricity, watch air currents, learn about the greenhouse effect and acid rain, build a water cycle model, and create clouds in the palm of their hand. 4M Green Science Kits are great when on a budget, and this kit is perhaps the most versatile of them all.
Another great biology-themed science kit from Green Science is the Clean Water Science Kit. As with other 4M Green Science Kits, this kit does a limited number of experiments, but the Clean Water Science Kit has all the necessary components to perform solar water purification, water desalination, and carbon filtration while teaching them the underlying concepts that fuel these processes. Detailed instructions are included.
Both of these 4M products would be suitable for younger children as well.
The AmScope Digital Microscope with Camera is not a traditional science kit, however, when paired with freshly prepared or pre-prepared AmScope slides, it is a powerful experimental tool for a teenager interested in biology. This microscope has a double-layer mechanical stage, two eyepieces, and four objectives that provide a wide range of magnification (40x-2500x).
There is a built-in 0.3 MP Camera with a USB to attach to a computer or laptop for viewing purposes. The scope is equipped with imaging software providing image and video capture capabilities as well as measuring tools.
- The ultimate advanced chemistry set for the serious scientist!
- Includes high-quality lab equipment such as test tubes, beakers, flasks, and dozens of chemicals to conduct over 333 experiments.
- Covers an array of advanced topics including chemical equations, Atomic structures, chemical bonding, and more-conceptss that are critical for a comprehensive study of chemistry.
- Great introduction to high school Level chemistry; for ages 12+.
- Other topics include: chromatography, electrochemistry, electrolysis, acids and bases, and more.
Thames & Kosmos’ Chem C3000 Chemistry Set is great for teens and high school students interested in chemistry. It includes (almost) everything to conduct 333 experiments as outlined in the 192-page lab manual.
The set includes everything from the C2000 kit we reviewed above along with extra materials and instructions to conduct an additional 100 experiments including equipment such as test tubes, beakers, and flasks, as well as chemicals.
Your teen can learn high-school level chemistry at home covering topics such as chromatography, chemical equations, atomic structures, the periodic table, electrochemistry, electrolysis, acids and bases, and more. Some common household items such as hydrogen peroxide are not included and will need to be purchased elsewhere.
A fantastic subscription-based Chemistry kit for teens is MEL Chemistry. Each monthly box includes all the materials and instructions to conduct 2-3 experiments and is accompanied by bonus content on the smartphone app and provided educational online resources. These subscriptions are suitable for children as young as ten and are a great addition to a homeschool curriculum. Read more about the MEL Science Chemistry kits in our guide to the Best STEM Subscription Boxes!
- This science kit teaches kids about magnetic force through several fun, hands-on experiments.
- Experiments include floating a pencil, levitating a screw, building a maglev, and more.
- The kit contains all materials necessary for performing the experiments found in the box.
- Detailed instructions for use and care are included.
- Recommended for ages 8 years and up.
With the KidzLabs Anti-Gravity Maglev Kit, your child will be challenged to learn about magnetism while they build a maglev, levitate a crew, make a pencil float, and more. This kit includes all the parts to perform seven projects and includes detailed instructions. This kit could also be suitable for younger children.
- Hands-on introduction to electronics
- Make real working circuits and devices
- Make over 175 projects with over 55 colorcoded circuit components
- Plug in your in your iPhone or android phone or any MP3 player and see your ciruits react
- Snap Circuits have received several AWARDs: National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children's Products, Dr Toy Best Educational Products
Elenco’s SnapCircuits Light Electronic Exploration Kit is a versatile kit with a ton of open-ended play, allowing your teen to learn how to construct real operational circuits.
This kit includes an extensive manual with over 100 pages of resources and instructions for 175 projects with an increasing level of complexity and difficulty that will keep your child challenged as they learn. It also allows you to plug in a smartphone or MP3 player to see your circuit react to the music.
Importantly, this kit can be combined with other kits to expand the complexity of circuits they can create.
What to Consider When Buying a Science Kit
A great science kit goes beyond simply providing your child with the tools and instructions to conduct a limited set of specific experiments. Providing your child with the tools to pursue their own questions and design and execute their own experiments is the best way to develop an appreciation for the scientific method. Gimmicky sets that do little more than allow you to conduct a few chemical reactions are not a great investment. Consider the versatility and length of use as your child grows.
We included general science kits as well as kits that focus on biology, chemistry, or physics. Perhaps you can purchase more than one kit, but if not, consider the interests of your child or the activities you would like to do with them. If you aren’t sure, the more general kits may be your best bet.
Some science kits come with accompanying materials either digitally or in print to enrich the learning experience. Consider how this content might add value to your purchase and increase the learning experience of your child.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a STEM toy and a science kit?
A STEM toy can be any toy that is related to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. A Science Kit, however, fosters an understanding of the scientific method and engages children (and adults) in an inquiry-based endeavor where the questions, hypotheses, and collection and analysis of data are all led by the child.
What is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is a systematic process for answering a question. The scientific method starts with an observation and an accompanying question. After doing research either by reading what is already known about the question or taking additional observations, a scientist comes up with a hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a testable explanation, a potential answer to the initial question that can be tested by experimentation. Then the scientist collects data through controlled experiments. Once sufficient data is collected, the scientist can analyze the data and determine whether the data is consistent with the hypothesis or if it refutes or goes against the hypothesis. Importantly, the final step is to communicate the results to others through publication, presentations, science fairs, etc.
When a lot of different researchers go through this scientific process and collect data to test a single hypothesis we end up with a consensus and eventually a scientific theory.
What is Citizen Science?
Citizen Science is the practice of public engagement and contribution to current research and has led to impactful scientific findings. If you would like to contribute to research by collecting and sharing data with scientists, check out citizenscience.gov or National Geographic to find a project to contribute to or to learn more about citizen science efforts in the United States.
This is a great way to engage your child in the scientific method and allow them to see the impact of science on their community. It is also a great tool to use in the classroom, for homeschooling, or as a fun family activity.
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Last update on 2020-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API