All the other parents turn to me when they want an idea for a gift that is a little bit different, highly educational, and lots of fun. So I thought I would share some of my favorites with you, and ask you if you had any more ideas. (Please note that these items can be found either in our store or at an advertiser on our site, Edmunds Scientific. I have no stock in any of these products or companies, but if you buy these items by clicking through our website it will help support our independent science news-gathering operation, and we would be grateful!)
Binoculars. They work for kids from 4 to 120. You can use them to see the moon, Saturn, Mars, stars, birds, your neighbors, police activity across the street… For very young kids, you can start them with a monocular. Prices start from $5 for a monocular (get a plastic one without any small parts that could break off for kids younger than 4). Binoculars range from $6 plastic ones up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but you can get a nice portable pair that will satisfy a 5-7 year old for less than $30 (check out some low end Celestron models). For $200 you can get a terrific pair of binoculars with a camera (say a Celestron VistaPix Digital Camera with LCD). You can find a great selection if you click the ad on our page for Edmund Scientifics and then search for the category binoculars. Astronomers generally recommend starting with binoculars before telescopes. I never understood why till I got some binoculars. You really can see a lot, but it is easier to find a point source of light with binoculars than with a telescope.
Scientifically accurate inflatable globes. Less than $20, depending on the size. A NASA image accurate picture of the earth or moon or Mars. Very cool. Click on Edmund Scientifics and search for inflatable earth; theirs is large and about $13.
Solar beads and solar dough. They come in all different sizes and shapes. They are sort of milky white indoors but turn brilliant colors in the sun. A great science experiment is to add sunscreen to some of the beads and see if they turn color any more. You can also put them behind sunglasses. You can find them at Edmund Scientifics by searching for solar beads; a bag of 100 beads costs $8.
Lenses and magnifying glasses. You can buy a bag of lenses from Edmund Scientific ($10 for a random assortment), or collect them from old cameras you are about to throw away.
Race cars. There are lots of race cars on the market, and they can all be a lot of fun. My favorite is Darda because the sets are reconfigurable and the wind-up race cars are rapid fire technological marvels. They are not cheap, but they are of very high quality. The set we bought has a car that winds up but waits to zoom away till it is smacked from behind by another racer. This “Stop and Go Car” allows you to build a track that is twice as long as any single racer could travel. Needless to say, one of the most fun things is when the cars smash into each other. Larger kits allow you to build gravity-defying tracks at least 3 feet high – and the cars are fast enough to make it! You can find Darda tracks at our store by searching for Darda racer.Share Post: | Stumble | Share on Facebook | Tweet This |