When I was in school, I was a little people pleaser. For example, I knew my teachers and my family wanted straight A’s, so that’s what I went after. Not because I enjoyed the learning process or because I was looking ahead to college. Just because I was chasing acceptance and validation from others.
So I set my heart on those A’s, and I got them…all except for one subject.
Science class slayed me. Earth sciences, biology, chemistry. I was abysmal in every single science class I ever took, and I could barely look my science teachers in the eye.
And then in high school, I had physics with Mr. Henderson.
On the first day of class, I had absolutely zero belief in myself when it came to learning anything science-related. But then Mr. Henderson went and did something brilliant.
He made science fun.
The Problem With Kids And Science
Before Mr. Henderson’s physics class, I thought I hated science. I thought I was terrible at it. I thought I’d never understand it.
But a funny thing happens when you inject fun into the learning process.
Kids don’t have to slog through a textbook, re-reading the same paragraph five times just to understand 70 percent of it. When kids are having fun learning, they don’t have time to fuel the self-fulfilling prophecy that they’ll never “get” it. They go from giving you a blank stare to trying harder than ever before—but this time with a twinkle in their eyes.
Injecting fun into the learning process switches kids’ brains on.
Thanks to Mr. Henderson’s class, my opinion of my science aptitude completely shifted. I went from hating science to loving science.
How to Foster Your Child’s Love of Science
When I had my first child, I swore to myself that I would make science fun for her before she got to that first science class that destroyed her belief in herself. Before she decided science is boring.
Part of my motivation is knowing that kids who have a good understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math are likely to have more career opportunities in those fields.
But above all, I want my kids to enjoy the learning process so they become life-long students of our world. Because that makes for a much more enjoyable life than going through your days as a grumpy curmudgeon who’s shut your brain off to learning anything new past the age of 12.
Plus, constantly learning new things will help keep my kids’ brains safe from yucky stuff like Alzheimer’s and dementia when they get older, which is a nice bonus.
10 Best Science Gifts for Kids That Will Make Kids Love Science
For the last nine years of my kids’ birthdays and Christmases, I’ve made it my goal to look for the best science gifts for kids. Science gifts that will flip their brains to the “on” position the same way my awesome physics teacher switched on mine.
But unfortunately, some science toys for kids can be total duds. They give kids a set of detailed step-by-step instructions and expect kids to blindly follow along. That’s no better than a boring science textbook.
For kids to enjoy learning and to get the most out of the learning process, they need to be active participants—not just monkeys following instructions:
“Child development specialists say young children learn best when they are fully engaged and imbued with a feeling of control. They encourage parents to seek out more open-ended games and toys in which children could explore and create at their own pace.”
That’s why every pick in this list of the top science gifts for kids encourages children to join in on the learning process. You won’t find a lot of all-in-one science “kits” in this list because they tend not to be as fun for kids as open-ended science toys and games.
If you want to raise a child who loves science, these science gifts for kids are the perfect way to do just that.
Because science is definitely not boring—as long as you make it fun. (Thanks, Mr. Henderson!)
1. A Game for Budding Scientists
When it comes to science gifts for kids, board games are a fun way to get more than one kid excited about science (and parents too!). The key is to make sure the board game is actually fun and not so “educational” that kids won’t want to play it.
Here are a few of our favorite science board games for kids, plus others recommended by friends:
- Bird Bingo†—Perfect for all ages, this bingo game teaches kids 64 different species of birds. Or if your child is more into bugs than birds, you can also get the Bug Bingo version. (Ages 4+ according to families)
- Valence—This card game uses simple math, colors, and ninjas to teach kids about chemistry. The game is easy to learn, and you don’t have to understand chemistry concepts in order to play. (Ages 8+ according to the box; 6+ according to families)If you’re looking for a more affordable chemistry card game, Chemistry Fluxx is relatively new but getting great reviews.
- Evolution—This is an updated edition of an older game that had racked up 150+ Amazon reviews with an average of 4.5 stars. In the game, the goal is to help your species adapt and evolve in an ecosystem where food is scarce and predators lurk. Kids who love dinosaurs especially enjoy this game! (Ages 12+ according to the box; 10+ according to families)
- Pandemic—In this game, several diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world, and your job as a scientist is to treat the disease hotspots while researching cures before the plagues get out of hand. Adults also seem to really get into this one, as is evidenced by one of the best Amazon reviews I’ve ever read. (Ages 8+ according to everyone)
- Cytosis—I first heard about this one from a friend who’s a science teacher. This biology board game isn’t a popular mainstream game by any means, but it gets high marks from parents who are board game geeks. The game play mimics how our cells operate and function, and families report that the game is super fun but doesn’t hit you over the head with the science aspects. (Ages 10+ according to the box; 8+ according to families)
- Terraforming Mars—This game of strategy is perfect for kids who love all things outer space. Your goal is to make Mars habitable for humans, and you can even play this one solitaire. (Ages 12+ according to everyone)
You can find a monthly subscription box for just about anything nowadays, from art projects to science experiments—which makes this one a great pick when it comes to science gifts for kids. And even though you’re technically gifting a subscription box to the kids, parents benefit too because you’re helping keep the kids busy with a new project once a month!
Here are the most popular science-themed subscription boxes that make perfect science gifts for kids:
- Kiwi Crates—These monthly hands-on projects are perfect for curious kids, kids who love science, creative kids, kids who love to tinker, and more…in other words, every kid. We received this as a gift last year, and my kids run to the mailbox on the day it’s due to arrive every month. From toddlers to preschoolers and grade schoolers to tweens (and beyond!), these boxes come custom tailored for every age group. To get your first Kiwi Crate subscription box for $4.95, click here and use the coupon code GIFT. (Ages 0-18)
- Little Passports: Science Expeditions—Every month, kids get a real-life scientific mystery in the mail. Then they solve the mystery through science experiments and hands-on STEM activities. (Ages 9+)
My family started a garden together last year, taking turns tending to it every day. If you’d been walking by our house when we gathered around to see the first sprouts peek out, you’d have thought we’d just won lifetime, unlimited free admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Our happy is loud.)
And here’s a delicious bonus for you with garden-related science gifts for kids: After growing their own vegetables, your little ones will be excited to eat the veggies when they’re ready.
If you like this idea but you have a black thumb (hello, that’s me!), here’s the all-in-one garden starter package we used and loved. We started our garden in the spring, so we used the Bunny Garden, but you can also grow a North Pole Garden, a Pizza Garden (everything you need to make a pizza), and more.
As an alternative, a friend of mine got this glow-in-the-dark terrarium kit for her kids last Christmas, and they loved it. In this kit, you get everything you need to make a tabletop garden in a jar. And it’s perfect for young kids because the seeds can start sprouting within days.
Your kids will be so excited to see something they planted start to grow that they won’t even realize they’re learning all about plant lifecycle. If you think your kids would prefer a fairy garden, the same company makes an Enchanted Fairy Garden.
Ages: 7+ (but some younger kids enjoy it too)
You may not want to give your kid a soldering iron, but with Snap Circuits Jr, you can foster your child’s interest in electronics and tinkering. They’ll learn the basics of circuit design with this building set where all the components snap together and come apart again.
Kids can build more than 100 different projects from this one set, including a musical doorbell, a voice-controlled lamp, a flying saucer, and an adjustable-volume siren.
We had the chance to play with this one at a friend’s house, and it immediately made it to our wish list. What I love about this junior set is that as your child grows, you can add on several other sets in the Snap Circuits family.
5. Everything You Need for a New Science-y Hobby
We live near a few nature preserves, and one year we got our oldest daughter everything you need to get into bird-watching as a hobby. Because of that, all our kids have gotten into bird-watching as a hobby—even the toddler!
Here are a few science-y hobbies plus science gifts for kids that will foster a love of those hobbies:
- Bird-watching—For this gift, we got our daughter this spiral-bound bird log, these binoculars for kids, and a bag of high-quality wild bird seed. I’ve also heard great things about this picture book for kids about bird-watching in your own backyard.
- Astronomy—My husband has fond memories of star gazing with his telescope as a kid, so this one’s on our wish list for a future birthday or Christmas. We plan to get a kid-friendly telescope like this one and this book called 50 Things to See With a Telescope for Kids.
- Nature photography—When it comes to a camera, it may be best to look for a shock-proof and waterproof model like the Nikon COOLPIX W100. Because: kids. And we learned this part the hard way: The “kid” cameras on the market tend not to produce quality photos, and that can be disappointing to a budding photographer who’s excited to see how her photos turned out. A camera is a big gift, but you can pair it with a simple guide to photography for kids to help them learn how to use it.
6. A Puzzle to Solve
Puzzles are a favorite in our family, and you can find lots of fun puzzles that make great science gifts for kids.
These jumbo floor puzzles are a huge hit with my toddler and preschooler. They pull them out about once a week, put them together, then spend at least 30 minutes talking about all the cool stuff they see on the puzzle:
For older kids, these science-themed puzzles with more pieces are a fun challenge:
7. Oodles of Experiments
If your child loves to tinker and experiment, the perfect gift could be a a book full of ideas for fun experiments to try. However, we’ve encountered a few duds in this department where the instructions are incorrect or too complicated, or both.
When you’re gifting an experiment or project book, as an added touch, you can pick up a few of the supplies used in the first couple experiments so the child has everything they need to get started right away.
When it comes to books as science gifts for kids, here are the best books with experiments we’ve come across:
- Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments from the Pantry—This isn’t exactly a cookbook but more a collection of super fun science experiments you can do in the kitchen.
- Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park—This one’s by the same author as the previous book, but all the experiments are for outdoors. What we loved most about the projects in this book is that our toddler, preschooler, and tween all had fun with them.
- Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff—Ever since my preschooler watched an old Mister Rogers episode about recycling, she’s been obsessed with the idea of recycling and upcycling to prolong the lifecycle of stuff before it ends up in the trash. After doing a couple of the experiments in this book, she started coming up with creative ideas for how to reuse things from our recycling bin and the trash. For example, she rescued a Brussels sprouts bag from the trash and turned it into a birdcage. Proof that this book got her gears turning!
- Coding Games in Scratch—This book comes highly recommended by friends whose kids love video games because it teaches them how to build their own games.
8. An Extra Dose of Inspiration
Non-experiment books can also play an important role in inspiring kids to get excited about science, so here are our most-loved science books aside from the experiment books above:
- 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!)—This book always gets my kids excited to learn something new. Half the time, we end up going off on a tangent and looking something up on Wikipedia to learn even more about a specific topic covered in the book.
- The Way Things Work Now—This is an updated edition of a classic book, and the illustrations are fantastic. Be careful because you may find yourself wanting to keep this one for yourself!
- Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World—My kids love reading stories about famous scientists, and this collection of stories also happens to be gorgeous.
- I Love Science: A Journal for Self-Discovery and Big Ideas—From the same people who made the previous pick, this journal includes writing prompts to inspire kids to think big about science and discovery. The inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout are a lovely touch, too.
9. Science in the Mail
Find a fun science magazine for kids and gift a subscription. The child will love getting mail addressed just to them, and they’ll be building their reading skills without even realizing it. And after the child is done reading, they can pass the magazine along to a friend for a little science-y karma.
For magazines that make great science gifts for kids, here are a few ideas for you:
- Muse—This is the perfect magazine for older kids who are interested in science. You’ll find articles about the way the world works, profiles of scientists and mathematicians, and more to foster your child’s critical thinking skills. (Ages 9-14)
- Ask—This arts and sciences magazine for kids includes cartoons, contests, projects, experiments, games, and puzzles. (Ages 7-10)
- Zoobooks—Any kid who loves animals will love this (ad-free!) magazine about the world’s most amazing creatures. Every issue includes a pull-out activity booklet, too. (Ages 6-12)
- Ranger Rick Jr—For younger kids who love animals, this magazine is a great fit because it includes crafts and games targeted to the preschool to grade school crowd. (Ages 3-7)
Ages: 10+ (but some younger kids enjoy it too)
The open-ended play that LEGO offers is great for kids’ brains, but this science gift for kids takes that to the next level…and then some.
This is the priciest gift in this list, but any kids who love LEGO will love this science-y twist. LEGO Mindstorms is a build-your-own robot kit where kids design a robot with LEGO bricks, then write a computer program to control the robot.
It’s recommended for ages 10 and up, but when my oldest was 7 she played with a friend’s Mindstorms kit and had an absolute blast.
If this is outside your price range, you can go in on it with another family or two, then have a rotation schedule for taking turns once a month or so. (Bonus: Rotating toys keeps them fresh and exciting for kids instead of turning into just another thing cluttering up their room!)
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What are your favorite science gifts for kids? Share in a comment below!