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Top Science Toys

Toys That Are Educational and Fun

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Educational science toys abound! If you are casting about for a gift idea, consider one (or more) of the following. They are ranked in no particular order. In addition to these general categories, there are also volcanic eruptions, photography kits, DNA testing kits, globes, dissection kits, star charts, doctor and veterinarian kits, and more.

1. Chemistry Kits

Thames & Kosmos CHEM C3000 Advanced Chemistry Experiment Kit
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Chemistry sets encompass slime, cooking, glow-in-the-dark fun, and traditional mixing of reagents in test tubes. There's something for everyone!

Pictured: Thames & Kosmos Advanced Chemistry Kit
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2. Creature Habitats

Smithsonian Bio Dome Habitat
Photo Courtesy of Pricegrabber
You could start an aquarium or terrarium with any number of animals and plants. Creature habitats extend well beyond the traditional ant farm! Check out homes for butterflies, hermit crabs, 'sea monkeys' (can you say brine shimp?), bird houses, frog farms, and more! Keep the season in mind. Some habitats include coupons to ship creatures that may be unavailable at certain times of the year.

Pictured: Smithsonian Biodome Habitat
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3. Telescopes

Celestron NEXSTAR-8-SE 8" Telescope
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Choose from reflectors or refractors. A telescope is an investment... this instrument really requires a bit of research before purchasing. Expect to spend a few hundred to a few thousand US dollars. In addition to the telescope manufacturer pay close attention to the maker of the optics!

Pictured: Celestron 8" Telescope
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4. Rock Tumblers

Natural Science Smithsonian Rock Tumbler
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There are rock tumblers that rotate such that they 'tumble' the rock and those that spin along the other axis and agitate the rocks. The first produces rounded rocks and the second retains the rock's shape. You get what you pay for in a tumbler, so buy the best you can afford and from a reputable manufacturer. Get extra grit!

Pictured: Smithsonian Rock Tumbler
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5. Electronics Kits

Elenco Motion Detector Electronic Science Kit
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In addition to traditional electronics sets with wires, capacitors, and such, there are also brightly-colored modular sets suitable for younger inventors. Use kits to build motion detectors, light beam alarms, lie-detectors, water sensors, and more!

Pictured: Elenco Motion Detector Kit
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6. Microscopes

Learning Resources LER2790 Microscope
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As with all optics, microscopes vary greatly in quality. Check the manufacturer of the optics. Also, look for a microscope with a self-protective mechanism if the lens is mashed into the specimen. There are also sets that project magnified images onto a screen or television.

Pictured: Learning Resources Microscope
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7. Metal Detectors

Bounty Hunter Pioneer VLF Metal Detector
Photo Courtesy of Pricegrabber
There are hand-held metal detectors and height-adjustable models. Choose one with adjustable sensitivity and be sure to buy batteries in advance. Metal detectors are available in a wide range of prices.

Pictured: Bounty Hunter Pioneer VLF Metal Detector
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8. Fossil & Archaeology Kits

Skullduggery Fossilworks: Fossil Casting Kit
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Dig artifacts or fossils, reconstruct skeletal remains, or hone archeological skills through the many games and puzzles available. There's something for every treasure-hunter and explorer. Be advised that some toys are one-use-only (but fun while they last).

Pictured: Skullduggery Fossil Casting Kit
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9. Rocketry Kits

Hydrogen Fuel Rocket
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There are rocketry sets for all age groups. Choose from air or water powered sets, vinegar and baking soda rockets, or those using serious propellants. In all cases plan on parental supervision and participation.

Pictured: Hydrogen Fuel Rocket
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10. Crystal Growing

Smithsonian Crystal Growing Kit
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You can grow crystals using common household chemicals, but sometimes it's more convenient to get a kit. A variety of safe crystal-growing kits are available. Most kits contain projects that yield crystals within a few hours, with background information about crystals and ideas for further investigations.

Pictured: Smithsonian Crystal Growing Kit

11. Black Light

Ultraviolet light is invisible, but black lights or UV-lamps also emit some visible violet light.
Kallemax, wikipedia.org
A black light is an ultraviolet lamp that can be used to make things glow in the dark. Black lights are available as tiny flashlights, light bulbs, and larger lights. I recommend going for a flashlight, penlight or large bar light over the screw-in lightbulbs, since they don't work as well.

12. Plasma Ball

Plasma Lamp
Luc Viatour
A plasma ball is a glass sphere that contains a very small volume of a non-toxic noble gas. When you turn the plasma ball on, the electricity ionizes the gas into plasma, essentially giving you a safe ball of lightning.

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