Last year I made some science kits for a niece and a nephew as Christmas gifts. Over the previous year my boys and I had an explosion of fun with science experiments and I wanted to share our favorites with their cousins. The kits you buy in the store aren’t all that complicated. You are mostly paying for the written experiments themselves. The supplies included aren’t all that expensive to get and some of them are household items. You can put together a $20 kit for less than $10 and have money left over to add some items to make a really amazing kit.
I purchased a $1.00 plastic shoe box container to hold everything.
I then added:
Color mixing Trays for color experiments. Use primary colored water to make 24 different colors! Just go buy some bath color tablets. You can find them with the bubble bath at places like Walmart and Target. I like the ones by Crayola. You can cut the tablet in half or even fourths for your experiments.
Pipettes are great for most experiments like color mixing. You can use them to squirt the vinegar onto the baking soda in your volcano. My boys love any reason to use them.
These test tubes are the coolest. I will tell you why. They are soda bottles before they are expanded. That is why they are called “Baby Soda Bottle Test Tubes.” I believe the gumbo test tubes are the 2 liter size soda bottles. So not only are they great for a science kit they are also a cool thing to point out to your kids. Let them compare the test tubes to an actual soda bottle. Encourage them to think about how they get from point A to point B. Think about it. If a Soda company wants to order bottles for packaging, wouldn’t it be better to receive them in their pre expanded form? Think of all the wasted cardboard if they got them shipped in the final size! Seriously cool fact. Ok I know my geek is showing.
Look in the dollar section of your craft store for Insta Snow tubes. I found some last year at my Local Michaels store. You can find these for around $1.00. I highly recommend that you try it. A little goes a long way so don’t use the whole tube at once. I suggest this be used outside. It is basically tiny water gel crystals so it won’t harm your grass. In fact it will help keep your grass hydrated and it will eventually break down.
Add a cube of polymer clay so the kids can make their own reusable volcano. If you want to get fancy then give them a cube of brown and a cube of red so they can make lava flowing down their volcano. Basically they make a mountain with a well in the middle for the baking soda and the vinegar to go in. Then their parents can bake the volcano and it is ready to be used over and over and over. To “erupt” their volcano all they need to do is pour some vinegar (with red coloring if desired) in the well of their volcano and drop in a small amount of baking soda. Be sure to place the volcano in a container or on a plate to catch the “lava flow”.
Supply Elmer’s school glue and a small container of Borax along with a science experiment sheet that tells them how to make their own slime. Get the directions here. (they called it glacier gak but it is the recipe for traditional home made slime). Beware that children with texture issues may actually throw up when kneading the the slime just after it is poured into the borax solution. Once it is kneaded it will be less like lightly cooked egg whites. (We have video of my little guy gagging every time he put his hand in the mixture to knead. Like good parents we have played the clip for all that we know and still get a big laugh out of it.)
Other items you can add are:
I love the Steve Spangler Science web site because you can get individual test tube experiments like these or these. What ever concept you want to teach they have fun products. You can get items for individual experiments or buy an entire classroom kit. So much fun.
You can find so many gift ideas from this one site it is hard to choose. If you don’t want to build a science kit from scratch they have lots of Kits in a bag that come with a rack of 6 test tubes all with a different experiment in each tube. If you clicked the link I provided you will see so much more than the test tube racks. I had done a search to give you a link to all their test tube racks and came up with a ton of kits that range from inexpensive to not so inexpensive depending on your budget.
Don’t for get to go to their science experiments tab to print out some very cool experiments. There are tons that use every day house hold products. Each one not only tells you the “how to” but the “why it works” behind the experiment. I would suggest going through them and printing out the ones you like and then purchase any “Lab Supplies” that aren’t easily found around the house. Some of them have video clips showing the experiments. Steve Spangler’s enthusiasm for science is contagious. He makes science fun!
Here are a list of some of the ones I printed out for the kits I made for Anjeanette’s and Rebecca’s children. All of them use every day items and you probably already have around the house.
Density column experiment using house hold liquids.
Film canister Rocket This one says to use Alka Seltzer but you can use baking soda and vinegar. Go to a photo developing place and ask them if they have any empty film cans. I got a ton from Walgreens. The ones that work the best are the see through ones with the lids that fit inside the lip of the canister. I found the type that the lid fits over the top lip are harder to get together in time. Give them a piece of fun foam so they can hot glue fins on the sides. They can use half a mini easter egg as the nose for their rocket (or half a small styrofoam ball). Give them stickers to decorate their rockets (use stickers that won't come apart when wet).
Ketchup packet Diver a version of the Cartesian Diver experiment.
I printed out these experiments and put them in a presentation folder with a cover letter explaining the kit. I included a summary of all the fun experiments they could do with their kits. I also typed up a few pages for color mixing suggestions.
Put a primary color in each of 3 test tubes and put the caps on. Then band them together with a rubber band. Hold them up to the light and look through them. Turn the test tubes and watch the colors change as you look through two colors at once.
If you have water gel crystals, soak some crystals in each of the 3 primary colors. Layer the colored crystals in a test tube. Watch as the colors create a rainbow in a tube. Where two colors touch it will make a third color. Eventually all the colors will mix and the crystals will all be brown.
Some of these experiments would be great for science fairs….. The kids can pick a concept like density and demonstrate a couple of experiments and then elaborate on how they are related and how they show the concept.
I hope you get around to making one of these kits for a gift. They are fun and educational all at the same time and they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.