Girls and boys are natural scientists: they experiment and explore and test and repeat and (mostly!) learn from experience. So toys with a science are pretty much always a hit. And, from slimey chemistry experiment sets to pond-dipping kits, there’s plenty of great science-y entertainment for all ages from toddler to teen.
Here are the best science toys, as tested by children…
GOLD winner, Best ScienceToy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What it is: A kit that contains chemicals and equipment for 100 pretty hardcore science experiments including chromatography, growing crystals, investigating the actions of acids and alkalis – and way more. Equipment includes a spirit burner, test tubes with rack, flask, tubing, googles and 19 chemicals (some of which need handling with care). Comes with a very thorough step-by-step instruction book.
Why we love it: The ambition of this kit blew us away: the experiments are many and varied – and so much more the stuff of real chemistry than any other experiment kit we’ve seen.
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘Wow, there are so many experiments to do. And the chemicals you use are proper SERIOUS and everything!’ Ed, 13
- ‘I’ve had great fun trying out different experiments – which is brilliant as I’ve just started science at school.’ Nuala, 11
Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys
SILVER winner, Best ScienceToy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What it is: A pretend science lab that is as all singing and dancing as it looks. Has over 50 accessories, sounds and phrases, and 20 proper experiments to conduct.
Why we love it: It’s wonderfully toddler-proportioned and the experiments are great fun but don’t need too much adult intervention. We like the Wizard’s Brew experiment in particular…
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘James’ first impression was “WOOOOWWW!” and he then spent the next hour discovering all the bits, and looking at the electricity bit and experiment cards. This is such a good toy: lots of great experiments to do with little adult input with reasonably safe household objects such as shaving cream, vinegar etc. I think they will play with this set for several years and will begin to understand more and more as they get older. It took less than 10 minutes to put together, too!’ Fiona, mum to James, 4
- ‘I love being a scientist!’ Freddie, 4
Available from: Little Tikes and Amazon
BRONZE winner, Best ScienceToy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What it is: A pack of cards that allows players of all ages to discover and explore elements of the Periodic Table. You can download a (free) app to see the elements in 3D and play a quiz about them.
Why we love it: The 3D aspect is magical – and the quiz is fun but doesn’t let you get away without knowing your element facts! Simple but fascinating.
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘It’s very easy to play with these. Tristan love the 3D aspect you get with the app and enjoys playing the quiz with his brother. Really impressed with this. They were both busy for 2 hours!’ Alex, mum to Tristan, 10
- ‘We like that there are different ways to play, such as using the app for a quiz to test what you’ve learned from using the cards, or just using them as flash cards to browse.’ Anna, mum to Ziyad, 10
Available from: Amazon andThe Learning Emporium
Age: 6 +
What it is: An informative nature kit with 24 identification cards, – all filled with images and fun facts about creatures often found in ponds. Bring your own wellies, but it has everything else little ones need, including a fishing net, magnified collection jar, notepad and pencil.
Why we love it: A lovely way to entice children away from screens to explore the natural world around them. Fun, educational and environmentally friendly – and a Bronze winner in our Best Learning Toy category.
Available from Wicked Uncle
What it is: A bird feeder with strong suction cups so you can attach it to any window, with a unique one-way mirror. Comes with a bird guide to help you identify your feathered friends.
Why we love it: It’s such a simple but clever idea. Not strictly a toy, we know, but, after a big thumbs-up from our testers, we couldn’t resist including it…
Available from Amazon and Wicked Uncle
What it is: A handheld digital microscope that offers up to 54x magnification and connects to a laptop or computer by USB. The top can be twisted to zoom in, and there is a button to let you take photos, plus LED lights to illuminate things not visible to the naked eye. Available in blue, pink or green.
Why we love it: It’s a small-hands-friendly bit of science kit that generates hours of entertainment, if our child testers are anything to go by. They were zooming in on all sorts of things around the house – including their mum’s faces! The photo option is great, earning it Silver our 2017 Toy Awards.
Available from: Learning Resources and Debenhams
What it is: A super-slimey experiment kit. Comes with protective googles and gloves, plus the tools, ingredients and step-by-step instructions to make an invisible monster, slimy snakes, sludgy goo and slime balls.
Why we love it: This Bronze winner from the 2017 Toy Awards is messy play spliced with science and maths! Our child testers really enjoyed cooking up their potions and their parents were impressed that the kit has been development by proper scientists. You can do additional experiments using the kit and easy-to-find extras such as milk and washing up liquid, too.
Available from: The Entertainer and Amazon
What it is: A kit containing everything you need to watch 5 caterpillars eat, spin silk and metamorphosise into Painted Lady Butterflies over 3 to 5 weeks. Comes with a pipette, an instruction book and an 29cm-tall mesh habitat for viewing the butterflies. The live caterpillars arrive separately in a cup, with all the food they will need,
Why we love it: It’s well thought out and teaches children the value of patience! Our child testers thought it was magical and became very attached to their caterpillars. This was a joint Bronze winner in our 2017 Toy Awards.
Available from: Argos and Amazon
What it is: A wooden robot that teaches coding in a physical way, rather than with screens. Your child guides Cubetto through maps and books by using coloured wooden instruction blocks placed into a control board. Requires 6 AA batteries.
Why we love it: Coding is a key life skills for today’s kids but there’s something delightfully traditional about this toy too. Yes, it’s pricey and a bit complicated for younger children to get their heads around at first, but we’ve found they really love it after a few tries.
Available from: Primo Toys and Amazon
What it is: A 30cm-high toy skeleton with true-to-scale bones, muscles and squishy organs you can remove with tweezers and forceps. Comes with a stand, a organ-iser poster (geddit?)and a 24-page ‘lab guide’.
Why we love it: A hilariously yucky way to learn more about the skeletal, muscular and vascular systems in the human body. All the biological info is clear and well presented – without being too po-faced and textbook-y.
Available from: Smyths and Amazon
What it is: A puzzle where you solve the challenge by completing the circuit to light up the board. Set includes a light-up 13cm x 13cm game board, 8 3D fluorescent circuit pieces, 6 barriers, 40 puzzle cards and a solution book. Needs 3 AAA batteries.
Why we love it: It’s teasing to the mind and pleasing to the eye! Plus your child will get a real sense of satisfaction in solving the circuits, so much so that they will never even notice all the super clever, highly educational stuff they are doing…
Available from: Amazon
What it is: A Horrible Science kit for making a water-fuelled rocket. Contains a plastic rocket, nose cone, fins, rubber stopper, valve, stickers, sticky tape and Horrible Info leaflet. You will need a bicycle pump or similar to operate it.
Why we love it: The rocket’s really easy to make and operate – and very exciting when it blasts off (even if you do get sprayed with water). It can be used again and again too, making it a total bargain buy.
Available from: Amazon and Hobbycraft
We’ve got more award-winning toys here…