Children are natural explorers. Their inquisitive minds and unbounded interest in the world make them the perfect future scientists and mathematicians. As a parent, you want to encourage them, and this list of the best hands-on educational kits for kids is meant to do just that.
In it, we review the best educational and learning toys to help kids explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at home.
We looked closely at which STEM toys for kids would encourage young minds to run wild…think more future nobel prize winner…and less future Walter White!
As a teacher, I know that some of the kits below are used by educators in the classroom to help students learn the math and science school curriculum. Hands-on educational tools are especially important for young learners who learn best by “doing”.
In this article, you’ll find our review of learning kits by subject, the benefits of using hands-on educational toys, what features to look for, and how to find an age-appropriate kit for your child.
So grab your erlenmeyer flasks and let’s get started.
Benefits of Using Educational Kits for Kids
Study after study has shown that the use of hands-on materials (manipulatives) enhances student learning. Basically, kids learn best when they are actively performing a task.
According to research by educators, math manipulatives such as pattern blocks, fraction tiles, and cubes are important tools that helps students think and connect math concepts. Math kits can provide hands-on experiences that build fine motor skills in younger children, and help kids with special needs.
The same evidence holds true for using hands-on activities that teach science and engineering. Research by Pedagogy In Action: Connecting Theory to Classroom Practice found that most students don’t learn best through “chalk & talk” lessons in the classroom, but rather through doing science experiments.
As parents, we can help our kids make the mental connections they need to build understanding about STEM concepts so they can succeed at school and become better “thinkers”.
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features to look for when choosing a STEM Kit For Kids
When you are looking for an educational kit, you may not know where to start…there are so many options. Here are some important things to consider when choosing educational toys.
Possible subjects The Kit will cover:
Math: This could include curriculum topics such as geometric shapes, fractions, or counting.
Biology: Biology covers a wide range of topics such as plants & soils, habitats, or dinosaurs.
Physics – Educational kits that teach children about physics include topics such as robots, momentum, energy, or light refraction.
Chemistry – A scientific kit about chemistry might teach about chemicals or extracting DNA.
Engineering: Engineering falls under the subject of physics in high school and includes topics such as building structures.
Technology: Technology kits might cover topics such as circuits or computer coding.
To find an STEM toy that works for your favourite student, try doing a little scientific research yourself. Ask your budding Einstein:
- What topics are they interested in learning about. Whether the answer is insects, rocks & minerals, or building bridges, there will be a selection of science toys to choose from.
- What topics are they learning in the school curriculum. My efficient teacher brain would want to invest in an math or science kit that is going to compliment the learning my kids are doing in school this year. For example, last year my daughter was learning about structures in grade 1 so we worked on a boat building kit that could float and carry a weight.
other Features To Look For:
- Fully equipped: Does the science or math kit come with all the required equipment included? Some sets may require you to have some items at home, so ensure that you do. For younger kids, it is easier if everything they need comes with the kit.
- Step-by-step guidance: Look for a science kit that has a step-by-step instructions. Following a set procedure is how science experiments work in the classroom so following one now is a good process for kids to learn
- High quality: You don’t want your child to get discouraged if their building structure falls apart easily or their chemistry experiment doesn’t work. When you’ve spent money on a kit that will work like it’s supposed to, your child will be encouraged to tackle more STEM projects.
How To Find An Educational Kit For Kids By Age group
For safety reasons it is important that the the kit you choose is age-appropriate. Although my 5-year-old is a genius, she’s not quite ready to be mixing up chemicals on her own.
Also, finding a STEM kit your child can handle will help lead to his/her success and a fun experience.
Ages 4 to 6: Young children enjoy using their hands and exploring different textures. Try a science kit about Osmosis (movement of water through a membrane) or rocks & minerals.
Ages 7 to 9: Students this age are beginning to experiment at school and can follow step-by-step, simple instructions. Try a kit about light refraction using crytals or building bridges.
Ages 10 to 12: Children this age are becoming more independent and can probably conduct experiments on their own. To help consolidate their learning at school, or homeschooling, find a kit that matches the curriculum for their grade.
Ages 13 and Older: Your child is now ready to advance to more technical kits like exploring DNA biochemistry, building a robot, or circuits and electricity.
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Best Hands-On Educational Kits for ages 4 to 6
Younger children want to play and touch and explore with their hands. Here’s a look at the best math and science kits for children ages 4 to 6 years-old.
Math Manipulative Kits (Ages 4 to 6)
These colourful cubes are perfect for helping young children practice early math skills. You can use them as counters, for grouping 10s & 1s, or addition and subtraction. They can also be used for other skills like identifying colours, shapes and patterns.
They snap together easily and stay together, although preschoolers may need some adult help. There are instructions on ways to use them as well as lots of learning ideas online.See Learning Resources Mathlink Cubes on Amazon
Geometric 3-D solids come in sets that have common shapes such as cones, spheres, rectangular prisms and more. They can be used to illustrate relationships between area, volume, shape, form, and size.
Preschool and kindergarten children learn new vocabulary as they play with the blocks. You can also get them in clear plastic or in kits where the shapes unfold so children can see the 2-D shapes that make up the whole.
Science Kits (Ages 4 to 6)
This is a good starter kit to get your kids interested in science. The experiments inside will have your child mixing, thinking, learning new words, and making hypothesis.
There are over 20 pieces in this kit that are suitable for small hands. It also comes with ingredients which you may not have at home such as red cabbage juice, citric acid and polyacrylamide crystal.
You can also find Magic Science kits, Disgusting Science kits, and Slime Science kits in this series.See Mind Blowing Science Kit on Amazon
My daughter got this set for Christmas two years ago and she still uses it now that she is 7-years-old. So, it has definitely been a good investment for us and one of the best hands-on learning toys I’ve seen.
With this science toy, children can experiment and explore with real lab tools that are plastic and sized for little-kid hands.
There are 12-pieces including: a beaker, magnifying glass, funnel, test tubes and more. It comes with an Activity Guide and cards with fun, easy-to-do experiments.
You’ll find the classic baking soda & vinegar chemistry experiment that kids love, as well as hands-on biology experiments about osmosis, using vegetables found in your fridge.See Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set on Amazon
Studying butterfly metamorphosis is a common learning activity in the grade 1 classroom but can easily be done at home too. If you are looking for an insect learning toy, this kit lets your child care for live insects as they undergo metamorphosis. Over the course of 3 weeks, you can look on as they transform from caterpillars to chrysalides to beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. When you’re ready to start, simply claim your live caterpillars online.
There are also other less expensive butterfly and insect habitats you can purchase. They don’t come with a voucher for the caterpillars but you can have your child collect insects at home.See Insect Lore Original Butterfly Garden on Amazon
Best Kids Educational Kits For Ages 7 to 9
Now is a good time to find resources that help prepare for the math and science skills they will need for school. Let’s look at the best hands-on educational toys for students ages 9 to 11.
Math Manipulative Kits (Ages 7 To 9)
Almost every elementary school teacher has a set of Base Ten Blocks on hand when teaching math. The sets include 1-centimeter unit cubes to represent ones, 10-centimeter rods to represent tens, and 10-centimeter square blocks to represent hundreds.
They are used to teach number and place value concepts, such as the use of regrouping in addition and subtraction. They can also be used to teach measurement, area and volume.See Blue Interlocking Base Ten Blocks on Amazon
Cuisenaire rods are one of the most versatile math sets you can buy. There are limitless ideas on how to use these rods to educate kids. I once attended a teaching workshop devoted entirely to all the different ways Cuisenaire Rods help kids learn the elementary school curriculum!
They are used to teach concepts in math, science, and literacy activities.
The rods come in 10 different sizes and each size is represented by a different color: white, red, green, purple, yellow, black, blue, brown, orange, and dark green. The sets also include an activity poster. You can find ideas about how to use them online as well.See Learning Resources Cuisenaire Rods on Amazon
Science Kits (Ages 7 To 9)
Young chemists can explore simple chemistry using the tools in this kit and common household substances from the kitchen and bathroom. They will learn how to use basic chemistry equipment such as filters, test tubes, pipettes, and measuring spoons, and beakers.
There are 27 experiments in this kit including:
- Make your own test tube racks out of plaster.
- Conduct experiments with different chemicals using heat, evaporation, and crystallization.
- Examine the composition of inks and dyes with chromatography experiments.
- Explore the properties of water, soaps, and oils.
- Experiment with acids and bases using pH strips.
- Discover carbon dioxide and its effects.
Sprouting any biologists in the family? Help your child grow her green thumb with a terrarium that they she can grow plants in.
It includes a jar for your child to decorate and some glow-in-the-dark stickers. This kit is a fun science toy that teaches kids about the importance of providing water, food and sunlight for plants.See Creativity for Kids Grow ‘n Glow Terrarium on Amazon
This ant farm kit teaches children about rain forest habitats and how ant colonies work together. And don’t worry, It’s designed with a self-locking device that makes it escape-proof!
Children will enjoy feeding and giving water to the ants, and watching them build tunnels and talk to each other. It comes with an Ant Watcher’s Guide
The ant-ports and tubes make it easy to connect other Ant Farm habitats together creating an even larger ant community. You can order live harvester ants online or find some in your backyard.See Uncle Milton Ant Farm Live Ant Habitat on Amazon
Best Kids Educational Kits For Ages 10 To 12
Math Manipulative Kits (Ages 10 To 12)
This fraction kit has a total of 78 pieces that represent 1 whole, 1/1,1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/7,1/8, 1/9,1/10,1/11 and 1/12 values.
The variety of pie shaped manipulatives help kids visualize fractions, which can be a tricky concept to grasp.
They can be used to depict parts to whole, comparisons, and equivalent fractions.
The rainbow segments are fastened with magnets so they can stick to your fridge or a whiteboard.See Magnetic Rainbow Fraction Tiles Circles on Amazon
Science Kits (Ages 10 To 12)
Studying rock and minerals is part of the grade 4 science curriculum. Future geologists will enjoy digging up some really cool gemstones including pyrite, amethyst, tiger’s eye, fluorite, quartz, obsidian, and aventurine more with this geology kit.
It comes with a learning guide that illustrates how gemstones are formed and mined. Kids will learn to identify each specimen as it’s discovered. My 9-year-old daughter rates this gemstone and mineral toy as one of her favourite science sets.See NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Mega Gemstone Dig Kit on Amazon
This laboratory kit is perfect for a young microbiologist. It includes a real microscope, not just a toy, that your child can use to study specimens in the field and at home. It comes with 52 pieces and a plastic case for the slides.
Recommended for ages 6 to 12.
Kids can take the prepared slides and use a microscope to view them at different magnifications. Children will enjoy the hands-on experience of working in their own research laboratory!See AmScope Kids Beginner Microscope STEM Kit on Amazon
This build your own computer kit is recommended for kids 7 to 18 years-old. Children will follow a detailed “storybook” which takes them step-by-step through the assembly of various components to build a working computer.
Then kids get to become computer programmers through fun coding lessons. They will code their own games and even using their computer to connect to the internet.
Kids get to experience hands-on computer programming as they follow the story, plug in the parts, and see how it works. Your child will learn to code art, games and music.See Kano Computer Kit – Make a Computer on Amazon
Best Kids Educational Kits For ages 13+
As your child enters high school, they will be learning more complex science and math concepts. Let’s look at the some great educational kits for teenagers.
Math Manipulative Kits (Ages 13+)
Magnetic Algebra Tiles help children with modeling algebraic principles and creating concrete models. This set comes with 72 magnetic, geometric shapes in a variety of sizes.See Learning Resources Magnetic Algebra Tiles on Amazon
Science Kits (Ages 13+)
This STEM kit is for the all-around scientist. Kids will learn about volcanos, weather, crystals growing, dinosaurs, microscopic science and outer space with this lab set. It comes with in-depth instructions to guide learners through all the activities.See Smithsonian Mega Science Lab on Amazon
This Genetics and DNA science kit teaches kids about the human genome and molecular biology in a fun way. Kids will learn about biochemistry, extract DNA from fruit, work with gene construction, and build a DNA double helix.
This set includes all the necessary supplies and an illustrated manual to help your teen conduct realistic experiments with DNA science.See Biology Genetics and DNA Kit on Amazon
Maybe your remember learning about circuits in high school physics class using those wooden boards? This snap circuits set says it can be used by children 8+ and is safe and “frustration free”.
Children can explore and build electrical circuits with this electronics exploration kit.
The guide offers over 305 electronic experiments, none of which require special tools or advanced expertise. Children can build machines such as a burglar alarm and AM radio.See Elenco Snap Circuits on Amazon
I hope you found this list of the best learning and educational kits for kids helpful. Hopefully you found a science or math toy for your child to try some cool experiments at home.
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