Exploring Science with Kids.
As a home educator, one of the things I need to do is help my children explore science (alongside everything else!) Contrary to popular belief, this is remarkably easy thanks to the multitude of science kits which are available off the shelf in toy shops, supermarkets and online. Kids love to ‘do science’ with their parents and easy, accessible and informative kits make a wonderful jumping off point for home experiments and learning, whether home educating or exploring scientific ideas with schooled children in evenings and weekends.
When looking at science kits to buy I’m always interested to see what scientific ideas they illustrate, whether they provide the opportunity to go further with the subject matter than the remit of the original kit either by moving on to another experiment or through discussion, the quality of the included parts and how long they will take to do. Clarity of instructions and some proper science is really important too – nothing annoys me more than pseudo science!
We tried out some of the new Miniland Educational science kits as a prelude to taking the range to sell on our toy site and I’ve been really pleased with the experience. First up was one of the four coloured crystal boxed sets, which uses chemicals to grow crystals from a saturated solution.
This kit did exactly what it said on its (very nice) tin. It grew crystals 😆 The instructions were clear enough for the girls to do on their own (although we did add extra water to make all the solid dissolve) and the experiment worked really well. The crystals were forming within 24 hours and a fortnight later, they are still getting bigger. This is a simple experiment but it provides lots of opportunity to chat about what is actually going on: solutions, dissolving, saturated solutions, how warmth and agitation help the dissolving process, how the crystals form and why the water gradually gets lower in the pot as it evaporates. I liked that the instructions referred to the solute as ‘the chemical’ all the way through, to encourage caution.
I really like the sturdy tin the project came in and how well made and reusable the component parts were. There is plenty of value in the set and over time, from this and similar kits, we’ve built up a good stock of science paraphernalia to use with other experiments.
Next up was the Miniland Educational Microscope. Over the years we’ve tried out several microscopes, from expensive in science laboratories to cheap and cheerful ones to ones that link to computers. Expectations were pretty high over all and were generally met. The microscope itself is sturdy and well weighted so easy to use. Having a light built in made things a great deal easier and there are plenty of settings to play with from different eyepiece lenses, to different light filters, light apertures and zoom strengths. There were two included triple slides (which are replicated in the additional slide set which is bought separately) and loads of slide making kit, including a really nice instrument set. Again all the additional items in the box were very well made.
This is a microscope that would benefit from adult involvement as it is quite intricate and needs some setting up and experimenting to get the most from it (I won’t tell you how long it took me to work out why everything looked red…. and I *am* an adult!) It is certainly not a toy and will give good results with the right care and attention to following good microscope procedure. I think we are going to really enjoy making slides with all the additional kit. One excellent part to it, which I consider a real added value element, is the booklet which gives a child sized history of microscopes and lenses. We got lots from that and I felt it was well put together.
Miniland also has a series of skeleton kits which cover the main animal groups. My daughter had a go at making the human and was pleased with the result. I think this is another kit which is a great ‘jumping off point’ as well as a good display item. It was an opportunity to look at joints, relative sizes of bones etc and we moved on to looking at skeleton websites, workbooks and books.
Other kits in the range include robotics, physics and electronic circuit making kits which, from my experience of similar brands, I think they look like they will be excellent.
Building up confidence to explore science through boxed, off the shelf sets like this is a great way to get started. These days we do plenty of ‘kitchen science’ using books such as the Usborne science range and by picking up ideas from websites. It’s easy to buy ingredients and supplies to branch out from eBay or chemist shops and more and more toy sellers provide simple science equipment without having to buy in bulk or source mainstream school suppliers. You can see some of the other science we’ve done with out kids on our family blog.
One of my favourite science websites is Science Sparks and I’m delighted to say they’ll be doing a guest post for us later this month.
You can buy Miniland Educational Science kits from :-
We are actively seeking bloggers to review kits. If you’d like to get involved, please let us know.