Cool science gifts for the cool science kids
With the arrival of a Talk Science to Me baby this summer, we're looking ahead this festive season to nurturing the next generation of science fans with some cool gifts.
Crowdsourced from friends, like a lot of parenting advice these days, here's our list for keeping the kids (and adults too) fully occupied over the festive season.
(Many) days out with science
First up, from a new mom, our associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj recommends a family membership to a science museum. In Vancouver, BC, we're spoiled for choice with excellent kid-friendly institutions like Science World, which is filled to the brim with interactive exhibits, as well as the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which connects us with the natural world, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, to blast us off among the stars. Or you may live close to London's Natural History Museum or the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, which both allow free entry for year-round visits. For families in Vancouver with the Vancouver Aquarium on their doorstep, or for those close to the San Francisco Exploratorium or Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth, a family pass or membership is the best way to spread out your visits throughout the year-often a good plan for active youngsters. A pass also prevents museum fatigue from setting in.
Or maybe you like to keep science in-house.
For parents who like to encourage the DIY in their kids, there are some amazing science and tech kits available. Lee Valley Tools carries beautiful kaleidoscope kits to capture emerging imaginations. The company also stocks pre-cut wood kits that assemble into graceful and functional scale models of Da Vinci's inventions-a great way to get to know one of the earliest scientists.
If you would like to build your own digital portal, check out the Piper Computer Kit: kids learn about electronics and engineering during assembly. Built around Raspberry Pi, the finished “toy” lets youngsters advance through a Minecraft story.
Robotics fans have lots of options. Arduino-based kits offer everything from simple robot bodies to full immersion coding. Not only are children exposed to the nuts and bolts of assembly, but they also get an introduction to the programming that controls a robot's actions. Judging by the robotics workshop attended recently with my Wee Guy, it's also something that we adults could benefit from and enjoy too.
Somewhat old school but with an updated twist, take a look at the current Lego kits available. A school friend pointed out that there is even one for building your own Porsche. It comes complete with a registered engine plate plus branded hubcaps. Lift the hood and you will find a fully mechanized replica of the impressive engine that powers the original. I'd say that this is definitely a parent-child project!
Take out, order in
If you prefer not to battle the crowds, Little Passports will mail monthly science adventures to you. Subscription choices offer a science kit, among other creative packages. Each month a new project arrives, aimed squarely at encouraging interdisciplinary thinking in your junior STEM or STEAM buff.
As an introduction to the world of 3-D printing, why not consider a 3-D printing pen? Since most of these gadgets work on the principle of heat and melting plastics, it's wise to check the minimum advised age and supervise while in action. There are many types, price points and materials to choose from; how about a chocolate pen to take the science into the kitchen?
Off the shelf
Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science: A Family Guide to Fun Experiments in the Kitchen also takes science into the kitchen. Most of the projects in the book result in edible “data,” with the added bonus of a cool introduction to science in action. Seems like a logical mash-up since cooking is all about science anyway. Bon appétit!
Another couple of books recommended by parents include Ada Twist, Scientist, which “champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science,” and Gerald and Lee Durrell's Amateur Naturalist-a practical guide to studying the natural world. If the weather over the festive break cooperates, this might be the book to take for local adventuring. And to further encourage your junior naturalist, how about a handy pocket microscope?
This year, possibly more than any other, it seems incredibly important to keep science alive for the future. Let's keep those young minds in our care alert and open and adventurous to explore all that science has to offer.
Here's to 2017!