Confession: I don't think I ever had a science related Christmas present growing up. Did you?
Science was a subject at school, not something fun to do at home.
But brilliantly, there are now so many STEM products on the market, it's hard to know where to begin if you've got a little one who loves to explore.
Here's my take on a few science products you might be considering this Christmas...
STEM Subscription Boxes
In the past our family have tried Koala Crates from KiwiCo. These are the boxes for the youngest children, but they have lots of boxes for older children too.
They're really great to have something to do once a month. We enjoyed them for several months and learnt a lot too. In the end we unsubscribed because we just weren't keeping up with the number we were receiving and had so much stuff from them around the house, but the kids loved them.
Learn about something different every month
Good quality and varied contents
Box contents tied together with a story and pictures to help the learning
Inject excitement into learning with a box to open and explore
We ended up with more and more things each month to find a home for
Quite a lot of the activities for younger children required an adult to do, so there was a lot of them just watching
The activities weren't very open-ended so while you end up with something that looks nice, the activities weren't particularly educational in themselves for the early years
Price: Koala Crates for 0-4 year olds £14.99 a month
Ages: 0 - adult
Science Lab Kits
Some of the more popular kits on the market are those by Galt. I've bought several of these for friends' children as I've sort of made giving science presents my thing.
They're nicely packaged to work even for the least sciencey of parents and don't hold any sort of long term commitment.
Lots of interesting science with everything you need included
Experiments you'd struggle to do at home normally
Make science an exciting event
Choice of different experiments for variety
More of a one-off event so no extended learning
Harder for younger children to do the experiments themselves without a lot of help
Not very open-ended so less educational in the early years where learning happens through child-led exploration and repetition
Price: £13-£18 per kit
Little STEAMers Club Gift Vouchers & Courses
OK, of course I'm going to feature Little STEAMers, but hear me out as I'm going to honestly assess the pros and cons as a parent. I also spoke to Little STEAMers Club members in pulling these together for you.
Activities mostly use things you already have in your house - no extra waste or stuff to find a home for afterwards
Educationally strong for the early years where learning is based on play, exploration and repetition
Can dip in and out with short activity videos or full classes each week
Totally flexible to do whenever and wherever you like
You have to find the bits and pieces yourself for each topic
Parental involvement is required to set up the exploration equipment for after the class
Require parents and children to participate together in the class and the play afterwards, so not something you can leave your kids to do on their own
Ages: 0 - 5
Finally, if it's more stocking fillers you're after, why not fill up your bath with your own potions kit?
I'm talking measuring cylinders, jugs, funnels, pipettes, sieves. You could even get a bath tray for them to set up their own potions lab like we've done in the picture. You can take a look at some equipment here.
Hands-on science every day
Ideal for exploration-based learning important in the early years
Keeps them busy and entertained at bath time without you (obviously you need to stay in the room!)
Self-cleaning equipment when used in the bath :)
Not a variety of topics
Expect some water spillage over the sides of the bath!
Plastic generally required for bath safety isn't environmentally friendly
Whatever you decide to give this Christmas, as a parent, teacher and business owner, I'd encourage you to think about how long it will last, how much fun it will be, whether it has any educational element, whether you can be environmentally friendly and finally whether you can support a small business.
Not much to ask eh? Ha! Good luck :)