By GreatSchools Staff
This mini-chemistry set by Wild Science offers a glimpse into the science of scents. The Perfect Perfume Laboratory comes with ready-made essential oils that need to be filtered and processed to be made into perfume, but it also explains how kids can use the simple science tools to explore other natural scents from herbs and flower petals. The kit includes such guaranteed-to-please projects as scented slime and crystals.
The kit is mostly a hands-on science lesson in using simple scientific instruments and techniques to play with changing forms of matter, rather than an explicit lesson on scientific principles. But this limitation is easily remedied: The downloadable Teachers Notes: Perfume Laboratory exponentially ups the learning ante by offering a step-by-step process for kids to create new scents, record the results, survey others about the scents, and draw conclusions.
Bottom line: This DIY perfume kit smells like tween learning.
Creationary — a variation on Pictionary — is a fun guessing game that lets kids get competitive while playing with Legos. Players roll a six-sided die to determine one of four possible categories: buildings, nature, things, or vehicles. Potential creations are challenging enough to make the game fun for older kids, as they include everything from a fox to a skateboard to a laptop. The game comes with basic Lego blocks and some specialized pieces to allow for even more experimentation.
Bottom line: Pictionary for the Legos-loving set, this game requires real creative thinking.
Ages 8-10, $16.99
You might think that a toy with "weird slime" in its name would only appeal to boys who can't get enough of gross 'n' gooey things (or Nickelodeon for that matter). Wrong! Our intrepid girl tester not only listed "gross stuff" as one of her interests but also gave Wild Science's Weird Slime Laboratory a rating of "super cool."
And for good reason: The Weird Slime Lab comes with eight hands-on activities (like how to make green jelly worms), each of which builds on skills learned in the previous one. But what could a kid possibly learn from a DIY slime kit? Why none other than lessons on the properties of matter, hydrated crystals, and how to control different polymers and catalyst reactions. And you thought those were merely green jelly worms.
Bottom line: It's gross, gooey, and a great way to introduce kids to chemistry.
Ages 8-10, $49.95
Our 2010 Wild Card Winner — a toy not formally submitted but nominated by our kid testers and experts — lacks the gloss and glamour of many new learning toys. No matter. As the inventor Chuck Resor told us, “Electronic learning aids are more useful when they focus on accomplishing a limited number of critical objectives, as opposed to when they try to accomplish, in a less than focused manner, a wide range of objectives of varying importance.” Translation: Slick it ain’t, but FlashMaster delivers crucial learning.
Even better, it manages to make practicing math facts addictive. With timed and untimed settings for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a GameBoy-size gadget that keeps track of kids’ progress for parents and teachers, FlashMaster can be enjoyed by grade schoolers any time, any place. (Hello car trip!) When children are required to master their multiplication tables, it will be more than just another gadget — it may transform their math experience.
Bottom line: No bells and whistles here, just multiple ways to master math facts.