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October 2006 | Vol. V - No. 10
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Why Test Tube Toys Turn Profits

Chemistry and Curiosity Sell


"Slime and baking soda/vinegar explosions are big."Wayne Morganthaler, Jungle Vibes Gift and Toy Emporium
With research by regional correspondents Dennis Furlan, Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Willow Polson, Bonnie Priever and Donna Sacks

It all starts with wanting to blow up the world. That’s what’s at the heart of a child’s first chemistry set, and TDmonthly Magazine’s correspondents talked to 43 retailers across the country about why, after the explosions settle down, the sets sell now and always.

Messy Sells

So what makes a good chemistry set? “Anything that has to do with making a mess or explosions,” related Chicago’s Toys et Cetera owner Nancy Stenak. “Something shooting in the air. Chemistry is always popular because you can make a mess while you’re doing it.”

“Slime and baking soda/vinegar explosions are big,” reported Wayne Morganthaler, owner of Jungle Vibes Gift and Toy Emporium in Petaluma, Calif.

But beyond the destructive capability of a chemistry set, age-range specializing is important. Kevin Tjaden, owner of Scientific Wizardry in Boise, Idaho, thought that for the 7 to 11 age range, it’s reactive chemistry. “They've had to dummy it down, like the chemicals you put in the box. So where they focus on is sort of that 7 to 9 age range.  They've done a good job of focusing more on the basics.”

Keep It Simple

Simplicity of execution is another trait of a good chemistry set: “You can open the box and see all the stuff packed in the shrink wrap, and the manual is clear to read so moms and kids can see what the experiments involve,” pointed out Rick Garlock, owner of Grange, Ky.’s Treasured Child.

Clear instructions, age-specific experiments and the ability to make a mess. Those are the things that make a good chemistry set. Oh, and the ability to blow up the world ... or at least the dream of it. What more could a budding young scientist want?

The following are the highest recommended chemistry kits from the retailers our correspondents spoke with:




MSRP: $79.95
Age Range: 10 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Enroll in Chem C1000 and prepare a child for a lifetime of fascination through 75 diverse experiments. Build a mini fire extinguisher and make water flow uphill in experiments with air pressure. Float a soap-powered boat to learn about the surface tension of water. Entertain friends and family with chemistry "magic" tricks, and then enlighten them with the scientific explanations behind the magic. Identify the elements in different chemical substances with dazzling colors in flame tests. The 40-page, full-color Experiment Manual guides aspiring young chemists, chemical engineers, lab technicians and researchers.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8756      (added 7/26/2006)
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Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Young Scientists create sticky ice, remove gas from soda and make a flower change colors. The kit finishes with Young Scientists using test tubes, filter paper and a funnel to separate a mixture of materials and make an explosion that will excite any budding scientist. Top Ten Toys’ Kathie Dockstader, of Seattle, Wash., told TDmonthly: “You can use them as homeschool curriculum because they’re a great stand-alone product, you don’t need to have other components, and they’re age appropriate.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5462      (added 11/10/2005)
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MSRP: $49.95
Age Range: 10 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



This Chemistry Set from Smithsonian is all-inclusive. Kids can perform more than 1,500 experiments and procedures in the gaseous phases of matter, chemical models, solutions, acids, bases, electrochemistry, organic chemistry and more using the latest microchemistry methods. The MicroChem XM 5000 chemistry set includes chemicals and apparati to perform all experiments, a detailed manual and a standing storage chest lab to hold everything.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8758      (added 7/26/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Introduce young kids to the magic of chemistry. This kit includes a microscope that magnifies 100x, 200x and 450x and comes with safe accessories. The science guide contains easy introduction activities to perform with the microscope. Kids learn about chemistry as they make a beautiful ornament and test acids and bases. The kit includes lots of activities and experiments for a younger scientist.
— "Scientific Explorer makes the ... My First Chemistry Set, and those have always done well for me," said Alison Cox, owner of Animal Quackers in Raleigh, N.C.
— Cox told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that she sells about five kits a month from Scientific Explorer.
— "The First Chemistry Set is for young children and parents to be introduced to a microscope as well as fun activities involving chemistry and chemical reactions. It's just fun to do,” Susan Rives of Scientific Explorer told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8757      (added 7/26/2006)
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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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