Toys: Not Just for Nerds Anymore
By Tim Connolly
Science toys have improved since I
was a kid. Back then it was a bummer Christmas that left you holding
a junior chemistry set or ant farm. My early exposure to nature
consisted of watching tranquilized animals on Mutual of Omaha’s
Wild Kingdom. Kids in 2002 have the Discovery Channel, The
Crocodile Hunter, Imax movies; you name it. They’ve seen sheep
cloned, and even watched a Woolly Mammoth pulled from the ice of
Siberia to await its imminent rebirth, a la Jurassic Park.
Science is a part of kids’ lives today like never before. So it’s
not surprising that the range of science toys has grown, along with
their fun quotient. Here are my top five:
Authentic Roman Coin Kit.
By Totally Fun Toys (exclusive)
It’s hard to call this a toy when
the kit includes five authentic Roman coins, minted between
100 and 400AD. Yes, the coins are real, dug-up in the ancient Roman
city of Moesia-what is today the country of Bulgaria. A cleaning kit and instructions for how to resurrect your
own piece of ancient history are also included. Ages 6 and up. Retail: $19.99.
Eyewitness Kit: Dinoworks
This kit allows kids to cast, paint, assemble and display a 19”
inch T-Rex skeleton. Or if they prefer a different dinosaur, there's
also a Stegosaurus, Triceratops or Velociraptor. Also offered
is a "Classroom Kit," which includes three dino skeletons,
as well as a teacher-approved lesson plan. Included in each kit are a reusable mold, casting material,
paints and brushes, glue, and magnets to hold the final assembly
together. An illustrated booklet with facts on real dinosaurs is
also included. Ages 8-12.
Average retail: $14.99.
Meteor Rocket Kit.
By Scientific Explorer
Unlike the gunpowder-fueled model
rockets of my childhood, this kit is powered by non-explosive baking
soda and vinegar. Kids experiment to find the right combination of
ingredients before launching the rocket as high as
100 feet in the air; an experience that can be repeated again and
again. The instruction book includes facts about
rockets and chemistry, and suggestions for other experiments. Winner
of the 1999 Parents’ Choice Recommended Toy Award.
Ages 11-14. Average retail: $19.95.
By Insect Lore
For 4,600 years, silkworms have
been bred domestically to produce this coveted material, used to
make everything from emperor’s robes to parachutes. Now kids can
watch as worms spin silk cocoons and finally emerge as moths.
Kit includes a mail-in certificate for 3 silkworms (shipped with
food), a silkworm habitat resembling a Chinese city, incubation tub,
and instruction booklet. Ages 5-11. Average retail: $14.99.
Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Magic
Castle. By Explora Toy
Maybe it’s nostalgia, but many
adults love this item as much as their kids do. The Sea Monkeys’
globe (they’re actually Brine Shrimp) is small enough to hold in
your hand, and comes with Sea Monkey food, a measuring spoon,
magnifying lid, and a large dropper for agitating the water. These
low-maintenance pets have a guaranteed life span of two years if
cared for properly. Ages 6-12. Average retail: $10.99.
Get a perspective on the state of
the educational toy industry from two industry leaders: Click
to see more Science and Nature Toy Products? Click