May 10, 2021

TDmonthly Magazine

October 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 10

Top-10 Most-Wanted Science & Nature Toys

By Justina Huddleston
October 2012

With additional reporting from Chris Lundy and Brenda Ruggiero

When TDmonthly interviewed retailers in late Summer 2012 about their best selling Science and Nature Toys, the top toys they mentioned were the 4M Tin Can Robot from TOYSMITH, INSECT LORE's Butterfly Garden, and Snap Circuits from ELENCO.

Take a closer look at these and the other best sellers below!

No manufacturer paid to be included in this article. All products listed were designated by editorial staff without regard to the company's relationship with Magazine.

4M Tin Can Robot by TOYSMITH

4M Tin Can Robot by TOYSMITHKids can recycle a soda can into a silly, walking, wobbling robot. The kit includes all the parts needed, right down to the googly eyes, except for the two AAA batteries that are required. Launch date: 2008.
— “The Tin Can Robot is a huge hit. It’s from their Green Science series, which has been doing great,” Jennifer Schneeweis, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, told TDmonthly in late August 2009. Two of 40 retailers mentioned the brand when discussing best-selling educational items in fall 2009.
― “Right now we have the Tin Can Robot for 8- to 10-year-olds and that's doing well,” said Marlene, manager of Kits & Kaboodle in Carmel, Ind., when asked about her best-selling item for tween boys. Seven of 39 retailers surveyed in October 2009 said science kits are their top sellers for tween boys.
― “It's a good price point and an excellent product.  It sells all the time,” Priscilla Moore, owner of Mr. Fub's Party, Toys and More  in Yellow Springs, Ohio, said of the Tin Can Robot and other 4M science kits in spring 2010.
— In August 2010, seven of 43 retailers told TDmonthly that Toysmith is a best-selling science and nature brand. Two retailers named Tin Can Robot as a top product.
AWARDS: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller 5/19/2009 (MSRP: $15.00; Age: 8 and Up)

SC-100 Snap Circuits Jr. by ELENCO

SC-100 Snap Circuits Jr. by ELENCOKevin Tjaden, owner of Scientific Wizardry in Boise, Idaho, had this to say: “It's an electronic kit — kind of like the ones we had when we were kids. … It's really taken off. It also targets the right age range: 8-14, which allows for increased market share. It's become easier to use and easier to understand. As parents, everyone remembers it, but certain parts didn't work that well, certain springs would fall apart. … By solving those problems, people say, "This is like what I had as a kid, but better!”
— As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.9 out of 5 stars from 477 reviews on and was No. 16 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. PROS:  Fun and educational, lots of possible circuits.  CONS:  Kit doesn't always explain how the circuits work.
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, four out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Snap Circuits were one of their best selling Science & Nature toys.
. (Watch the SC-100 Snap Circuits Jr. Video Watch Video) 9/6/2012 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 8 and Up)

Butterfly Garden by INSECT LORE

Butterfly Garden by INSECT LOREThis net habitat (almost like a Chinese lantern) encloses caterpillars, food and the setting for a caterpillar’s eventual metamorphosis. It requires mail-sent larvae. “The Butterfly Garden not only shows actual insect metamorphosis, but it does so in just three weeks' time. Many other animal habitats can take up to six months for any changes to occur. This makes it a perfect item for kids who have short attention spans and is an ideal science project for any classroom,” John White, marketing director of Insect Lore, told TDmonthly.
— Fred Rosenberg of On the Park in Kingwood, Texas, named this as his No. 1 seller in May 2008, with sales of 50 to 60 units monthly. “I just can't keep them in stock right now,” he told TDmonthly. “We have a display on our counter with the real butterflies so people can see it go through the process,” said Kim Emigh, VP of e-commerce at Growing Tree Toys in State College, Pa.
— 25% of 64 retailers surveyed in August 2008 named this as their top-selling nature toy, reporting average sales of 12 per month. Five of 38 retailers named Insect Lore’s butterfly habitats as best-selling science and nature products in late summer 2009. In an August 2010 survey, 21 percent of 43 specialty retailers said Insect Lore is a top-selling science and nature brand. Five retailers specifically cited Butterfly Garden as a best seller.
— As of 5/21/2012, the Butterfly Garden had spent more than 1,600 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games at and has 4.4 out of 5 stars from 461 reviews.
AWARDS: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller (Watch the Butterfly Garden Video Watch Video) 7/18/2005 (MSRP: $19.99)

Lab In A Bag - The Science Behind Magic by BE AMAZING!

Lab In A Bag - The Science Behind Magic by BE AMAZING!Kids will learn over 30 amazing tricks and effects and learn the science principles behind them. Science and magic are very closely related. In fact, many science experiments look like magic and many cool magic tricks are science based. Kids will make water disappear, learn to read minds, mix up some disappearing orbs, levitate magnets, lift up a bottle of rice with a chop stick, stick pencils through a bag of water with noting leaking out, write secret messages and much more.
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, Joe Berardoni Sr., owner of Pun's Toys in Bryn Mawr, Penn., told TDmonthly that "Any of the Lab-in-a-Bag kits from Be Amazing Toys" become their best selling Science & Nature toys. 1/20/2012 (MSRP: $20.00; Age: 8 and Up)


Bubble Gum Factory by SCIENTIFIC EXPLORERKids can make gobs of gum with this bubble gum factory. Create unique recipes by mixing and matching different flavors. Kit Includes citric acid packet, corn syrup, confectioner sugar, gum base, watermelon flavoring, blueberry flavoring, mint flavoring, 2 note cards, activity guide, and a plastic tin with lid.
— Andrea Scartozzi, from Hardware Toys in Paoli, Pa., told TDmonthly in a September 2011 survey that Bubble Gum Factory is their bestselling science toy.
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, Joe Berardoni Sr., owner of Pun's Toys in Bryn Mawr, Penn., told TDmonthly that "a certain few of the kits from Scientific Explorer, mostly any one that has to do with food," are their second-best selling Science & Nature item.
— Mary Porter Green, owner of Curiosity Zone in Ashburn, Va., told TDmonthly in a Fall 2012 survey that kits from Scientific Explorer are one of their top-2 bestselling educational products. They sell dozens each month. 9/19/2011 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 8 to 12)

Leonardo DaVinci Kits - Catapult by ELENCO

Leonardo DaVinci Kits - Catapult by ELENCOLeonardo da Vinci improved upon the already-established catapult design when he introduced his own vision the the age-old military launching device. This design uses a double leaf spring to produce a great deal of energy in order to propel stone projectiles or flammable materials over large distances. A hand crank on the side of the catapult was used to load the spring. The scientific genius of Leonardo da Vinci is brought to life through these 10 articulated models. The inventions that inspired these snap-together replicas are taken from the pages of Da Vinci’s priceless and awe-inspiring notebooks. All models are made of plastic and require no special tools. Manuals are very educational and teach how these inventions have evolved into what they are today.
— Priscilla Moore, owner of Mr. Fub’s Party/Toys and More in Yellow Springs, Oh., told TDmonthly in a late Summer 2012 survey that this catapult is one of their best selling Science toys. 8/29/2012 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 8 and Up)

Backyard Safari Binocs by SUMMIT PRODUCTS

Backyard Safari Binocs by SUMMIT PRODUCTSThese binoculars are adjustable, rugged, and waterproof. The 5x30 power crystal clear optics bring nature up close in crisp detail.
— Chris Lowe, owner of Beanhead Toys in Sandy Springs, Ga., told TDmonthly in a late Summer 2012 survey that these binoculars are one of their best selling Science & Nature toys. 5/14/2010 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 4 to 12)


Rocks by SCIENCE WIZ / NORMAN & GLOBUS INC.Relate rocks to the history of the planet. Uses exciting eruptive experiments to foster comprehension. Mold and slice open a model of the earth, Create a lava fountain to explore density, Spew a volcano, Make pyroclastic eruptions, Discover which rocks will float and which will burn, Identify, break & display volcanic rocks, Sediment sedimentary rocks, Acid test rocks, Explore metamorphic rocks, and Form fossils.
Awards: 2013 TDmonthly Seal of Approval
— John Blair, owner of Science Safari in Cary, N.C., told TDmonthly in a late Summer 2012 survey that Norman & Globus products "are perennial. I continuously do well with these." 4/18/2012 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 8 and Up)

Snap Circuits Pro 500-in-1 (SC-500) by ELENCO

Snap Circuits Pro 500-in-1 (SC-500) by ELENCOSnap Circuits allow children to create electronic projects including AM and FM radios, digital voice recorders, burglar alarms, doorbells and more. All pieces are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease. This Pro version contains over 75 parts and an illustrated manual for building over 500 experiments. The set uses four AA batteries.
— In late summer 2010, six of 43 retailers named Snap Circuits a science and nature best seller.
— In August 2010, Jim and Retha Davis, owners of Kid’s Center in Tucson, Ariz., told TDmonthly their store sells “about 100 (Snap Circuits) a month.”
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, four out of 12 retailers said that Elenco was one of their best selling Science & Nature toy brands. 9/9/2010 (MSRP: $94.95; Age: 8 and Up)

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