Are you one of those parents who isn’t very fond of subscription boxes?
Neither am I! And yet I’m here to tell you why MEL Science, MEL Chemistry in particular, is different (as in: better) from most other subscriptions on the market.
But first, here’s a little bit of background. I’ve loved science, and chemistry in particular, since I was a little boy, and some of my fondest memories are of experimenting with my chemistry set. That’s exactly how my career in organic chemistry began to unfold, resulting in PhD and 2 decades of academic experience.
And now, as father of three curious little scientists, I’ve searched for something similar! So, how does the new breed of chemistry set on offer from MEL Science stack up to my cherished memories? Read on for this chemist’s MEL Science review…
The kid with the chemistry set
You know the freckly kid, with glasses? The one with a telescope? The one who was part of coding club? The one with the chemistry set?
Yeah? Well, I was that kid! And, I’m here to tell you, I loved my chemistry set!
In fact, I loved it so much, I used up all the chemicals in my first set and begged my parents to get me the ‘deluxe’ version, which was about 4x the size of my starter set. Indeed they did – thanks mum and dad! ????
Kits these days… (science kits, that is!)
Fast forward an *ahem* unspecified number of years, and I have kids of my own. Curious kids. Kids who want to experiment the way I did. Therefore, about this time last year, when I came across MEL Science, who claimed to have re-invented the chemistry set, I was curious.
Reinvented?! Big call! Furthermore, being a big fan of augmented and virtual reality (check out my AR app – MoleculAR), I was excited by their inclusion of VR.
You might think, “why don’t you just science up experiments for your kids, yourself?” Well, yes, good point, and I do that on occasion.
The usual sorts of things – vinegar and sodium bicarbonate are involved a disturbingly high proportion of the time. The thing is, as a parent, you’re always busy and it’s a hard to find the time to come up with interesting experiments, get all the right stuff and then try these things with the kids.
TL;DR – Is MEL Science worth it?
For those of you who don’t have the time to go through this long(ish) review, here’s a quick verdict for this box. I love it! As a lifelong chemist and a passionate educator, I’m really impressed with these kits. The experiments are actually much more interesting than what was in the old-fashioned kits I played with as a kid.
How does it work?
The way the MEL Science kits work is that they send you a new kit every month.
You can either pay $34.90 monthly as you go, for as long as you want (and cancel any time), or you can prepay 9 or 12 months, in which case the price goes down to as little as $26.20 per month.
Here’s what you’ll get with your first box:
- Starter kit that includes: glass beaker, glass flask, fuel burner, safety goggles and tray, macro lens, VR headset, and smart device stand.
- Ingredients for 2-3 experiments that are always thematically connected. The first two experiments are tin dendrite and tin hedgehog, and they require 3 simple ingredients: sodium hydrogen sulfate, tin(II) chloride, and zinc.
As a small example, here is a “tin hedgehog” my kids made with the first chemistry kit:
Every next box will only contain the experiments for that month. And what about the lessons and instructions? Get them in their excellent app, which also contains VR lessons that will give your kid a glimpse into the wonderful world of atoms and molecules!
The best thing is, the starter kit items will long outlive the experiments themselves. All items are high-quality and can be used on their own too! For example, the macro lens will turn ANY smart device into a microscope.
Why I recommend it
- It’s REAL glassware, not “kiddy” plastic. I’m a scientist, so I know a proper Erlenmeyer flask and a beaker when I see one. Real glass also means that it feels like a real chemistry set, not a toy! When your kid puts on their new safety goggles and starts doing the experiment, they’ll really feel like a proper researcher. And that does wonders for their confidence and self-concept as a scientist!
- There’s more to chemistry than vinegar and baking soda, and the MEL folks know it! These kits have ‘fair dinkum’ chemicals. Nothing crazy toxic, mind you! But it’s not just vinegar and ‘bicarb’ either. One thing to keep in mind, though. The experiments are certified safe, but I’d still recommend adult supervision with kids younger than high school age.
- STELLAR app with lessons and information that were made by outstanding educators. It checks all the boxes: handholds your kid through every experiment, scientifically accurate, pitched at an age-appropriate level. And most importantly, it really leads the kids to question what they’re doing and think like scientists!
- New experiments every month will keep your kids engaged. To be honest, I was dubious at first, having not been a subscription box kinda guy. But, I’m won over by these – they have everything you need to do multiple exciting science experiments every month. Pacing things out this way as a monthly subscription avoids a flash of interest, followed by completely forgetting about it, which is what happens to so many other things in our house.
- You won’t bang your head against the wall nearly as often. Kitchen science experiments are awesome, but they can take quite a lot of time and energy to plan, execute, troubleshoot, and clean up the mess afterwards.
Things to keep in mind about MEL Chemistry
- There might be that ONE ingredient that every household has, but yours currently doesn’t. So you can choose from two scenarios: either go to the pharmacy to get that hydrogen peroxide or a battery, or disappoint your kid and tell them to wait until tomorrow.
- Some of those many colors don’t look that well on your carpet! This isn’t a huge con though – not if you pay attention to where and how the experiments are conducted.
- There’s a learning curve to the VR headset. It wasn’t an issue for me as I am already a VR buff. But first-time users could really do with some instructions.
I was so impressed, and just a little annoyed…
I have to admit, I was equal parts annoyed and impressed:
- I canned my idea to start a new business making chemistry sets for kids – I couldn’t possibly compete with this
- I wrote to MEL Science to ask how I could help promote them
It took a while for them to set up an affiliate program, but I’m delighted to be part of it – I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about these chemistry sets – as a chemist, father and teacher!
Where to buy a chemistry set
I’ve seen a bunch of different chemistry sets at various shops and online. None of them compare with these MEL Science kits has to offer. If you’re a parent, I highly recommend these experiment kits if your kids are about 8+, if you do the experiments with them. If your kids are 11+, they should be able to do these experiments fairly independently, although obviously with some adult supervision. Each experiment comes with full safety instructions, plus the starter kit includes safety goggles.
If you don’t have kids of your own, but you have any school-aged cousins, nieces, nephews or friends’ kids – share this page with their parents. And then you can be the cool scientist who got their kids doing chemistry! Ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone this ????, but these experiments are legit fun for adults too – no reason why the kids should have all the fun!
Are you looking for other STEM toys or kits for young scientists, to enhance their STEM skills? Check out STEM Geek for details of some awesome STEM Toys for kids to have fun building a computer, coding a robot or details of the best STEM subscription boxes for kids!