The good-old-fashioned chemistry set. 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. And now, as a 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?..
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.
New chemistry experiments every month
The way the MEL Science kits work is that they send you a new kit every month. I was dubious at first, having not been a subscription box kinda guy. But, I'm won over by these. Pacing things out this way avoids a flash of interest, followed by completely forgetting about it, which is what happens to so many other things in our house.
I'll leave the details about particular kits and experiments for another day, but for now, I'll give you the TL;DR verdict. 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.
The starter kit comes with some real glassware. For instance there's a proper Erlenmeyer flask and a beaker. I'm also impressed that the kits have real, 'fair dinkum' chemicals. Nothing crazy toxic, mind you, but not just a bit of vinegar and 'bicarb'. I'd recommend adult supervision, particularly kids younger than high school age. And the information given with each experiment is fantastic - it's scientifically accurate, pitched at an appropriate level and leads the kids to question what they're doing and think like scientists! As a small example, here is a "tin hedgehog" my kids made:
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.
I realize there's a pretty good chance that you don't have kids and you're not planning on any soon! However, if 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 Toy Expert for details of some awesome STEM Toys for kids to have fun building a computer, coding a robot or doing all things science-y!