It was the famous developmental psychologist Jean Piaget who called children “little scientists” to describe their active role in discovering how the world works. Little Scientists also describes what happens when you bring home the classic child’s chemistry set. What better way to pique early interest in science than with some hands-on….science! Science kits are a great way to spark a love for science, and to teach about the scientific method and its role in discovery. Unfortunately, chemistry sets are often deeply gender stereotyped in packaging and marketing. Let’s take a look at some better and worse options for all ages.
Many chemistry sets are outright targeted at boys, for example the Dangerous Boys Chemistry Kit. But, I was also deeply dismayed to find that the popular series by Scientific Explorer has appalling gender stereotypes right on the front of the box. Many feature boys alone. Those with girls show the boy in the foreground actively engaged in scientific pursuit, while the girl is in the background doing…what, actually, is often unclear. The Gags and Pranks kit is geared toward boys, while the Spa and Perfume kit is clearly marketed for girls.
(ok, I see the girl in the corner…with her pink prank!)
We give both of these kits one pinwheel, our lowest rating.
There are indeed sets with no gender information at all. The Chem C-1000 kit, for example, does not feature any child on the box. But, this kit is expensive and fairly technical, probably not well-suited for younger children (it is rated for 10+).
We give the Chem C-1000 kit 4 pinwheels.
The very same brand that makes the Chem C-1000 (and, most unfortunately, the Dangerous Boys kit) also makes a fantastic line of subject-specific kits geared for younger children (4+) called Little Labs. Little Labs Stepping Into Science kit is a beginning science kit for the younger audience. There are boys and girls featured on the pieces and in the book, all discovering science!
There are a number of other Little Labs kits that highlight the real world application of science. Animal Science, Weather Science, and Botany are only a few! You can find these and many more in Fair Play’s Amazon Associates store. I’m particularly enamored with the Navigation Science kit, since spatial learning is a huge part of what my graduate advisor studies.
Once again, both boys and girls on the front of the box, and both engaging in Science! Additionally, nearly all the Little Labs sets are available with free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. Little Labs kits are well-priced, between $9 and $35 per kit. Because of the range of subjects, gender-fair packaging, price, and ease of availability, Fair Play rates the Little Labs kits 5 pinwheels.