With kid's birthday parties to attend and the gift-giving season looming ahead, many of us are probably thinking about gifts. This can get tricky. Who really needs more stuff? Why not give the gift of a hands-on experience? Below you'll find a list of great books that include activities from pure science, to making and building, nature and gardening.
I challenge you to use this guide for elementary age appropriate activity books to choose some activities that you can do alongside a young science-inclined friend, or activities that they can tackle on their own. Give the gift of an experience, rather than stuff!
More gift ideas for kids ages 7-10.
Why not pair a science, STEM or STEAM activity book with the materials that you need to complete one of the projects inside? Set aside some time to explore, invent, build and get curious with your elementary aged recipient rather than buy a gift just for the sake of gift giving. Check out these titles to get you started.
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Kitchen Science Lab: 52 Family Friendly Experiments from Around the House
I really love this one, because the nature of "kitchen science" is that you can experiment with all sorts of things that you most likely already have in your pantry. No special, expensive materials required! With 52 experiments, you can try one a week for the whole year!
The Curious Kid's Science Book: 100+ Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8
The activities in this book inspire a sense of wonder and involve items that you can find around the house. Encourage kids to explore the questions they are asking anyway, like, "Is slug slime as strong as glue stick?" and experiment to find the answers!
Find more clutter-free gift ideas for older kids.
Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations and Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!
Another great title from the Williamson Kids Can! series, exploring atoms and answering all sorts of weird and wonderful questions like "why does broccoli smell?" "what do you have in common with pizza dough?" and "how does static cling work?". Designed for kids 8 and up, but totally manageable for younger kids who have an adult to help.
Spy Science: 40 Secret-Sleuthing, Code-Cracking, Spy-Catching Activities For Kids
Who doesn't love the idea of being a spy? Not only are these activities fun and engaging, but the book also includes "Spy Science in Action" sections that explain the science principles behind the activities.
Interested in more spy science? Check out my post: Spies and CSI's
Explore, Tinker, Create
STEAM Kids: 50+ Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math Hands-On Projects for Kids
Why stop at science, when you could combine it with technology, engineering, math and art? Engage the whole brain with these fun activities. This book became a best-seller on Amazon within one week of release! Read my review here.
STEAM Kids is also available in an e-book version, which is more economical and includes hyperlinks to additional content. You can pick up the e-book here, or if you are a resident of the EU, you can purchase it here.
The Unofficial Guide to Learning with LEGO®: 100+ Inspiring Ideas
This LEGO book is another one of my favorite new books from this year. Use your bricks to build reading, math and science skills from early elementary on up. Also available as an affordable e-book. You can read my review of the book here.
Looking for STEM toys for kids?
Mudworks: Creative Clay, Dough and Modeling Experiences
Although this isn't specifically science related, this one has been a favorite of mine for a long time. With over 100 different dough recipes, you can mix up something that will be the perfect beginning to a model, some creative play, or a great sensory experience. Tons of fun!
Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors
Not only does Tinkerlab include a bunch of activities that will inspire and amaze kids, it also has a lot of practical advice on setting up spaces where children can explore and be creative. A great book for families.
Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects: Build*Invent*Create*Discover
Great images and step-by-step activities that use household items. Projects are fun and kid-safe, so they can be completed on their own, or with an adult helper.
Outdoors, Nature and Gardening
Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground and Park
Take science outside! A great family book for exploring biology, chemistry, physics and more outdoors! Ditch the screens and get some fresh air.
A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature
What kid doesn't like to get their hands a little dirty? Fabulous activities that can be done outside from nature potions to dandelion bubbles!
The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families and Classrooms
Clare Walker Leslie is well known for her books on nature journaling. This one is an excellent guide to becoming a naturalist. Includes many activity prompts for growing closer to the world around you.
Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play and Enjoy Your Garden
Such a fun gardening resource. Hands-on garden experiments can be done individually, or systematically during each week of the year.
Don't Throw It, Grow It!: 68 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps
Although this isn't an activity book per se, it is one of my favorites for experimenting with plants. Why not try to grow some ginger or an avocado? Some soil and leftovers from your fruits and veggies are all you need!
Down and Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First-Time Projects to Get you Gardening
This is one of the most fun and comprehensive beginning garden books I can think of. From building a scarecrow to winter window boxes, this guide is a keeper.
These next books are geared for parents. Despite the titles, each could be used by either Mom or Dad with sons or daughters!
The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists: The Coolest Experiments and Projects for Science Fairs and Family Fun
From MacGyver science to growing "tasty sea monsters" there are tons of activities here that make science come alive and families will enjoy.
Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families
Geek Mom = Cool Mom. Science projects, superheroes, sci-fi adventures and more! Sure to make all the other kids jealous.
Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects
The title sums this one up pretty well. From the editor in chief of Make magazine, you'll find all sorts of interesting projects to build and investigate...whether you're a Dad and a daughter, or Mom and a son!
Find great toys for building.
Looking for other gifts for young scientists?
Check these out:
- Gift Ideas for Young Astronomers and Space Explorers
- Best Gifts for Budding Biologists and Naturalists
- Gift Ideas for Tinkerers, Makers and Engineers
- DIY STEM Gifts for Kids