Recently I noticed a few massive mark downs on science sets through Amazon Warehouse deals. These sets are listed as used, but other than some slight scuffing of the outer boxes were as new. The normal price on this item is £11.52, but there is one more set through Amazon Warehouse at £2.67 - with free super saver delivery.
In general, I do find most of these kits to be overpriced for what you get, but at £2.67 I was happy enough to give this a try.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
8 petri dishes with lids ( single use - these are made of something like the food containers from the Chinese.
Magnifier - very small - low power
8 cotton wool buds
2 small bottles of food colour ( 5ml)
plastic sandwich bag.
8 page A4 size science guide
WHAT'S NOT IN THE BOX
You will need bread and vinegar to complete the experiments as you are meant to. To use my variation of balloon experiment you will need a tsp of baking soda as well.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?
The biggest experiment in this kit is growing bacteria. You mix up some gelatin, dump it in petri dishes and then rub a swab on a sample item and then over the gelatin. Cover it up for a week and see what has grown the most bacteria. You can test anything you like - the dogs bowl, dirty hands and clean hands - to see the difference, brushed and unbrushed teeth, sweaty armpits, the toilet seat etc...
Damp dirty hands work brilliantly, but unbrushed teeth will likely get the most impressive results. The grand thing is when children see their hands and teeth have more bacteria than a toilet seat - it really does encourage better hygiene. You can also give some cultures vitamins and let others do without.
After you have created life in 8 little worlds, and nourished it, you can now play destroyer and kill it all. Experiment with things like bleach, garlic, antibacterial soap and mouthwash and see which things are most effective and killing your wee creations. this last little bit isn't actually mentioned in the book but we usually include it. Don't blame me if the child gets a God complex though!
Of course parental supervision is an absolute must and hands must be very carefully washed after using examining experiments. The petri dishes with any remaining life forms should be binned when the experiment is over.
Other gelatin "experiments" are less exciting. If you mix gelatin with green colour you have fake snot - with red you have fake blood. I wasn't impressed with this.
The yeast experiment is equally lack luster. Add yeast, sugar, torn up bread and warm water to a plastic bag. The yeast rises and expands the bag demonstrating the effect of gas. Of course you can see how gas works just as well making bread - and it tastes nice too.
The final experiment is so simple, and could easily be done without the kit, but was such a hit I have given this kit an extra star because of it. You are meant to mash up bread and vinegar in a balloon to show how digestion works. We took it one better - or actually two and added red and green food colour plus baking soda. Baking soda reacts with vinegar to form gas and and means you can hold the balloon shut and then open for a second to release farts. Just be careful as sometimes a but of the brown liquid flies out as well. After your balloon belly is done farting you just mush and squeeze and the wet brown bread squirts out. True I could have done this without the kit - but I hadn't thought of it. Of course I would have to add my own embellishments but I do that with everything.
We honestly did have a wonderful time with this kit. At £2.67 is is well worth buying and a good way to spend a cold winter's day inside. It does have some educational value, and my sons honestly loved it.
But at full price I would have to recommend that you just buy a bit of gelatin, food colour and a balloon. I don't really think you need this kit. In fact I believe a good science experiments book like DK' Science Experiments by Robert Winston ( £9.99) or Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist's Guide to Messy Mixtures by Jordan Brown (8.99) would represent far better value for money than buying this full price. But this would make a nice gift - with an ironclad promise to spend the time with the child doing the experiments. It would make a fun activity for a child who visits on weekends as well. It does mean you have almost all the ingredients available at once, and it does provide the motivation to actually do the experiments.
I have given this 3 stars - for the price I paid - I'm delighted with it. But I have a hard time recommending that you spend over £11 for such simple ingredients.
* Safety goggles are not listed on the box contents, but my set did have a pair included. I'm not sure if this means some sets may not include these - perhaps it is a newer addition to the set ? They aren't really necessary but my sons enjoy them using them. Of course I have tons of them as they are included in so many science sets and we do enjoy science experiments.
I have just checked our bacteria colonies and noticed that some of the lids had fallen off. It does say not to open the petri dishes but it is impossible to handle them without lids falling off. They do not seal - they just sit there. As it is possible to grow harmful bacteria as well - these will require careful handling and must be kept out of reach of young children and pets, only being observed under adult supervision.