Awesome gift for science loving nephew.
September 15, 2013 4:13 PM   Subscribe

So my nephew is turning 7 in a few weeks. We live at quite a distance from each other, but have good contact via FaceTime, etc. im flying up to be at his birthday and want to get Hume THE BEST PRESENT EVER! He's very into science, and has said that he wants to win the Nobel prize when he gets older. So... I need advice on the best thing he could ever want. Steer me in the right direction!
posted by grimley to Education (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My seven year old looooves her snap circuits-can't link because I'm mobile but check em out on amazon. Great electrical circuit building kits.
posted by purenitrous at 4:16 PM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding snap circuits
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2013

Also check out Zome-Tool.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2013

This is something that I've done with kids a few times, but I only do it with kids that I know would be very interested in it. Also, I do this with them (not just give it to them): Dissect owl pellets, which you can order a few from science companies.

With someone that age you can start by having the child make a hypothesis as to how many rodents they think the owl will eat. Now each person dissects an owl pellet side by side. You can look at the bones afterwards to try to determine the types and usually, there are at least a few small rodent skulls that you can pull out of the owl pellet. Most kids are very excited about this part and to have one or a few afterwards.

If you do this and your nephew really enjoys it, feel free to memail me in future years for other dissections that you can do with kids and build up to depending on the age/enjoyment/attention,etc.
posted by Wolfster at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2013

How about a microscope or a telescope? I still remember the hours I spent with a microscope, looking at all kinds of things.
posted by The otter lady at 4:32 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lego Mindstorms...pricey, but you did say "THE BEST PRESENT EVER!". Also, there are less expensive kits available.
posted by lobstah at 4:32 PM on September 15, 2013

We have these straw connectors at my library, and the kids (and Tweens, and teens...) go NUTS for them. It's really fun to see what your can build and what will stand, engineering-wise. Not the fanciest thing, but super duper fun.
posted by itsamermaid at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2013

Yeah, I think a microscope or telescope would be great if you're wanting to get a Major Present.
posted by gerstle at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2013

You can get one of those pocket microscopes really cheap. I looked at everything in the world through one of those things when I was a kid.
posted by sanka at 5:17 PM on September 15, 2013

USB microscope? That way you can ask him to send you microscope pictures of stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:20 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I came in to say "one of those microscopes that hooks up to a computer" which I guess would be the aforementioned USB microscope :) My science-loving nephew got one at about that age and he looooved it (as did I!)
posted by Empidonax at 5:43 PM on September 15, 2013

Response by poster: Many thanks thus far... Forgot to mention a crucial kink.. I'm in the US, he's in Canada, and I'll be traveling with a one-year old. So as much as I'd like to, i think dissection is out of it. But the microscope is looking good!
posted by grimley at 6:36 PM on September 15, 2013

In a different era but I was about that age when we got our first home computer (a C64) and started poking (all puns intended) around it's BASIC interpreter. Today some time, and access to a little tutoring and/or cheerleading, with a keyboard and something like Scratch might be the functional equivalent.

Otherwise totally nthing the microscope suggestion - esp a usb one that might be used to save 'photographs' for sharing and display.

Some larger magnets might also be on my list.

If he lives in a suitable place you can often find an annual pass for a museum or science centre. (On review - I know from personal experience that the space sciences centre in Edmonton certainly used to have such a thing and the Royal Museum in Victoria currently does)
posted by mce at 6:39 PM on September 15, 2013

Thirding Snap Circuits, that's what I came in to recommend.
posted by mazienh at 6:58 PM on September 15, 2013

I think I'd have gotten a lot of use out of one of those USB microscopes when I was a kid. The key would be giving him a good list of suggested projects / things to look at, that would actually be interesting and impressive (and lead to some sort of research or further investigation) with the microscope. If you could get one where the light source is removable and can backlight the sample, that would really be ideal... a lot of the cheap ones seem to have the source fixed co-axially with the lens/camera which prohibits a lot of classic demonstrations.

Also, if he likes the snap circuits, a follow-on gift might be a Hummingbird, which is a sort of pre-Arduino made for kids. There are a lot of robotics projects you can do with it.

The classic gift for a kid his age would have been a chemistry set, but I think those have all been sufficiently nerfed by the forces of health and safety that they're not especially fun or impressive for a kid anymore. You need a lot of preliminary education to appreciate the subtleties of what's going on in a modern chemistry set, when the most striking output you get is something changing color or fizzing a little. Booo.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:51 PM on September 15, 2013

Also not fancy, but if he's into rocks and geology, my kid loved the Break Your Own Geode box of 12 (not easy to do btw...a lot of hammering)
posted by biscuits at 10:07 PM on September 15, 2013

I'm a professional astronomer but, rather than a telescope, I just got my seven year old brother a microscope. Many kids find it difficult to close one eye on command, and astronomical (or any) binoculars require a steady hand, some strength, patience and a dark night sky. The strong advice I got from academic and educator colleagues was to get a stereo microscope. I got him this model.
posted by caek at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2013

Snap circuits are on my list for next year, by the way.
posted by caek at 10:41 PM on September 15, 2013

I just wanted to chime in as a scientist (physicist/chemist) here to comment on the above gifts (many of which look great), and as someone who got a lot of "science gifts" when I was a kid.

If your goal in giving him the gift is just something science-related to play with, he'll probably like the microscope idea, but if the idea fine is to give him something that sort of prepares him to be the scientist he seems to want to be, then I think SnapCircuits or something engineering is probably a stronger idea. Microscopes will just get him looking at small stuff. Circuit stuff will get him thinking.

The Lego Mindstorm suggestion above - if you can afford it - is probably actually the BEST PRESENT EVER. It's a robot that you build. You can program it - and in my experience computer programming is one of the best things you can learn if you want to be a scientist later in life (not to mention it's the kind of thing where if you learn it young, like a foreign language, it is MUCH easier than if you learn it later AND they don't tend to teach it well enough in schools). The Hummingbird suggestion above also sounds cool for much the same reason - gets you learning about digital I/O, programming, etc. Also, when it comes to building little robots that do things, it ties a real-world payoff to the work that you have to do to understand it, which is a sometimes visceral way for a kid to get interested in stuff that can be boring by itself.
posted by 0x006DB0 at 4:54 AM on September 16, 2013

I was given this children's Science Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley) when I was 7 or 8 and I fell asleep reading it every night for YEARS. I think it was probably the most encouraging and thoughtful gift I was ever given as a child. It is a fantastic book. I learned a ton from reading it, I was inspired, and now I am a scientist. Yay!
posted by Cygnet at 5:57 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

We gave a young friend (also 7 y/o) bioluminescent algae. It was a big hit. It helps that her dad is a biologist and knew how to culture them and keep out other organisms, but the kit does come with basic instructions to that end.
posted by pompelmo at 3:24 PM on September 17, 2013

« Older How was a fake SMS message sent from an iPhone?...   |   A body therapist for the mind Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.