Today, I’m starting a series where I will review STEM activity guidebooks that are written for parents or teachers who want to teach science and engineering concepts to kids age 3 – 7 or so. For a full list of resources I recommend, including books for adults, books for kids, websites, curricula, toys, apps, videos, podcasts and subscription kits, see my resource page: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/resources/.
Today’s review is The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things To Do With Your Parents, Babysitters and Other Adults by Miller, Homer, and Harrington. Rachel Miller has taught chemistry and art for k-8, engineering for grades 3 – 7, and is the creator of Quirky Momma. Holly Homer is a retired physical therapist, volunteer science teacher, homeschooler, writes KidsActivities.com, Jamie Harrington is a kindergarten teacher and author.
A condensed version of the description on Amazon: “You’ll have the time of your life conducting these incredible, wacky and fun experiments with your parents, teachers, babysitters and other adults. You’ll investigate, answer your questions and expand your knowledge using everyday household items… [a] book of ridiculously amazing, simple science experiments. You can do things both indoors and outdoors. The handy mess meter, preparation times and notes on the level of supervision will keep your parents happy, and you safe. Experimenting is really fun, and you will have a blast being a scientist! You will be so entertained, you might not notice you’re also learning important things about the world around you.”
Audience: Although it’s marketed as a book for kids age 8 – 12 or so, it also works well as a guidebook of ideas for parents and teachers, and many of the experiments will work fine with adult support for younger kids.
Reviews: In the 73 reviews on Amazon, the average rating is 4.7 stars. The positive reviews say they like the mess meter, the helpful photos, the easy experiments with everyday items, the fact that kids love it, and that it’s good for adult-child bonding. The 4 negative reviews state that some experiments don’t work and some explanations of the science behind experiments are sloppy.
Content: 101 activities, split into 4 sections: Kitchen Chemistry, Physics and Making Things Move, Exploring the World, the Human Body. Each section has a brief introduction, which just lists the author’s favorite activities. The book is 192 pages with lots of great photos and engaging graphic design that gets kids (and adults) excited about trying the projects.
Format of activities: Title, mess meter (scale from 1 – 5), supervision level (either no adult supervision required, adult supervision required, and/or safety precautions), prep time, experiment duration, supplies needed. Science question. The experiment (instructions), the outcome, why it worked (science explanation), variations, safety notes if needed, and a “did you know” trivia sidebar. Some activities have multiple photos of the process, some have a single photo of the activity, some have diagrams, and some have no illustrations. In some cases, like the mini robot made with an electric toothbrush, an illustration would really help. Here are some sample pages:
Clarity of instructions: Clear and easy for an adult to understand (not sure about the 12 year old… but it does say these are things to do with adults). This book has lots of unique experiments that aren’t in every other book… lots of “I want to try that one” ideas. Examples: red glowing spinach (the chlorophyll glows under black light), underwater magic sand, putting a balloon on a bed of nails, jumping macaroni (see picture), and sinking marshmallows in oil and water.
Summary of Strengths: Consistent format and clarity of activity descriptions – each contains a “mess meter”, level of supervision required, predicted times for prep and experiment, concise and easy-to-follow instructions, description of outcome, and an explanation of the science. The graphic design is appealing. The tone of the book would get adults and kids excited about working on science together. Includes many activities that aren’t standard fare found in all the other books.