Science is for everyone, young and old, but what is science for kids? Read on to discover the answer!
Every kid starts out a scientist. Intensely curious about the world around them, kids learn to experiment before they learn how to walk. Like any interest though, kids’ interest in science has to be fed and encouraged. What are some ways that we can encourage our kids’ interest in science? What are some things we can do together with them to light the fire of curiosity? We put together a list of science books, toys, and activities, categorized by age and scientific discipline, that might help you and your kids continue down the path of scientific inquiry. As always, these categories are guidelines—there’s nothing stopping you from using a resource listed under middle school with your elementary school aged kids.
This page is only a doorway into the much wider world of introducing your kids to science. For more resources, check out Best Science Books for Kids by Age, Best Science Toys for Kids by Age, and Best Science Experiment Kits for Kids by Age!
Physical Sciences (for example, Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics) 🔭
How many astronomers got their start with Curious George creator H.A. Rey’s terrific guide to the constellations? Rey’s draftsmanship was so impeccable that his diagrams of the constellations have been reused in other books.
It’s chess! With lasers! Arrange your laser, mirrors and other pieces on the board and take aim at your opponent’s pieces. When you strike your opponent’s un-mirrored piece with your laser, they have to remove it. There’s a lot of geometry involved in crushing your opponents, seeing them driven before you, and hearing their lamentations.
Richard Feynman is a nerd’s nerd. One of the greatest physicists of all time, this book is a great introduction to thinking, learning, and questioning authority like a scientist.
Life Sciences (for example, Agronomy, Biology, Medicine) 🐞
Every kid should have a book about animals, and this colorful book fits the bill perfectly. It’s part of the excellent DK First Reference series, which has several other science titles for elementary school students.
Help your kids learn about their innards with crosswords, mazes, and dot-to-dots! This engaging book presents facts about the human body, which, fair warning, you may start hearing about from your kids at strange times.
Every naturalist starts by playing “What’s Under That Rock?” This critter barn is a sturdy, ventilated container for whatever bugs, worms, frogs, or other critters that are living under that rock. It has a ruler on the side for scale, and has its own light for your kids to examine their finds more closely.
This is a simulated salamander made out of a gelatin-like substance that kids can dissect. It has a full simulated skeletal and muscular system and comes with tools to dissect it with. It also has two gel refill packets so that your kids can dissect it again. Seriously, what self-respecting middle school kid is going to resist this?
High school is stressful for anyone, but for people of a certain frame of mind, meticulously coloring in the different systems of the body is a good way to chill. This is a high level coloring book—medical students and personal trainers use it to educate themselves about the bodies that they’ll one day heal.
Engineering (for example, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering) 🤖
GoldieBlox is a series of activity kits, books, and toys that use a STEAM plus fun formula to engage with kids and cultivate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. There are lots of different kits to build, including a “cloud dream lamp” and a working zoetrope.
I, for one, am ready to accept our robotic overlords, so why not help your kids get a head start on building a legion of unfeeling robot henchmen with these budget-friendly kits? They’ll also pick up some basic mechanical principles making things like the dragon robot, the doodling robot, or, my favorite, the tin can robot.
This highly programmable, highly customizable robot is packed with sensors and ready for some serious hacking. It can zip around on all-terrain rubber treads, and makes a great platform for mechanical arms and cameras.
This book is a friendly introduction to prime numbers and factoring. The first one hundred numbers are drawn as monsters, and following the monsters’ adventures tees readers up to learn about multiplication. This book is a great way to show kids that math is fun, and that there’s always more to learn!
Hidden Figures is about a group of African-American mathematicians who worked at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory during the 1950s and 60s, performing the calculations necessary to send people to space. These women worked hard at their mathematics in the face of systems that didn’t value their knowledge or hard work. If your middle school aged kids are strong readers, you can send them straight to the adult version of Hidden Figures. There’s also a picture book edition for younger people illustrated by Laura Freeman, and an excellent movie.
Cartoonist Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman, Ph.D., the world’s first and only stand-up economist (yes, really), team up to explain key concepts in calculus, as well as show how calculus is related to the rest of math, physics, and economics. It’s a great book for high school aged kids who are wondering what the point of calculus is. This book is funny and approachable, just like my long-ago college classmate Dr. Bauman.
Movies and TV Shows To Inspire Young Scientists 📺
The Aquarium is a TV series that goes behind the scenes at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to show all the hard work that goes into taking care of whale sharks, manta rays, sea lions and other marine life. This series is a joy to watch, as the animals all have big, unique personalities—my daughter and I enjoyed rooting for the sea lion to learn how to get on the elevator.
This 12-part documentary is beautiful. Every episode covers a different environment, ranging from caves and mountains to the deep ocean. Planet Earth captures very rarely seen phenomena, from Birds of Paradise doing their crazy dance to a dead whale settling to the bottom of the ocean. Plus, the Caves episode has a gigantic pile of bat guano which never, ever fails to get kids’ attention. You can also stream the series here. And if you love the first one, be sure to check out the equally brilliant Planet Earth II!
Science Fair is a National Geographic documentary that follows a group of high school students who are competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The competitors are a diverse group of very relatable kids—your high schooler might see themselves in the young scientists who are profiled in the movie.