Reviewed by Bec Wong
I am a scientist. So being able to try out any science kits with my kids is just the best thing I can think of. Being a mum to a boy and a girl, i’m always involving them in home science experiments without bias. When the John Adams Secret Science Kit arrived I was very excited, but saw my little boys face drop as he surveyed the very pink very ‘female-orientated’ packaging it was in. I’m a huge advocate of getting children into science and it’s something I work at daily. So I did take a breath and think maybe there was a good reason for the ‘pink-overwhelm’ and the picture of a boy on the back looking rather put-out that his sister gets to do the cool science. There is currently a shortage of females choosing to take up STEM careers, so maybe there is some well-meaning ethos behind this kit based on that. But upon reading through the website I couldn’t see any particular reasons outlined. More-over, I also noticed on the website that there seems to be some more neutral looking kits available but with boys photographed on the box. This I found rather perplexing and I feel it further adds to the divide between boys and girls in science.
The activities included in the box are around creating illusions and tricks using science in various ways. These included ways to decipher a coded message, using invisible inks and making a magic, optical illusion money box. These are all activities I think would appeal to boys as well as girls and so I think the marketing excludes half of the potential customer base. My little girl and niece were thrilled though.
We spent over an hour going through all of the included activities which are explained with step-by-step instructions, in a very useful and informative booklet within the box. I was also quite happy that the book has some great explanations and background around the science that each activity is based on. As an added bonus the booklet also includes extra activities that you could do yourself at home quite easily, with resources that you might have in the house. This is great for keeping their curiosity alive when the kits have long since been used up.
Each activity was easy to set up and follow. Often I find that such kits can be quite demanding and cause more stress, but I found this one really simple and the girls got a lot out of it. They have also continued to play with and use the items long after we first explored the kit. It’s nice not to see waste of such things and it gives added value from the product.
As a science kit I think this is a great set of activities to keep children busy and get them thinking. It helps them to explore lots of different scientific concepts and is easy to set up and follow. I would choose an activity like this any day over toys that they can easily get bored of. I know the girls loved doing this kit and I’m still finding ‘secret’ invisible messages all over the house. The one thing that stops me from giving this kit 5/5 is simply how blatantly it is targeted towards girls without any good justification why. As the grown-up it distracted me more than it should have. I think it’s important to make science accessible to everyone and I don’t see why a girl wouldn’t be attracted to some more gender neutral marketing which displays both boys and girls enjoying the science.
The kit is aimed at age 8 upwards, but I do think with help, that younger children could enjoy this just as well.
For more information please see the John Adams website here.