A Mighty Girl's top picks of science toys and kits to encourage outdoor discovery and exploration.
One of the best ways to spark a child's love for science is by allowing her to learn about it in the real world through outdoor play and discovery. Whether she's examining a favorite new insect, gazing at the stars, or cultivating a garden, nature is full of wonders to excite curious kids. And, with a few fun science toys, kits, and tools, kids can do a lot of learning and exploring on their own — and have a ball doing it!
In this blog post, we've showcased two dozen of our favorite toys and kits to help kids get started on their outdoor explorations. From a set of field tools for kids to a rotating star map of the sky, these toys will let kids explore wherever their curiosity takes them. And, whether you have a budding naturalist, entomologist, astronomer, or geologist, there's something here for everyone!
Toys and Tools for Outdoor Exploration
Water a garden or have fun digging up discoveries at the beach or sandbox — there are plenty of possibilities with this set from Green Toys! This watering can has an easy pour spout and a rope handle that prevent little gardeners from getting frustrated. It also comes with a hand rake and a trowel for digging and weeding. Kids will love the bright colors and the play potential, while parents will particularly appreciate the eco-conscious construction — like all Green Toys, it's made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic and colored with soy inks.
Encourage a lifelong love of science with these Bugnoculars from Educational Insights! With soft, rubber grip handles, 3x magnification on the top and 2x magnification on the sides, and a snap-lock lid with air holes, this bug collection container is the perfect way to observe and examine all kinds of creepy crawly critters, while keeping them safe until release. Bugnoculars are even water-tight, so kids can examine fish, tadpoles, and other underwater life.
These binoculars are perfectly designed for little kids! The large focus-free eyepieces and perfect-fit goggles make it easy for kids to line up the binoculars for a good view, while the breakaway neckstrap ensures kids' safety. With 2X magnification, it's still easy for younger kids to connect what they see through the binoculars with what they see unmagnified. Plus, they're built tough, so they can handle being dragged on all your Mighty Girl's outdoor adventures! Older kids can check out the Kidnoculars Extreme, which offer 3X magnification plus audio amplification, for ages 5 to 10. Or, to get a close-up look at things in the environment, check out Geosafari's Mighty Magnifier for ages 4 to 7.
Have fun catching bugs and butterflies with this fun bug net from Melissa and Doug's Sunny Patch collection! This child-sized bug net has a striped wooden handle and a high quality polyester mesh net that's sturdy enough to hold up to your child's enthusiasm. The fade-resistant materials and finishes ensure it will still be bright and cheerful even after plenty of use. It's sure to encourage plenty of active play and get kids interested in learning more about the insect world.
Help her grow a beautiful garden with this set from Innocheer! This all-in one kid-sized garden tool kit includes a hand trowel, a shovel, a rake, a watering can, a smock, a pair of gardening gloves, and a carrier tote bag. Kids will love the cheerful colors and the fact that the tools fit their hands perfectly. Parents, meanwhile, will love that the sturdy construction ensures she can put these tools to hard work without them wearing out or breaking. It's a wonderful way to encourage outdoor play while she works alongside you.
With these shockproof binoculars, kids will have a high quality but sturdy set for hiking, stargazing, birdwatching, and more! These compact 8X magnification binoculars have an easy-to-use folding mechanism that allows kids to adjust them for their own eye width. Rubber surrounded eyepieces ensure kids don't hurt their eyes or face, while the 2 foot neckstrap keeps them close to hand when needed. This set even comes with a cleaning cloth and a case for carrying and storage.
This high-quality magnifier is perfect for investigating all sorts of things in your environment! A soft-grip handle makes it comfortable in the hand and easy to hold onto as you explore, while the high quality glass lens is crystal clear. With 2X magnification for most of the glass, and a 10X magnification spot lens, you can get a new perspective on the natural world around your home. It even comes in a zippered, padded case for safe and simple storage and transportation.
You can watch the amazing phenomenon of metamorphosis up close with this kit from Insect Lore! This reusable butterfly habitat is made of a fine transparent mesh that makes it easy to observe the changes going on inside. Send off your certificate to receive caterpillars and food, then set up the easy-to-use feeder so your caterpillars can grow. Soon enough you'll get to watch them form a chrysalis and then emerge as painted lady butterflies that you can release into your own garden! The habitat collapses for storage, but you can use it as many times as you want to observe caterpillars, butterflies, and other insects around your home.
Kids love being able to spot the tracks of the animals that passed by, and this fun and educational game can help them identify them all! High quality cards depict animal photography, including both their common and biological names, as well as their tracks. Kids can then play three traditional games with a science-based twist as they remember and match the animals and tracks. After the game, the real fun begins: get outside and figure out which of those animals leave tracks in your area! With forty different animals from all over the world, kids will have plenty to learn and explore with this game.
Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on the Magic School Bus as you explore the wonders of nature! As kids follow along with this set, they'll make a bug house, cast an animal track, make sun prints and leaf art, and much more. Everything she'll need to try these activities is included, making this set the perfect way to get her investigating and discovering outdoors.
You can be ready to excavate, examine, and gather samples with this six-in-one field tool set that is easy to clip onto a vest or backpack! The set includes a telescoping magnet, an angling mirror, 4 inch field tongs, a mini shovel, a brush, and a safety whistle, all of which clip onto a convenient tool ring. These well-built tools are sturdy enough for your Mighty Girl to get plenty of work done at her dig site, outdoor lab, or anywhere else her curiosity takes her.
Budding entomologists can track and study insects, spiders, and more with the Bug Log Kids nature journal! Created by DeAnna Ortiz Brandt and Daniel P. Brandt, this journal includes 30 log pages that encourage kids to make observations about the insects they see, including the date, the location, weather conditions, the shape and size of the bugs, what sounds it makes, and more. There are also 8 photo/art pages for drawing art or pasting pictures, coloring pages for the days she doesn't see something new, a Life List to track all the bugs she's seen, and even a list of Log Tips to help her get the most out of her journal. For more fun nature logs from this series, check out the Rock Log Kids and the Bird Log Kids.
Safely keep your insect subjects for longer-term study with this handy Critter Case! The plastic frame and easy-carry handle makes this case suitable to take both outdoors and in, while the high-quality mesh fabric on the sides allows easy observation of your insect finds. The hatch on the side allows you to set up a comfortable environment with branches, leaves, and so on to make your specimens feel at home, while the flat bottom keeps it stable and allows you to display it on a table or desk. And to give her a safe way to catch her critters, check out the Happy Giddy Bug Net for ages 3 to 8.
Discovery your world with this telescope from Thames & Kosmos that lets you study the wildlife around you or the night sky! This entry level telescope with 12X magnification power has a durable body and quality optics, with a soft shell ocular lens cover. It's lightweight and has a telescoping design, so it's easy to carry wherever you go! Kids can look at the included guide for operating instructions and inspiration... and then investigate whatever piques their curiosity.
Quickly — and gently — catch and observe bugs with this combination bug catcher and magnifier from Carson! This 8" long catcher has a 2 by 2 1/2 inch opening on the bottom that makes it easy to coax insects into the catcher, and an easy-to-use thumb-operated trapping slider that lets you catch even quick critters. The built-in 5X acrylic magnifier lens makes it easy to see every detail, and when you're done, a quick flick of the thumb lets you release it unharmed back into the wild. This bug catcher is the perfect choice for budding entomologists! Carson also makes this high-quality Magnifying Glass for 2X magnification and a 10X spot magnification for watching bugs in their natural habitat.
Learn hands-on science in the great outdoors with this fun kit from SmartLab Toys! Kids will discover the science in the everyday through 21 activities: they'll explore weather with the climate station, collect and test various examples of natural science effects, and track their findings in a science log. They can even enjoy some after-dark fun with the UV Night Scope! This set comes with the night scope, a bug catcher, a macro lens, a nature scope viewer with a magnifying lens, collect and store compartments, a beaker, pH test strips, take-along ID charts, and a 32-page, full-color science activity book.
You'll be amazed at what you can see with this black light illuminator! Kids will be fascinated to discover that there are rocks, minerals, and plants that actually glow under the black light. The 22-page Nature's Mysteries Journal provides a wide range of activities to encourage her love of science, as well as introduce her to other activities like detecting counterfeit money and solving codes and ciphers. She can even write secret notes with the black light illuminator invisible ink pen! It's sure to give her a unique perspective on the world around her.
This easy-to-use star wheel will help you figure out what stars you can see at any time of night or year! At 8" in diameter, this planisphere makes it easy for stargazers to identify which constellations and major stars are above the horizon. This version is for 30 to 40 degrees of latitude, covering the southern half of the US, North Africa, and the Middle East; stargazers in the northern US and Europe can check out the 40 - 50 degree latitude star wheel, while other versions cover other latitudes.
Investigate the world of plants with Nancy B.'s Science Club! With this kit, kids choose a tree to adopt for a year. They'll use the Nature Press to preserve leaves and flowers, and note their observations in the journal. Tips inside will help them estimate the age of their tree, document animals that live in and around it, and note how the seasons affect it. Like all of the Nancy B.'s Science Club kits, this set is perfect to encourage tweens to do some exploring and experimenting all on their own.
Turn leaves and flowers into beautiful art quickly and easily with this flower press from Worown! This 8 by 6 inch press comes with sponge sheets and absorbent paper to help dry your specimens faster, without losing their vibrant colors. The straps on the press are easy to adjust, making it simple to tighten them. After a few days, you'll have gorgeous dried flowers you can use for all sorts of art projects, perfect for nature lovers!
Turn ordinary stones into beautiful polished gems! This high quality rock tumbler from National Geographic features a rubber barrel that's quieter than many other tumblers, so nothing has to interrupt your polishing. An automatic shutoff timer let you get just the right finish for beautiful results. Plus, it's sturdy enough to last for years! Get started with the 0.5 lb of mixed rough gemstones included in the set, then go rockhounding and polish your own finds.
Step into the art of stargazing for the very first time with this easy to use telescope from Gskyer Instruments! This 80mm telescope is cost-effective, but is high enough quality to produce clear images and good magnification power from 16X to 1240X, allowing up-close looks at the Moon, planets, constellations, and more. All coated glass optical components ensure crisp imaging, too! This set comes with the telescope, three replaceable eyepieces, a Barlow lens, a finder scope, an adjustable tripod, a smartphone adapter, and a wireless remote for taking awesome images of the night sky.
In What Bird Am I? your bird identification skills will get put to the test! This card game from Outset Media features 300 photographs with spectacular close-up photographs of birds from the continental US and Canada, and a series of five clues about the bird's identity. Your goal is to identify the bird species; the fewer clues you need, the more points you win! Three different levels of play ensure that everyone from budding birders to long-time birdwatching buffs can have hours of fun with this game.
Budding rock hounds and geologists will love this 15-piece set of geology tools! Everything a hobbyist or beginner needs to get started in included: a classic rock pick hammer, with one pointed end and one square head; three sizes of chisels, 7.8-inch, 9.8-inch & 11.8-inch; a shovel; a wooden chisel and brush; safety goggles and gloves; and a handy musette bag with enough room for your tools and any specimens you decide are too good to leave behind. As a bonus, you also get a whistle with a built in compass and thermometer and a jeweler's loupe for examining your finds! These are real tools, not toys, so they'll hold up to your Mighty Girl's prospecting adventures.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more toys to encourage outdoor fun of all kinds, visit our Outdoor Play Collection.
- For books that celebrate the fun of outdoor play, check out our blog Explore Your World: 25 Mighty Girl Books About Outdoor Discovery.
- For biographies and fiction starring female scientists, check out our blog Celebrating Science: 50 Books to Inspire Science-Loving Mighty Girls.