So I'm great at making gifts for babies and pretty good with adults, but I have absolutely no idea what anyone between the ages of about 5 and 21 would possibly want for Christmas. The worst, for me, is the "tween" (side note: when did that become a thing? I'm pretty sure no one ever called me a tween when I was 11). Since Geoff has a brother and sister who fall into that age group, it took be a while to come up with homemade present ideas. Eventually, I just decided to make something I wanted to play with and hoped they would like it. And what do I think is the most fun thing ever? SCIENCE!
There are a lot of so-called science kits out there, but you'd be surprised how many include fake microscopes. I knew I could do better and include all the gee-whiz experiments I've encountered over the years. After scouring the internet (I highly recommend Science Bob for all sorts of experiments you can do with stuff already around your house and Home Science Tools for more complex projects), I came up with 28 projects that I thought (hoped) were appropriate for supervised 8 and 11 year olds. To me, science is all about making your own observations so I streamlined the instructions, added some questions and places for the kids to write their own observations, and a "What's Happening?" section to explain the science behind each experiment in a kid-friendly way.
If you want to make your own DIY science kit or just try out some of the experiments, you can download my workbook here: http://goo.gl/5WMmJ. It contains directions for cabbage-based pH testing; making your own bubble solution, play dough, slime, bouncy ball, and invisible ink; turning a chicken bone into a rubber bone; using paper chromatography to separate out the dyes in candy; copper plating nuts and bolts; making a Cartesian diver; building a hoop plane, balloon rocket, oatmeal container camera, worm composter, compass, pinwheel turbine, solar oven, and mousetrap marshmallow catapult; determining the strength of chocolate bars; turning leaves into skeletons; testing for photosynthesis; dying carnations and carrots; making staltactites and stalagmites; and my very own at home DNA extraction that I do with students every year.
I hope you enjoy the PDF I put together and let me know if you have any other links to great home science projects!