Category Archives: Science

Nebula Plasma Ball (Thunderball) Light

Rhode Island Novelty Thunder Ball, 8" Diameter
Here’s a cool gift idea for a kid who’s grown out of the “toys” stage. I say that as I think about myself in my early teen years. I used to visit a science store in the mall that had a plasma ball. It was really nifty and quite expensive. You touch it and the bolts of light inside move to your hand. It looks like lightning! You can even feel the energy inside and play with it.

It was mesmerizing! Amazon also has a “thunder ball” which is similar but has a mode that responds to loud sounds.

I’ve been reading the reviews on these, and it’s a paradox. The positive reviews gush with praise. The negative reviews are negative because it breaks. So it is a bit risky, but I don’t know where you can buy one that’s guaranteed to have a long lifespan. But nonetheless this “retro” science plasma light globe thing is so cool that I’d be amiss not to recommend it as something that just may delight the whole family.

Aspects Window Cafe Hopper Birdfeeder

Entertainment value for money spent makes this bird feeder the best thing I’ve bought in a long time. It costs about $20, and it can easily provide year round entertainment. I have chickadees and house finches visiting this feeder every day. It only took a week for them to find it (Chickadees are curious birds!). I’m sure my younger self would have loved this. We had a bird feeder outsite but having your own window feeder in your room is so cool that I recommend this as a gift idea for every child and teenager who loves animals. You get to see the birds so upclose that you can almost count their feathers.

House Finch at My Aspects Window Cafe Hopper Bird Feeder
I have been getting a lot of House Finches. A few of the female ones look sick. There is apparently a pox and eye conjunctivitis that effects house finches. This one wasn’t scared of me, so I was able to get close to photograph her.

A few considerations before purchasing as a gift:

– This needs to be placed on a window that doesn’t have a screen.
– Placing it on a window near a tree or bush might help the birds find it.
– Place it higher than 3 feet off the ground and 3 feet from a tree so that squirrels can’t jump up to it.
– Consider buying a bag of seed so they can start feeding the birds right away. Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite among most backyard birds.

Another similar idea is a window hummingbird feeder. If it’s summertime or if you live in an area that has year-round hummingbirds (here in Western Washington, we have Anna Hummingbirds all year round!), then this is a cool gift idea that creates less mess than a birdfeeder. No shells to clean up!

The hummingbirds actually come and stand on this feeder and will stay long enough to photograph! Click here for photos of these tiny birds visiting.

4M Crystal Mining Kit

Is your tomboy a budding rockhound? Does she like to explore her backyard?

Here’s a great gift idea for a young girl who likes to dig! This is a unique science kit for children ages 5-12. It’s like a mineral collection, but the minerals are hidden in a plastic rock that you have to chip away at. There’s 8 gemstones hidden inside, all different types, and it comes with a magnification glass to help with identification.

This toy has so many positive reviews. It’s a treasure hunt that seems to hold the attention of lots of kids. So many parents took the time to write about their kids’ excitement. It even appealed to kids who were usually impatient or had ADHD. If you’re looking for a cheap and educational rainy day gift, give this a try and you might be surprised. Just one word of caution: wear safety goggles.

Electronic Snap Circuits SC-300

Build a radio, doorbell, and burglar alarm – all with no soldering!

There are actually 300 projects you can build with this, and it comes with a high quality instruction booklet that teaches electrical principles while providing simple step-by-step instructions. The directions are in full color and the projects are in logical order of increasing difficulty.

The electronics include resistors, capacitors, and special units like photo sensors, speakers, motors, microphones, etc.

I had a similar kit as a kid, but it looks like they have improved this model to make the parts easier to connect and the directions easier to follow. This is a perfect gift for a child or teenager who likes taking things apart to see how they work, or who has expressed an interest in electronics.