This year Haydn's surprise gift was Snap Circuits.
Have you heard of them?
It's a "circuit board," a bunch of different color-coded circuits and parts, and a detailed instruction book for over 300 different experiments and projects. Following the step-by-step instructions, they learn how to snap the circuits together in the right way to create a current.
Haydn is almost 9 and really into robots and science, so this was right up his alley. At first he was nervous because the first page has a huge warning about possibly being electrocuted. It took him a while to work up the nerve to try it out, but once he did, he was hooked.
Just so you know, you can't really electrocute yourself. It's powered with AA batteries that you put in after the circuit is built, so the only real danger is if they lick the batteries or touch the opposite ends of the batteries together I guess. Make sure they know not to do that.
Haydn is able to play with this set completely on his own, which is good for him AND me, although I do really enjoy seeing everything he builds. He's made an alarm clock, an AM radio (didn't work so well), a music box triggered by blowing in a microphone (it sang Happy Birthday), a fan, and a darkness detector (that's the technical term, I'm sure) among other things.
This was the experiment where he used the snap circuits to build a "salt water detector." I was a little freaked out by the fact that it wanted him to stick wires into water, so I watched closely, but everything worked exactly how it was supposed to.
The first time we put the wires in water, nothing happened. Then after we added salt to the water and re-inserted the wires, the little red lightbulb came on. This will be very handy because I'm always asking myself "hmmm, is this water salted? How will I ever know?"
Okay, that was a tad snarky. Sorry.
This is a great toy for kids who enjoy science and learning "how stuff works." I personally could care less how a circuit works as long as my curling iron heats up when I tell it to. I'm glad my son is into it though. Snap Circuits gets a thumbs up from me.
There was another toy that didn't quite make the cut for Christmas, but I'm still considering. Anybody ever tried one of these ant farms? I'd love to know if 1.) Your ants arrived in the mail alive, 2.) how long they lived, and 3.) if they ever escaped and infested your house and/or attacked you for putting them in a glowing blue box.