The Electricity and Magnetism Experiment Kit from Thames and Kosmos is a prime example of the tried and true idiom "don't judge a book by its cover." The cover of the box is unimpressive and shows a jumble of different parts that come in the kit with bullet points stating "investigate magnetic fields and forces" and "experiment with a motor and electromagnet" and, while a motor and electromagnet sound pretty cool, the kit doesn't make a strong second impression when you open the box and see the components for the first time. Thankfully, the kit turns out to be fun, interesting and engaging, and the most common thing that I heard my son say each time we sat down with the kit was, "Can we please do one more experiment?"[caption id="attachment_54574" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Not all that much to look at, but fun experiments and interesting scientific facts are packed into the Electricity and Magnetism box.[/caption]
Prior to this kit, my son's only real interest in electricity and electrical circuits came in the form of creating powered Redstone creations in Minecraft, and he made the connection between the two almost immediately after we completed the kit's very first experiment. As we continued with the experiments, following each as laid out in the manual, his understanding increased and he was able to start relating the things he had been doing as part of Minecraft to their real world applications.[caption id="attachment_54571" align="aligncenter" width="587"] A simple parallel circuit.[/caption]
The experiments cover a wide range of circuitry, from parallel circuits, AND circuits, OR circuits and light switches to stop lights, security alarms and conductors and insulators. Each experiment also has a "What's Happening?" box that outlines what the experiment is showing you and explains why it works as it does. The electricity section even gives examples of circuit diagrams and, after studying the key, my son was able to construct a circuit that I drew a diagram of.[caption id="attachment_54572" align="aligncenter" width="587"] My son can now build circuits that I draw out for him using the symbols from the chart included in the manual.[/caption]
The motor that comes in the kit has a fan on it that easily shows, based on the direction it is spinning, which direction the electrical current is flowing. It also is a handy component to show electrical load and current strength.[caption id="attachment_54570" align="aligncenter" width="587"] A three-way switch built using the electric motor.[/caption]
The second set of experiments on magnetism aren't quite as exciting as the electricity experiments but lay the groundwork for the third and most exciting set of experiments on electromagnetism. These experiments touch on the basic fundamentals of magnetism and expand out to give visual representations of magnetic force, teach the principals behind how a compass works, and even walk you through creating your own. Experiment 40 was the highlight for us, as it uses a sealed box of iron powder to directly visualize magnetic force as it relates to the poles of various magnets.[caption id="attachment_54569" align="aligncenter" width="587"] The components are easy to use and fun to experiment with.[/caption]
The most exciting and complex set of experiments in the kit are the ones found in the electromagnetism section. The first 9 experiments provide easily understood explanations of what an electromagnet is and how it works, and it quickly jumps in to some really interesting territory. The final three experiments are by far the most complex in the book and are also the most interesting.
My 8 year old needed my help for all of the final electromagnetism experiments, but that's a big part of the appeal of this kind of kit. It's not just a toy that you get for your kids to keep them quiet. A kit like this is a great way to engage with your child and, quite possibly, learn something new yourself.[caption id="attachment_54568" align="aligncenter" width="587"] The electromagnet was a huge hit with my son. He loves to set it up with the button included in the kit and pretend to be a crane, lifting and dropping metal items.[/caption]
After running through the experiments, my son still likes to use the kit to build different circuits, and he really enjoys playing with the magnets, especially the electromagnet, but he also still enjoys sitting down with me to recreate his favorite experiments and talk about them. I highly recommend this kit for parents who choose to home-school their kids, although I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any parent who wants to get their kids excited about learning more about electricity and magnetism.
The copy of Electricity and Magnetism used for this review was provided by Thames and Kosmos.
The Electricity and Magnetism kit can be purchased from Amazon here.
Thames and Kosmos has a winner on their hands with this Electricity and Magnetism kit. It not only engaged and excited my son but also taught me a thing or two in the process.