PROS / The set includes tips for how to put on a good show with the experiments.
CONS / The manual's explanations of why certain chemical reactions occur are not in depth.
VERDICT / Your child can learn a bit about chemistry while impressing friends and family, but the kit is a bit short on the scientific information.
Spectacular Science is a fun chemistry set that packs a considerable amount of education in it, with an unusual twist: It instructs your child on how to put on a chemistry show and dazzle people with cool chemical reactions. However, it's a little light on the scientific explanations of its experiments, and the experiments that involve lit candles require constant adult supervision.
The chemistry kit comes with various chemicals, tools, tea candles, a small porcelain bowl, cue cards, safety glasses and other items necessary for the experiments. You and your child need to provide some household materials such as a long lighter, long fireplace matches, vinegar, baking powder and red cabbage juice.
This chemistry set for kids also contains a 64-page manual that is cleverly designed in comic book fashion. While it outlines the experiment procedures nicely, it offers little scientific information as far as why a particular experiment turns out the way it does. However, it provides clear directions, good safety tips and information about proper disposal of used chemicals. It also suggests some things to do for the show itself: Don't make it too long, practice ahead of time, try different ways to deal with stage fright, and even enlist an assistant to offer a drum roll, light dimming and music.
The experiments include a pop can that implodes with a loud bang, bubbles that levitate in a bowl, a fireproof balloon, mystical black snakes that seem to grow before your eyes and disappearing water. One of the most interesting tricks is a fireproof shroud, which is actually cotton fabric soaked in denatured alcohol. Set aflame, the cloth does not burn, only the vapors. However, we ran into a few glitches while testing the kit: the chemical vials we received had German safety instructions listed first, then in English, which was briefly confusing. In addition, the levitating soap bubbles refused to levitate during that experiment.
If all goes as it should, the experiments are just the ticket to engage youngsters 12 and up. However, you as the parent should be aware that with so many experiments involving candles, a lighter and long matches, you must carefully supervise all experiments. The flames alone present a risk, and some of the experiments create substances that young audience members might think are edible, but they are not safe to eat or drink.
The Spectacular Science chemistry set for kids comes down heavily on the entertainment side, with far less emphasis on scientific education than other chemistry kits. Nonetheless, it contains a reasonable amount of information about why the experiments work out the way they do. The kit's manual also offers worthwhile information about experiment safety and chemical disposal, as well as how to develop a flair for showmanship.