If there's one thing I know about my firstborn, it's that he likes things "just so." (I don't know where he gets it...)
So, when he expressed an interest in a chemistry set, I knew that a typical kid's chemistry set, with its plastic test tubes and little packets of baking soda and vinegar, just was not going to pass muster.
Fortunately, I found the real deal (minus the chemicals) at the science shop at the local mall, and the price was only a little higher than what you would pay for a "pretend" chemistry set. In place of dangerous chemicals, I handed him an assortment of food colouring and said, "Go!"
And so far it has been a huge success. Mixing those little test tubes of colour has been his favourite occupation for months now, and it can keep him occupied for up to two hours at a time. And two hours with a happy five year old is priceless.
Also, I just love how seriously he takes his "work": his rapt concentration as he adds each drop of food colouring and how he gently wipes the fragile pipette after each stir. And did I mention his absolutely adorable way of saying "chemiSCHTRY," like he's Jimmy Stewart?!
I know there are a lot of other neat things I could show him how to do with his chemistry set, but for now I'm content to let him just explore with colour and water. After all, he doesn't need safety goggles for that!