The Best Space Gifts and Toys for Kids
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Spectacular Space-Themed Gifts for Kids
Need to find a gift for a kid who's stoked about space? From telescopes to science kits, books and toys, Space.com has you covered. Here are our spaced-out holiday shopping suggestions.
UP FIRST: It's just rocket science!
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Rocket Science Kit
It's not rocket science! Well, maybe it is, but this kids' science kit is not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, this rocket science kit is a blast! Learn to propel rockets, race cars and boats with air and water. It's an easy way to learn about physics while having fun. This kit is recommended for ages 8 to 15. ($15 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Rocket science doesn't get any sillier than this, yet the kit is still educational. Build foam rockets then play a game by launching them at target planets. Use balloons and water or stomp your feet to propel vehicles.
NEXT: Virtual Space Explorer
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Virtual Explorer Space Expedition
Experience space in virtual and augmented reality with this simple yet mind-blowing kit. It includes virtual reality (VR) goggles, 3D augmented reality cards, a light-up planetarium, an activity guide and a poster. Embark on a tour of the solar system and immerse yourself in outer space without ever leaving the comfort of your living room. ($32 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Virtual reality is an exciting way to learn about space. The VR goggles work with any smartphone and can be used with other VR apps as well.
NEXT: Apollo 11 in VR
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Apollo 11 VR Experience
Experience the moon landing through the eyes of the astronauts who experienced it firsthand. This virtual reality (VR) experience uses real audio and video from the Apollo 11 moon landing. You can even control the flight module, land the lunar lander, explore the moon and do some lunar science before heading back to Earth. The Apollo 11 VR experience is available on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR. ($10 digital download)
Why we love it: The Apollo 11 VR experience isn't really a game, but it's more like a fully-immersive and interactive documentary film in which you don't just watch the mission, but you participate in the mission as well.
NEXT: Telescope Kit
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Telescope & Astronomy Kit
This beginner's telescope kit comes with everything you need to peer into the night sky. The high-quality refractor telescope is powerful enough to see the moons of Jupiter and Saturn as well as distant galaxies and nebulas. ($96 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Thames & Cosmos make skywatching easy with this telescope kit. A detailed book of instructions explains how to use the telescope and its accessories, and it includes directions so skywatchers can locate specific things in the sky quickly and easily.
NEXT: A brief money-saving interlude
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NEXT: Blast Off!
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Rocket Ship Tent
Hop inside the "Roarin' Rocket" play tent and let your imagination take you to the moon, Mars and beyond! This 5-foot tent is big enough for two astronauts, is easier to assemble than a pillow fort, and comes with a space-themed travel bag so you can blast off into space wherever you want. ($30 on Amazon)
Why we love it: This rocket-themed play tent comes fully equipped with an observation deck and built-in windows. It's also sturdy enough for outdoor use, so you can take your rocket tent to the park or even camping.
NEXT: A Model Rocket
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Estes Little Joe II
The Little Joe II was a rocket used to test the Apollo capsule that carried humans to the moon. Now you can build your own, smaller model of Little Joe II and blast it high into the sky. It returns safely via parachute. This model rocket is intended for kids age 10 and up. ($43 on Amazon)
Why we love it: The Estes Little Joe II is modeled after a rocket that has made space history by bringing humans to the moon. The kit comes with detailed instructions as well as a historical brochure with information about the real Little Joe II. But our favorite thing about this flying model rocket is that it will blast up to 800 feet (244 meters) into the sky!
NEXT: Houston, we have a play set!
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Space Rocket with Launchpad Play Set
Build a rocket and a launch pad to blast off with this spectacular play set! A movable platform allows engineers to work on the rocket – with the help of a repair robot – before the rocket lifts off. Lights and sound effects included. This play set is intended for children ages 6 and up. ($45 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Inside the rocket is a small satellite that is ready to be deployed in space. You can also get a PLAYMOBIL space shuttle (sold separately) to attach to the rocket. Watch our video review of both PLAYMOBIL play sets here.
NEXT: Light-Up Luna
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With this flashlight, you can create your own full moon anytime, anywhere, regardless of the actual lunar phase. Simply turn it on in a dark room, shine it at a wall or ceiling, and check out Luna's crater-filled face. ($7 on Amazon)
Why we love it: This simple and practical stocking stuffer is essentially just a flashlight, but way cooler. Use it when you need to see in the dark, or use it when you're just craving to see a full moon.
NEXT: Cosmic Encounter
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Competing alien races must battle for control of the cosmos and built a galactic empire in this classic science-fiction board game. Choose from 50 alien races and strategically work to dominate the cosmos by fighting wars or negotiating peace – you decide! Make and break alliances to come out on top. It is recommended for 3-5 players ages 12 and up. ($45 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Cosmic Encounter has been a huge hit for almost 40 years, and several expansion packs have followed the release of the original game. Even without the expansions, every round of gameplay in Cosmic Encounter is so unique that fans of the game will likely find that they never get bored with the endless possibilities.
NEXT: Destination Neptune
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Be the future of commercial space exploration with this realistic board game based on real science! Players are in charge of commercial spaceflight companies that seek to put human colonies in worlds beyond Earth. Develop technologies and manage resources necessary to populate other planets. Destination Neptune is a card game involving currency that proves crucial to expanding the human race into space. It is recommended for 2-4 players age 8 and up. ($32 on Amazon)
Why we love it: On top of just being a fun game, Destination Neptune provides an accurate portrayal of what it will take to put human outposts and colonies on planets beyond Earth. For any aspiring space explorers in the world, this game is a great way to immerse yourself in the future of space exploration.NEXT: Spaceteam!
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Spaceteam: A Fast-paced, Cooperative, Shouting Card Game
Travel through space with your friends on an intergalactic spaceship. Then try to keep your cool when your spaceship breaks down and you're heading straight for a black hole! The team needs to work together to repair the spaceship before it's too late. Spaceteam is recommended for ages 10 and up. ($25 on Amazon)
Why we love it: This card game is all about cooperation, not competition. Everyone wins or loses together, so coordination and communication are key. If you were on an actual malfunctioning spaceship traveling toward a black hole, this type of teamwork might be key to your survival.
NEXT: Angry Birds in Space
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Angry Birds: Birds in Space Game
Angry Birds in Space has transcended the popular digital app and has come to life as a hands-on card game in which players build structures and knock them down by blasting them with birds. Draw space mission cards to determine what your opponent must build, then strategically catapult birds to obliterate the structures and the green space pigs to win points. See how it works with this video. The game is best suited for children ages 5 and up and is best played with 2-4 players. ($15 on Amazon)
Why we love it: This spaced-out card game is all about cooperation, not competition. Everyone wins or loses together, so coordination and communication are key. If you were on an actual malfunctioning spaceship traveling toward a black hole, this type of teamwork might be key to your survival.
NEXT: The Ultimate Book of Space
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The Ultimate Book of Space
This children's book about space isn't just packed with information – it's also filled with flaps, pop-ups, pull tabs and other movable parts that help illustrate concepts in a fun and interactive way. "The Ultimate Book of Space" by Anne-Sophie Baumann is currently the #1 best-selling newly released astronomy book for children on Amazon.com. It is recommended for readers ages 5 and up. ($12 on Amazon)
Why we love it: "The Ultimate Book of Space" offers a fun and simple way to learn about everything from human space exploration to the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. It could even make a nice gift for adults who appreciate 3-dimensional pop-up books.
NEXT: Astronomy Lab
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Astronomy Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities
Learn astronomy using everyday items from around the house – no telescopes needed! The book contains 52 lessons to teach kids about the sizes of planets, the speed of light, and even how to make a simple telescope with a magnifying glass. "Astronomy Lab for Kids" is available as a Kindle e-book or a Flexibound book and is recommended for children age 8-12. ($22 on Amazon)
Why we love it: "Astronomy Lab for Kids" presents plenty of fun and easy experiments to teach kids about space and physics. It's perfect for the budding young astronomer, but also for science teachers looking to infuse their lessons about space with hands-on activities that don't require any special equipment.NEXT: First Dog on Mars
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Max Goes to Mars
Colonizing Mars has become a hot topic lately. But what's a colony of humans without man's best friend? In this illustrated, fictional children's book, a dog named Max joins humans on the first mission to Mars. Max uses his incredible nose to sniff out life on Mars. Will he find any? You'll have to read the book to find out! The book is suggested for children age 7-9 years. ($15 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Though we're not convinced that a dog realistically will be how we discover life on Mars, the book does provide sidebars with more realistic information about the Red Planet. Fun fact: "Max Goes to Mars" is part of a series of books about Max going to space. The original book, "Max Goes to the Moon," became the first book to ever be launched into space and read aloud by astronauts.
NEXT: Professor Astro Cat
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Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space
Professor Astro Cat and his animal astronaut friends take the readers on a journey through space, from the solar system to the Milky Way and beyond. This illustrated guide to the universe even discusses topics like time, gravity, and extraterrestrial life. ($16 on Amazon)
Why we love it: Though "Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space" looks like a kids' book, we think space fans of all ages can appreciate the book. It covers everything from astrophysics to rocket science and space history, but the explanations are simple enough for most readers to understand (the publisher recommends ages 8 and up). The artwork in this book is amazing and includes some intricate diagrams and infographics.
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