Review: Bandai's National Geographic STEM learning: Dig Kits and Crystal Garden

(AD) The 5th to 19th March is British Science Week and we are celebrating by testing out some products we have been sent from Bandai’s National Geographic range. Suitable for age 8 and up we were sent 3 dig kits: Dino Fossil, Gemstone and a mini Shark Tooth Dig Kit. The amazing thing about these kits is they contain genuine crystals and fossils. The larger dinosaur kit even contains fossilised poo! How perfect is that for a budding palaeontologist or child that likes gross things (which is most of them right?). We were also sent a Crystal Garden kit and I currently have a giveaway running to win one here.

3 boxes containing National Geographic STEM products: Crystal Garden, Dino Fossil Dig Kit, Gemstone Dig Kit as received to review
National Geographic Crystal Garden and Dig Kits Review

Shark tooth mini dig kit in packaging from National Geographic
National Geographic Shark Tooth Mini Dig Kit Review

All 4 products we received are great to encourage children to explore while having fun, making them perfect for STEM learning. The kits cost around £10 which I think is an affordable price for a birthday party gift or for children to buy with their pocket money. I like that with all the kits there is an activity to do and learn through, but there is something small they can keep and treasure too.

The Crystal Garden Kit from National Geographic


With this kit children can grow their own crystal trees in their choice of colours. It's easy to do and the biggest challenge for us was finding somewhere they could sit undisturbed. The crystals  fall off the cardboard tree if they are knocked so you need to position it somewhere children can see it, but where it wont get wobbled. We have an inquisitive preschooler, grabby baby and a cat as well as my 8 year old so putting it somewhere safe was a challenge, funnily enough it was actually my partner who was the one who knocked it first.

The National Geographic Crystal Garden kit comes with 2 tree shapes to colour in (with the included washable markers) and grow crystals on. Once coloured in you can spread the branches out slightly, slot the 2 pieces of each tree together and stand them up in the tree bases. Pour on the crystal growing liquid (a little bit over the top and the rest in the base) and leave them to grow. Crystals are meant to appear in just 30 minutes and should be fully grown in 6 to 8 hours so it is a great thing to do in the morning on a weekend and watch as it grows. We found that ours took about an hour to start to grow and a little longer to fully grow. I think the crystal growth is effected by the room temperature and humidity. 

We initially did the fir tree and decided to not grow both trees at once in case we could make improvements to our process. We forgot to spread the branches out with the fir tree and I think we would have got better coverage if we had done that. I would also recommend being careful when pouring on the solution as ours dripped a bit, this will be due to how we cut the packet, but it's worth putting something underneath to protect the table in case yours drips too.

The fully grown trees don’t last very long before the crystals fall off (especially if they are knocked) and they can be thrown away once finished with. Each Crystal Garden kit comes with a geode (a stone which has crystals inside) which can be kept to remind them of the experiment. There is also a learning guide which explains how the tree works (apparently it’s due to crystal formation and capillary action). I loved seeing the "wow" look on my daughter's face each time she check on progress.

an 8 year old girl colouring a cardboard tree shape in stripes
Colouring in the fir tree with the included washable felt tips

Pouring the crystal growing solution on the 3d  tree
Pouring on the crystal growing solution

The cardboard tree starting to absorb the growing liquid
The liquid starts to spread up the tree straight away which you can see by the colours running

The cardboard tree starting to grow little crystals on some branches after 90 minutes. The pen is more blurred too.
Our tree after 90 minutes had crystals at the top and starting to grow on branches on 2 sides

The following morning, about 18 hours after starting to grow the tree has lots of crystal formations and a few have fallen off into the tray
The following morning all the growing solution had been absorbed and some crystals had fallen off the branches

Dino Fossil Dig Kit


The Dino Fossil Dig Kit contains: a dig brick containing 3 dinosaur fossils, 2 tools for excavating (a plastic stick and a brush), a magnifying glass, instructions and a learning guide.

You get to dig out a tooth, a piece of bone and some fossilised poo (or coprolite to give it the proper name). Once out and clean you can use the magnifying glass and the learning guide to find out more about them and dinosaurs. The learning guide is interesting, but if your 8 year old has been a dinosaur fan for sometime you will probably want to use the internet to find more in depth information.

Shark Tooth Mini Dig Kit


The mini kit contains a small dig brick which is about a third to half the size of the full size kits, a double ended digging tool (with one end for digging, the other end a brush) and one of 3 different types of fossilised shark tooth inside the brick. This smaller kit is great for children that might have less patience, although with the larger kits you could obviously stop and come back to them later.

Gemstone Dig Kit


The Gemstone kit contains: a dig brick hiding 3 types of gemstones, 2 tools for excavation, a magnifying glass, instructions and learning guide. The gemstones are of varying sizes, but all kits contain amethyst (the purple one), quartz (which is clear) and tiger's eye which is a smooth stripy brown.

How Hard Are The National Geographic Dig Kits To Do?


The dig kits require some patience because you have to find the items and then fully excavate each piece you find before you pull it out to avoid damage. The blocks are a good size though and not too large, we have previously tried something similar which was much bigger and it didn’t keep my daughter’s attention. These kits take about 30 minutes to excavate and then there is lots to learn about your finds.

The kits can create quite a lot of dust and be a bit messy (depending on your child) so choose somewhere suitably to do it. We used a large tray which collected most of the dust, but my daughter still managed to flick pieces off the table. If the brick is too hard it suggests pouring on a little water and letting it soak in before continuing to dig, this makes it easier to dig the pieces out and stops the dust spreading so far.

The contents of the National Geographic Gemstone dig kit showing the instructions, a learning guide, the digging block, magnifying glass, plastic tool and brush
The contents of the Gemstone Dig Kit (the Dino Fossil Dig Kit contents is similar)

We did the dig on a plastic tray to help contain the dust. This photo is of my daughter reading the instructions before starting
Reading the instructions

A close up of a shiny brown stone being dug out of pale brick material with a plastic pick
We found the Tiger's Eye gemstone first

Digging out a clear quartz gemstone crystal. The brick around the quartz is darker because water has been poured on
We tried adding water and it made it a little easier

A close up of the dirt being removed from a crystal with a little paint brush
The crystals can be cleaned with the brush and washed to clear the dirt off

 Having a closer look at the 3 gemstones found in the dig kit with the magnifying glass
Looking closer at the gemstones

The majority of the packaging of the bigger kits is recyclable cardboard which is great. The finds are exactly the sort of treasures my daughter loves to collect in a box and the tools can all be reused for crafts, modelling etc so not much of it feels like single use. We will put the crystal tree waste in our bin because of the chemicals.

My 8 year old really enjoyed exploring these kits and they were an interesting way to learn new things.



***Disclosure: We were sent these products for honest review, all thoughts are our own***

54 comments

  1. These must encourage children to learn a whole range of skills.

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    1. They are great for learning new things in an interesting way

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  2. Wow the Crystal Garden Kit and Dig Kit look fab! I remember growing crystals as a child. All the kits sound great and my kids would love them all!

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    1. I used to love all of these sort of things as a child too

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  3. Wow! These look great and the price is very good for many hours of fun. My first scientific experiment was asking mum for the top off the carrot that she cooked for dinner. I took it to school the next day, put it in a jar of water and, magically, it grew!

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    1. That's so cool. I remember growing chopped off bits of vegetables too, I really should try it with my children.

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  4. these look a great way to spend some time with my kids! x

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    1. I loved seeing how excited my daughter was by what she saw.

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  5. My daughter got a kit from nat geo for christmas and it kept her occupied for ages

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    1. They are really well thought out, I'm looking at which other ones my daughter might enjoy now

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  6. Our grandson would love this . great for passing time at Easter

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  7. These look like really great educational kits for kids

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  8. Such fun - Fueling young minds Future success - they are great

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  9. These look great as a really fun way to learn without children realising that they are learning

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  10. Great range of educational but also great fun to do

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  11. Have never seen these before they look like great fun whilst learning at the same time! Great gift ideas thank you!

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  12. I don't know about children, I think I would enjoy these myself, especially the gemstone one

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  13. My daughter loves her STEM activities, they do these at her Cubs, she learns a lot from them.

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  14. These would really appeal to our grandchildren

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  15. Looks great I am sure my children would love this!

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  16. They look good and I think they'd interest my son.

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  17. These are brilliant for enquiring minds, they help children learn

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  18. Thanks for the idea, boughtr geodes this year and they were a great hit

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  19. This looks fab and would keep the boys busy for a while, particularly if schools close!

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  20. I think all my younger grandchildren would be fascinated by these kits

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  21. These kits look great fun and educational too!

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  22. This is brilliant would love to Win this. would keep my little boy and nephew busy for a while.

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  23. I really like the look of this, I think it would be fascinating.

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  24. Love new things too with the kids and these are fab, great way of learning and exploring

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  25. These look like so much fun and the perfect antidote to too much time stuck indoors!

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  26. This looks right up my little 1s street!

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  27. Oh my word, if I told Leo that there was fossilised poo he would be in heaven!

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  28. Crystal Garden Kit and Dig Kit both look awesome

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  29. I remember having a crystal kit as a child! These are so lovely and educational!

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  30. Excellent products very interesting for the youngsters.

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  31. These kits look great fun, but educational as well.

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  32. Off to order crystal garden and dig kit for my daughters birthday which is during the lockdown, she was meant to be getting a new bike so need some stay at home toys too

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  33. These look fantastic, just what we need to keep the kids entertained!

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  34. Look like great fun to keep the little ones busy

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  35. looks great fun--my nephew max would love this

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  36. I like these would love one for my grandson he loves crystals

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  37. I love educational games. They are brilliant for birthday gifts

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  38. My niece would love the Crystal Garden Kit to keep her busy at this weird time in our lives

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  39. These look really interesting to do. My kids would enjoy making

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  40. Sian Buckingham29 March 2020 at 18:03

    Kits like this absolutely fascinate my children! They really are fab!

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  41. These look fantastic would love to win for my daughter

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  42. These kits are a great way to make learning fun

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