Review: Learning about Volcanoes, Gemstones, Dinosaurs and Sharks with National Geographic Kits from Bandai

(#AD) We are very excited to be ambassadors for the 2021 Bandai National Geographic Stem blogger club which means we will be reviewing lots of the great products from the National Geographic range over the next few months. These sets are suitable for children aged 8 and upwards and they are a great way to get children engaged and learning about different topics in a fun way.

What I love about these STEM kits is they are a hands on way to get children learning. At 8 most children will be old enough to explore the kits on their own with minimal supervision, but we have done all of ours together because I find them interesting too. My eldest daughter and I have been talking about what we can see and M then shares with me the information in the accompanying learning guides so we both discover something new. The Build Your Own Volcano kit requires more adult supervision because of the chemicals involved. 

These sets are really accessible with easy to follow instructions and learning guides. They are in-depth enough that even adults will learn something, but not too complicated so that Tweens get lost.

This month we received: an Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit, a Build Your Own Volcano set, a Dino Dig Kit and a Shark Tooth Dig Kit from Bandai’s National Geographic Range to review. 

A smiling 9 year old girl in a lab coat digging gemstones out of a block from the Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit she is reviewing
M loved finding out more about gemstones with the National Geographic STEM learning kit from Bandai UK


Learning About Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, Gemstones and Shark Teeth


Review of Dino Fossil Dig Kit from Bandai's National Geographic Range

Most 8 (ish) year olds will probably find the best thing about this set is that it contains fossilised dinosaur poo. To be honest it looks pretty much like a stone to me, but apparently it is far more amusing to wave under your sister’s nose than a stone. I personally think it is more exciting to find the piece of a fossilised dinosaur bone. It's impossible to know which one of the 1000 plus dinosaur species it’s from, but that wont stop my children from guessing.

Like all the standard size National Geographic dig kits you get a block with 3 items hidden away in it which need digging out with a double ended plastic tool. You also get a paint brush to clean them with and a little magnifying glass to have a closer look. In the dinosaur fossil dig kit you get a piece of bone, some fossilised poo (also known as coprolite) and a tooth from a Mosasaur, which was a marine lizard from the late-Cretaceous Period.

Digging the items out creates an aspect of mystery so they don’t know what they will get. It helps to bring conversations to life about what the dinosaurs were like and children can find out more in the included learning guide.

Contents of the Dino Fossil Dig Kit from the National Geographic range by Bandai UK includes a block contain 3 dinosaur fossils, a magnifying glass, small brush, digging tool, instructions, learning guide and translation booklet
Contents of the Dino Fossil Dig Kit from the National Geographic range by Bandai UK

Close up of me holding some very very very old poo, prehistoric poo in fact
Coprolite, otherwise known as fossilised dinosaur poo


Review of Build Your Own Volcano Kit from Bandai's National Geographic Range

Volcanos feel like something that should have died out with the dinosaurs, or at least with the Romans, so part of me is always a little surprised when I remember there are lots of volcanic activity across the Earth everyday. This week we have been watching the live feed from Fagradalsfjall erupting in Iceland and the Build Your Own Volcano set has been a great way to continue the conversation.

The volcano set takes several days to complete: first you make the volcano shape from plaster by mixing the powder with water and then pouring into the provided mould. After about 45 minutes you carefully take it out of the mould and let it fully dry for a couple of days (or you can put it in the oven for a couple of hours to dry if you prefer). When taking it out of the mould M noticed that the plaster was warm to the touch so we had a conversation about the exothermic reaction created when water and plaster of Paris are mixed together.

When the mould is dry it can be painted with the included red, yellow and orange paints and then left to dry again before making the volcano erupt.

The eruption is created by placing a mix of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate into the top of the volcano then adding water. The instructions also have tips for variations to make bigger eruptions and other household chemicals you can use. Be warned that the eruption powder contains red colouring which will stain some materials.

As well as the volcano experiment pieces the set also contains two real rocks created by volcanoes: a pumice (which is so light it actually floats on water) and a geode which can be (carefully) smashed open to see the crystals inside. These stones are a really nice way to continue the learning. The created volcano is similar to a real one in that the eruption is caused by a build up of pressure from gas, but of course actual volcanoes produce molten rock so bringing it back to what happens with real volcanoes and talking about the rocks formed is great.  

The contents of the Build Your Own Volcano set from National Geographic by Bandai UK includes plaster, a mould, paint, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, a geode and a pumice
The contents of the Build Your Own Volcano set from National Geographic by Bandai UK

Adding a spoonful of eruption powder (citric acid and sodium bicarbonate) to the volcano
Adding the "eruption powder" to the volcano we made and painted

Close up of the volcano erupting
Our erupting volcano 


Review: The Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit from Bandai's National Geographic range

We previously reviewed the smaller gemstone set which contains 3 gemstones, but the Ultimate set contains an impressive 20! I really like this set because it was easier to find the stones, but also you end up with a brilliant collection. The gems include ones we were familiar with, but also some I hadn’t heard of like snowflake obsidian (although as a big fan of Minecraft my daughter had heard of this one and she was rather excited by it). Some of the gemstones have been polished and are all smooth while others are in the natural state and you can see the crystal formations. We have bought gemstones before, but discovering them through the excavation made them far more special.

As natural products the exact shape and size of stones will vary between packs and we got some really great ones. The amethyst in our smaller set was one large crystal, but this time we got lots of smaller ones connected together which are really cool. This is nice because if you have multiple packs the gemstones will all be slightly different. The gemstones in the "Ultimate" kit are: two types of agate, three types of quartz, tiger's eye, snowflake obsidian, amethyst, aragonite, aventurine, hematite, desert rose, a geode piece, green fluorite, pyrite, red jasper, sodalite, turquenite, blue calcite and labradorite.

It suggests you can add water to make it easier to dig them out, but we found previously we just made more mess this way. M found it easier to dig the pieces out using the tools and brush them off, but the rougher gems that hadn’t been tumbled like pyrite and the geode she placed in a pot of water to soak before used an old toothbrush to clean them up.

If you haven’t used one of these dig sets before then be warned they can get quite messy due to the powdering of the block. We use an old tray to do them on, but you might want to do it outside if you are worried. The dry powder vacuums up easily though.

Contents of the Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit includes a block with 20 gemstones, digging tool, brush, magnifying glass, instructions and learning guide.
Contents of the Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit includes: a block with 20 gemstones in, digging tool, brush, magnifying glass, instructions and learning guide.
A close up of the plastic digging tool and block with a gemstone just visible
Close up of digging the first find out

Gemstones being dug out of the ultimate gemstone kit from National Geographic
The gemstones are hidden through out the blog and need to be found and carefully dug out
Using the magnifying glass to have a closer look at one of the crystals
After digging the gemstones out you can take a closer look with the included magnifying glass


The Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit Instructions and Learning guide next to the 20 gemstones found in our set including: agate, quartz, tiger's eye, snowflake obsidian, amethyst, aragonite, aventurine, hematite, desert rose, a geode piece, green fluorite, pyrite, red jasper, sodalite, turquenite, blue calcite and labradorite
The gemstones in the "Ultimate" kit are: agate, quartz, tiger's eye, snowflake obsidian, amethyst, aragonite, aventurine, hematite, desert rose, a geode piece, green fluorite, pyrite, red jasper, sodalite, turquenite, blue calcite and labradorite.

The orange crystals of an aragonite being held in front of the relevant page in the learning guide which has a large image of a crystal and some text
The learning guide helps you identify the gemstone and to learn more about it

Review of the Shark Tooth Dig Kit from the National Geographic range from Bandai

The Shark Tooth Dig Kit enables you to excavate 3 different types of shark's teeth. This is a great opportunity to feel what shark teeth are like and talk about why the teeth might be that particular shape. We even took a brief detour into talking about the oral hygiene of sharks and humans.

The learning guide is a great introduction to sharks and includes: myth busting about them being man-eaters (apparently only 10 of the more than 500 species have been known to bite a human), the importance of sharks to the ecosystem and the threat to sharks from humans.

The 3 shark teeth in the set are from: sand tiger sharks which are the most common shark to be found in public aquariums so you have probably seen them swimming around, the crow shark and the otodus shark which are both extinct. 

Just like the dig kits reviewed above the kit contains everything you need to find the teeth hidden away in the block and to learn about the finds. 

The contents of the shark tooth dig kit includes a block with 3 teeth hidden in, a digging tool, brush, magnifying glass instructions and learning guide
The contents of the Shark Tooth Dig Kit

Close up of the crow shark tooth which is triangular with serrated cutting edges
Close up of a Crow Shark fossilised tooth 


These sets and more are available to buy at shopDisney and Argos.

***Disclosure: these kits were gifted to us as part of an ongoing collaboration with Bandai 2021 Bandai National Geographic Stem blogger club***

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