Professional chemists usually remember with fondness the very first chemistry set given to them by their parents. Not every child given a chemistry gift for Christmas is destined to grow up to become a chemist. However, that's not even the point. Simply by giving your child a gift concerning chemistry, you are opening their eyes to the world around them. Chemistry surrounds us; we eat it, drink it, it's everywhere we look and involved in everything we do. Exposing a child to the wonderful richness of the world around them makes a chemistry-related gift absolutely wonderful.
So, what is an appropriate chemistry gift idea for your child, during this upcoming holiday season? Your first concern should be safety. You need to be sure that the gift you select is age appropriate. Even when it appears innocuous, careful monitoring of its use may be needed, depending on the age of your child. A good first shopping source are websites such as this one, which divide their chemistry items according to the appropriate age category. Websites which provide customer feedback such as this one are also useful, as not only the safety of the gift can be evaluated but also the value and entertainment gained by the gift.
For children towards the lower age bracket, a popular choice is a gift that has a dramatic physical effect. It doesn't even have to be store-bought. Children are mesmerized by physical changes. Your gift might consist of making a mound of baking soda on a cookie sheet with a small dimple at the top (like a volcano), then pouring in a small amount of vinegar that has one or two drops of red food coloring added. An instant (and perfectly harmless) 'eruption' of the volcano occurs; carbon dioxide gas fizzes and foams and red 'lava' runs down the side of the volcano.
For slightly older children, gifts with a tactile element to it are always a popular choice. Children identify very readily with the sense of touch, and have an unending fascination with things like "slime". As an example, this gift would bring a smile to anyone in the 5-8 year age range, providing a source of fascinating and harmless fun.
While the bundled 'chemistry' sets you see for sale sometimes do cater to some of the lower age groups, these are perhaps best reserved for older children, who can be trusted with a bit more responsibility. While every effort is made to ensure safety and non-toxicity, any chemical can be dangerous, and younger children have a tendency to put darn near anything in their mouths. You can find quality chemistry sets for all ages for sale here, here, and here. With the proper guidance and monitoring, you will helping to open the eyes of your child to the amazing, wonderful, endless world of science that surrounds all of us.