To encourage a budding scientist I recommend Elenco's Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100. This kit [which I found for about $20] lets kids from 7 or 8 on up to make dozens of simple electronic projects using the direction book and the 30+ snap together parts.
The parts snap together simply [almost a bit lego like] often with only a little help from grownups depending on the child's age. The young scientists learn some basic principles of electronics as they figure out how to make a flying saucer fly, a doorbell ring, a motion detector go off, and more.
NOTE: If you plan to give this as a gift be sure to purchase 2 "AA" batteries so that the science can begin right away! No other tools, or soldering is required.
Also: Make the exploring even more fun by including a spiral notebook for taking notes and a disposable camera for documenting the projects as each is concluded.
And Don't Forget that girls can be budding scientists too!!
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