In an era of instant gratification, it might seem daunting to find the right gift for a child. However, if you choose something educational as well as amusing, it can keep them interested, engaged and learning about science and life itself all in one fun package.
What is this remarkable gift? It is the old-fashioned, but still intriguing, ant farm.
Like other classic toys such as miniature train sets and sturdy building blocks for younger children, the ant farm enjoys a long history of providing hours of entertainment and education for youngsters. The classic sand-filled ant farm kits are still available and selling nicely, although they sometimes take a back seat to the snazzy gel-filled models that look so glamorous. No matter which style you select, an ant farm can teach children about ecosystems, animal habitats and science in a way that keeps them fascinated.
Ants will keep adults interested as well as children because they are quite active: they dig tunnels, build bridges, consume food and liquids, remove waste from their living areas to a spot they designate for trash and much more.
We've looked at the top ant farms on the market to help you decide which would be the best buy for your budding entomologist. For help with your purchase, take a look at our side-by-side comparisons and check our three top-ranked products: GeoSafari Ant Factory, Uncle Milton Giant Ant Farm and Fascinations AntWorks Illuminated Blue. You also can find more information about ants, their colonies and ant farms in general in our articles related to ant farms.
Ant farms come in handy for teachers when the curriculum calls for studying living things and their habitats. Parents also can make use of an ant farm at home when teachable moments arise and kids ask questions. If the parents are stumped for answers, both they and their children can learn more about ants by reading the written materials that come with the ant farm and just by observing the busy creatures. Here are the criteria we used to rate the best ant farms:
We describe what tools and accessories come with different ant farm kits, the medium in which the ants live and the tools, instructions and written materials provided to help educate children and adults all about ants. The best ant farms provide highly useful manuals or guides written for young pupils, but which are not too simple, so that even older students will be intrigued by ant habits and their colonies. You also will no doubt find it helpful if the manufacturer conveniently lists ant facts on its website.
What good is an ant farm without live ants? We examined the terms for buying ants, who supplies them (the kit manufacturer or a third party), if you can get free replacement ants if they all arrive dead with the first shipment, and whether you can populate your colony with ants that you capture yourself.
It is always good to know what extras come with a product or what additional accessories you can buy if you choose. We list whether or not you can buy refill sand or gel, whether you can get new ants and if you can get more accessories, such as a magnifying glass, from the manufacturer. For the gel-filled ant farms, we also list if these come with an LED light and if you can buy a replacement light if the original dies.
In order to really observe your ant colony at work, it's important to have a clear view of the little critters as they scurry around going about their busy lives. It's also good to have an enclosed habitat for them that is not too big so it will fit nicely onto a desk or shelf, but also is not too small so you can easily see the ants. We list the dimensions to help you pick an ant farm kit that is just the right size for your home or classroom.
Help & Support
As with any product, it is always valuable to have some good support in the event that you have questions. We rank the ways you can contact companies and information available on their websites.
Youngsters everywhere tend to be fascinated by bugs – even if they say they're grossed out by them – and undoubtedly would get hours of fun from a good quality ant farm. Buying an ant farm might turn out to be just the gift a child you know would find enchanting – and perhaps you'd like to watch it, too.