If you think manicures and pedicures are the stuff of fancy spas, think again. From the makers of Elmer’s Glue comes Scientific Explorer’s Magnificent Manicure Kit, winner of the Creative Child Magazine’s 2009 Toy of the Year Award in the Educational Toys category. For years Scientific Explorers has created a number of award winning science and educational kits, and now they have teamed up with UC Berkeley’s Great Exploration in Math and Science (GEMS) program to create learning opportunities that are fun and exciting.

The Magnificent Manicure Kit has been designed to encourage a child’s interest in science through theme based activities, and though it is geared primarily towards girls, both boys and girls alike will enjoy learning about the science behind beauty.

The kits are a great way to experience the joy of learning and include almost everything to turn your home into a fabulous spa. All you need to provide is some water and the nail polish of your choice. The instruction manual, filled with interesting information about of the science behind what is happening, is structured like a study guide that encourages learning. Before each activity, questions are posed to stimulate interest and curiosity, and afterwards there is a review that includes loads of relevant scientific insight.

We couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us, and with our kids’ friends (both girls) visiting for the day, the timing was just right. The first step was to prepare our hands for the manicure, which entailed hydrating the skin and nails. We accomplished this by using a high-tech slurry of crystal mud that starts out like sand and turns into a cool, jelly-like compound with the addition of water. It is actually a super absorbent polymer that can hold more than 300 times its mass in water, and is the same compound used in disposable diapers, a fun fact described in the manual.

Next up, the all-important moisturizing step. But rather than simply providing us with some boring skin conditioner, the kids actually got to create their own lotion, complete with fragrance and tint. After buffing our nails with the multi-textured buffing block, we took another dip in the hydrating crystal mud and then set about exfoliating with the pumice stone included in the kit.

The final step was to decorate our nails with polish, though at this point, my son and I excused ourselves, mainly because we had run out of our favorite colors. The girls, however, had a lot of fun with it, and by the end their nails looked fabulous.

All in all, we really enjoyed the Scientific Explorers Magnificent Manicure Kit, which are available nationwide at Toys “R” Us. It is a great way to spend time together with your kids (boys and girls!) while learning some new and interesting facts, and goes a long way to proving that you don’t even need to leave the house in order to have the pampering experience of a luxurious spa.

We received this kit free for review.