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The Best Rock Tumbler For Kids in 2022


A National Geographic rock tumbler allows the future geologist in your life to begin an entertaining and educational hobby! I can assure you, as an Environmental Scientist myself, that this engaging, hands-on activity is a fantastic way to get your kids interested in STEM. 

Fellow rockhounds agree that it is no surprise that this environmental organization leads the market in creating the best rock tumblers around! However, with so many options to choose from, it can be hard to pick the right machine for you. That’s why we compared noise levels, usability, kit supplies and recurring issues with each machine to get you the top rock tumbler models to choose from!

Best Advanced Rock Tumbler Kit:
Best Beginner Rock Tumbler Kit:


Top Advanced Rock Tumbler Kits 

The Rock Tumbler Kit XL comes with 3 pounds of rocks, more than both the Hobby Rock Tumbler and Advanced Professional Rock Tumbler. There are no rocks included with the Leegol Electric Machine.

National Geographic Hobby Rock Kit 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit - Includes Rough Gemstones, 4 Polishing Grits, Jewelry Fastenings, Learning Guide, Great Stem Science Kit
Price$$$
Quality
Popularity

This top-of-the-line tumbler gives you the best value without breaking the bank. Ranked as one of the leading kits on the market, it includes everything you need to start tumbling!

Why We Love It

The tire rubber interior of the barrel allows for a 75% quieter performance. Rock tumbling is not a quick process so this is a key feature to look for in this type of product. Not only that, but the stainless steel lid assures users that wear and tear and rust won’t be an issue.

The Hobby Rock Tumbler kit includes half a pound of rough gemstones and a comprehensive guide detailing the nine different varieties that are a part of this package. Rated for children eight years old and up, this machine is easy to use and requires little supervision. It includes automatic controls to shut off after the desired run time, which is ideal for kids who tend to leave things running for too long.

Most importantly, replacement grit and a plethora of additional gemstones are readily available online so you can keep your rock aficionado engaged for a long time!

Why We Don’t Love It

While listed as ‘leak-proof’, this does not always seem to be the case. Thankfully, the company provides a two year warranty on this product to ensure that if you do come across a problem, it can be addressed. 

Polished results are guaranteed, but sometimes the shine can be a little lackluster. National Geographic sells a product called GemFoam that solves this issue! Other bundles include this media solution so if you are interested, upgrade to these versions.

Considerations

  • Barrel holds half a pound of rocks
  • Rubber material means less noise
  • Duration Settings
  • Includes all start-up supplies 
  • Recommended age 8 years old and up
  • Two year warranty

Advanced Professional Kit

Advanced Professional Rock Tumbler Kit - with Digital 9-day Polishing timer & 3 speed settings - Turn Rough Rocks into Beautiful Gems : Great Science & STEM Gift for Kids all ages : Geology Toy
Price$$$
Quality
Popularity

This version is close second in regards to quality and included supplies, but it is a bit more costly. However, in return, you will get upgraded technology and a larger capacity.

Why We Love It

This high tech machine has three speed options, it can run for up to nine days and your setting choices are showcased on LCD screens. It also has a button that allows you to pause and resume function as needed, which is not available in other models. This can come in handy when you need to replenish water and grit throughout the tumbling process.

Moreover, in addition to having the same materials in the National Geographic Kit, the AP Rock Tumbler package includes a bag to store your polished stones in as well as a spare motor belt in case the original breaks. 

Why We Don’t Love It

The biggest complaints are in regards to the pulley and motor belt, which are reported to not run quite as smoothly as other brands. 

This model has some extra bells and whistles, but nevertheless, your overall end result happens with or without these features. An adult may find these to be salient qualities, but it may not be worth paying extra for a child. Beautiful polished gemstones will happen with enough tumbling.

Considerations

  • Barrel holds 1 pound of rocks
  • Rubber material means less noise
  • Speed and duration settings
  • Includes all start-up supplies
  • Recommended age 8 years old and up

National Geographic Extra Large Capacity Bundle

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Rock Tumbler Kit-3LB Extra Large Capacity, 3LB Rough Gemstones 4 Polishing Grits, Jewelry Fastenings, an Educational STEM Science Kit
Price$$$$
Quality

This is National Geographic’s highest quality rock tumbler featuring advanced controls and an extra large capacity barrel to allow for bigger loads! 

Why We Love It

The Rock Tumbler Kit XL is comparable to the Advanced Professional Tumbler with top of the line controls. These allow for up to nine days of tumbling along with three speed settings. Furthermore, it can accommodate a much more sizable load and this bundle includes three times the amount of stones compared to all other kits!

In addition, it comes with GemFoam, a polishing product that ensures an exceptional shine! 

Why We Don’t Love It

This rock tumbler does run on the more pricey end in contrast to the other top picks due to the added materials and larger design. However, if you know that you will get use out of it, it is more cost-effective than buying the added supplies with the smaller model. Moreover, if you intend to tumble larger loads, this is the more time-effective and energy-efficient choice!

Considerations

  • Barrel holds three pounds of rocks
  • Rubber material means less noise
  • Speed and duration settings
  • Includes all start-up supplies
  • GemFoam polishing solution is a part of the bundle
  • Recommended age 8 years old and up

Leegol Electric Machine

Leegol Electric 3LB Rock Tumbler (Pro Single Drum)
Price$$$
Popularity

This is another large capacity machine that can be used by beginners and seasoned rockhounds alike! 

Why We Love It

Rock lovers who need more capacity will love this choice of machinery. Are you someone who has specific preferences in regards to grit? Do you already have a collection of stones and don’t need to purchase any? Then this is the top model for you to consider! It does not include the add ons that the other alternatives incorporate, which can lead to an increased overall cost.

The Leegol Electric comes with a walnut shell media for your polishing needs, guaranteeing that you get a little extra sheen with your gemstones! 

Why We Don’t Love It

This tumbler is only equipped with an on/off switch, just like the Starter Kit, so you have to monitor it carefully to find out when the rocks are done. As mentioned above, this is a great choice for seasoned tumblers, but if you are a beginner you might prefer a kit over a solitary machine. 

Considerations

  • Barrel holds three pounds of rocks
  • Rubber material means less noise
  • Walnut shell polishing media is a part of the bundle
  • Recommended age 12 years old and up

Top Beginner Rock Tumbler Kits

While they are both intended for beginners, the Starter Rock Kit is more affordable than the Edu-Toys Rock Tumbler.

National Geographic Starter Kit

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Starter Rock Tumbler Kit - Rock Polisher for Kids and Adults, Complete Rock Tumbler Kit, Durable Leak-Proof Tumbler, Rocks, Grit, and 5 Jewelry Fastenings, A Great STEM Hobby
Price$$
Quality
Popularity

The Starter Rock Tumbler contains identical supplies to what you will get in the Hobby Rock Tumbler that National Geographic manufactures, but with a more basic design.

Why We Love It

This cost effective product allows kids to try their hand at this hobby with little worry about technical issues. The kit supplies are better than other brands and just like their alternative prototypes, the end justifies the means. You get quality rocks that turn into polished gems!

Why We Don’t Love It

Unlike the models made with rubber and metal, the plastic barrel construction leads to an increased noise level. Due to the extended time rock tumbling takes, this can become quite disruptive. Not only that, but in regards to technology, this machine leaves you wanting more. It is only equipped with an on/off switch, with no speed or duration programming included.  

For just five more bucks you can get the hobby model, which has better technical features as well as superior reviews in regards to leaks. 

Considerations

  • Barrel holds half a pound of rocks
  • Basic design leads to less technical issues, but a longer run time for the same results
  • Includes all start-up supplies
  • Recommended age 8 years old and up

Edu-Toys Rock Tumbler

Edu-Toys Rock Tumbler
Price$$
Quality
Popularity

Wannabe scientists and jewelers may find this to be the most intriguing of tumblers because of all the extra fun included!

Why We Love It

The Edu-Toys Rock Tumbler looks like a space ship with a fun, modern design kidls will love. Moreover, the kit includes jewelry-making components along with rocks and grinding grit. Kids can turn a rock into a “gem” in about thirty days making this a fun STEM kit. 

Why We Don’t Love It

A lot of customers were unsatisfied with the quality. Not only is it made of cheap plastic but there are no ways to get extra supplies from the same brand. The company also did not include any troubleshooting instructions either. 

Furthermore, the item is loud. Make sure to fully inspect the rock tumbler to see if there are any manufacturing issues before using it. Contact customer support if you find an issue. 

Considerations

  • AC Adapter included 
  • Looks like a space ship 
  • 4 Easy to use buttons 
  • Max capacity of 1 pound
  • Very loud 
  • Entry-level model
  • Affordable
  • Makes rocks beautiful in one month

How to Choose a Rock Tumbler

Desired Noise Level

Tumblers are composed of either plastic or rubber. The plastic causes more noise, unlike the rubber which absorbs a percentage of the sound. You are tumbling rocks, so remember that no option guarantees a silent process, but when you consider the fact that to really polish the rocks to picture perfect quality you have to do it for days up to weeks, splurging for the quieter version might be in your best interest if you plan to keep it indoors. 

Capacity

How many stones are you hoping to polish at a time? If you are starting with a small batch to see if this is a hobby your child will enjoy, then consider a tumbler on the smaller end. We reviewed tumblers ranging from half a pound up to a three pound capacity and one thing to note is that many models won’t work properly if you don’t fill the barrel with the recommended amount of stones. Ergo, don’t buy a big machine if you are only tumbling a few rocks.

Supplies

Do you want to purchase just the machine or do you want to bundle the tumbler, grit, rocks and other supplies? The kits are the way to go if you have never used a rock tumbler before and don’t have a collection of stones at home! The overall cost is lower with the bundle when compared to buying the machine, grit and other supplies separately. 

Shine

While some rockhounds won’t care, others want the finished products to have that eye-catching sheen! If this is something that is important to you, purchase a bundle that contains a polishing media to ensure that you get the outcome you desire. 

Technology

Many of the more affordable models just come with the basic on/off switch. This may not seem imperative when you are giving this to an eight year old, but consider the fact that if you have the ability to set the duration and speed at which the tumbler rotates, you are also dictating how long it will take to obtain polished gemstones.

On the other hand, the more high tech the machine is, the more supervision that may be needed. 

Rock Tumbler Comparison Table

The table below compares only the recommended products on this page. A low or high Price means it is low or high compared to the other products listed. The Popularity Score reflects how often readers click on and buy the product. The Quality Score is our assessment of the overall performance and satisfaction with the product compared to others in the table.


FAQs – Rock Tumblers For Kids

Why Should I Buy a Rock Tumbler?

There are great benefits to introducing your child to scientific topics and terminology early on in their life. Some of the benefits include abstract thinking, increased verbal skills and an easier time in science related courses later on in life. If you are interested in other STEM related toys, check out these options!

How Do Rock Tumblers Work?

Have you ever noticed that when you find a pebble at the beach or in a stream it is smooth and many times shiny whereas one found in the dirt is jagged and course? Rock tumblers allow you to turn those ragged rocks into beautiful gems! 

You put stones in the machine, add water and grit, and let the machine do the work for you! The process normally takes between one week all the way up to about two months to achieve the highest quality shine. Keep in mind, this all has to do with the caliber of the machine you have and the level of grit you use throughout tumbling. 

What is Grit?

Grit is a powder that is made of a compound harder than most rocks. It is a required ingredient in the rock polishing process because it smooths the edges. Without it, the rocks will not polish properly.

What Size Rocks Can I Tumble?

Most of the tumblers for kids tend to run on the smaller size, with a capacity of one pound or less. We recommend that you keep the rocks around an inch or less in diameter in order to achieve optimal results in this size machine.

Are Certain Types of Rocks Better for Tumbling Than Others?

Yes! Jasper, Quartz, Agate and Petrified Wood, just to name a few, are all fantastic options that will yield solid results. There are two things you want to look for in tumbling rocks:

  • You want the rock to be hard enough to not break apart in the machine
  • You want the rock soft enough that they will polish in a reasonable amount of time 

Using the Mohs Hardness Scale, you should look for minerals and gemstones that range between a five and an eight. Also remember that it is important to tumble stones that have similar rankings on this scale. This ensures that the softer specimens don’t crumble. 

What Types of Rocks Come With the Kits?

The National Geographic and Dr. Cool options contain nine types of gemstones in the packages we highlighted. These include amethyst, sodalite, rose quartz, dalmatian jasper, red jasper, aventurine, agate, black jasper and tiger’s eye. 

However, if your future geologist wants to obtain more types of rocks, National Geographic has five separate refill packs that have a plethora of stone varieties. These include: 

  • Eight types of jasper (six that are not available in the original kit)
  • Different colors of agate
  • Labradorite
  • Indigo gabbro
  • Hematite
  • Types of petrified wood fossils.

Can I Use my Rock Tumbler for Other Craft Projects?

Yes! You can use tumblers to polish metals like coins and certain jewelry pieces, create sea glass and even make certain shells glisten, as long as they aren’t too thin

Can I Interrupt the Tumbling Process Due to Noise?

Yes, but keep in mind that this will lengthen the time it takes to obtain a finished product.

Can You Clean The Stones in The Sink Once You Pull Them Out of the Rock Tumbler?

This is not recommended because the grit, rock particles and any other residual products in the barrel can clog your drain and damage your pipes. Clean the tumbled pieces with a garden hose in the backyard to avoid plumbing issues and creating a mess.

Why Are My Stones Not as Shiny as the Ones In the Pictures?

Rocks

Make sure that you are tumbling one rock type at a time. In other words, tumble all the Jasper at once and then transition to tumbling the agate. If you are mixing rocks with different levels of hardness this can lead to scratching and breakage.

Using quality products equates to a better overall outcome when the tumbling process is complete. Buying legitimate stones versus finding random rocks outside to tumble can make a big difference!

Maintenance

Clean the barrel after each use. This will ensure that debris from previous loads doesn’t scratch the stones in your new batch.

Proper Media

Follow the grit instructions included in your kit. Most packages supply different levels of grit, coarse to fine, which need to be used with certain varieties of rock and during specific stages of the tumbling process.

Purchasing a polishing media to use after the initial tumble can also increase luster and shine! Options include ceramic media, walnut shell media, National Geographic’s GemFoam or plastic pellets. Some of our top rock tumbler picks incorporate types of polishing solutions within the kit.

Following your days to weeks of tumbling, consider cleaning the basin, reloading in the stones, and then shaving a tablespoon of ivory bar soap into the basin. Tumble this combination for another hour. This can help to clean off any residual debris adding some additional shine for very little cost. This process is called burnishing. 

It Takes Time

Finally, be patient! Rock tumbling is not a fast process. It takes on average a few weeks, if not months to attain a quality product. You will likely run the rocks through multiple grades of grit and may have to repeat steps depending on their level of hardness.

What Can You Do With the Gemstones Once You Are Done Tumbling?

Depending on your child’s interests you can display them outright or use them in arts and crafts projects! Here are just a few of the things you can use them for:

  • Custom Jewelry
  • Accessories
  • Keychains
  • Vase Filler
  • Garden Decor
  • Picture Frame Accents

Your child can learn a lot from crafting and it stimulates their creativity!

Sources

  1. There are many benefits to starting science education early — very early, edsource.org
  2. RockTumbler.com: Everything you need for rock tumbling :-), rocktumbler.com
  3. 5 Great Skills Kids Get From Crafts, www.highlights.com

Heidi Butler    

Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for going on a decade.



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