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  • Nothing seems to fascinate a child more than the science of homemade crystals. Since crystal making is a popular classroom project, why not supplement your child’s education at home with the following experiments? All can be made with ingredients and supplies commonly found in most households. Be sure to have a magnifying glass on hand so your child can examine her creations more closely.

    Charcoal Crystal Garden

    Materials:
    6 or 7 charcoal briquettes
    6 T. warm water
    6 T. liquid bluing (available in the laundry section of the grocery store).
    4 T. table salt
    1 T. ammonia
    Food coloring (optional)

    Layer the charcoal in a shallow pan. In a separate bowl, mix the water and bluing together, stir in the salt and ammonia. Pour evenly over the charcoal. In a little while, you will see white fluffy crystals forming on the crystals. For different crystal colors, place a few drops of food coloring onto the coals after pouring the solution. You can keep the garden growing  by adding more solution every day.

    Rock Candy

    This is the one crystal-making project your child can actually eat!

    Materials:
    Powdered sugar
    Hot water
    Foil
    Glass or wide-mouthed jar
    Heavy string,  a pencil and paper clips.

    Pour 1/4 cup hot water into a mixing bowl and add enough sugar until absolutely no more will dissolve, approximately 1 cup. Next, tie two or three lengths of string to a pencil, and fasten a paper clip to the other end. Pour the solution into a glass with the weighted strings in the solution. Several days later, as the water evaporates, you will see the crystal formations on the string.

    Borax Crystals

    These crystals look like snowflakes and make great winter, window-hanging decorations. They can also be used to decorate Christmas trees.

    Materials:
    Wide-mouthed jar
    String
    Pencil
    Pipe cleaner
    1 cup boiling water
    3 T. Borax
    Food coloring (optional)

    Take the pipe cleaner and fashion it into a shape like a star or heart. Tie a piece of string to one end and suspend it into the jar until the shape is about 1/4″ from the bottom of the jar. Tie a pencil to the other end of the string and rest on top of the jar. In a large measuring cup, mix together the Borax and boiling water until dissolved. If you like, you can add some food coloring. Pour solution into the jar and in just a few hours, a hard, crusty crystal will form on the outside of the pipe cleaner.

    Rock Garden

    Materials:
    Small, smooth rocks
    2 oz. Alum (found in the spice section of grocery stores)
    1/2 cup boiling water
    Clear glass bowl

    Wash the rocks and place them in the bowl. Mix alum and water together in a small measuring cup until completely dissolved. Pour over the rocks and in a few hours you will see alum crystals forming as glass-like squares.

    Pass the Salt…

    Materials:
    Hot tap water
    Cup
    Salt
    Aluminum pie plate or plate covered with foil.

    Pour hot tap water into the cup until it is about half full. Add two teaspoons of salt and stir until dissolved. Repeat until no more salt will dissolve. Pour  enough liquid into the pan until just the bottom is covered. Let it sit undisturbed and check occasionally over the next few days. The longer you let the crystals grow, the larger they become.

    Pass the Epsom Salt

    This experiment is particularly effective when performed with the one above. It illustrates the different types of crystals that form when using different types of salt. Repeat the steps as in the above replacing the table salt with Epsom salt. Be sure to pour any leftover liquid down the drain. One difference you will notice is the Epsom salts are made of the mineral magnesium sulfate. As the water evaporates, the molecules in the Epsom salts join to form long, overlapping crystals. Regular table salt is made of the mineral halite and when halite molecules are joined again they form in a cubelike pattern.

    Crystal Hunt

    Crystals are all around us.  They are in the ground and on jewelry. You have probably eaten crystals at meals. Sugar and salt are both made of crystals. Have your children hunt for crystals and hold them up to the light or under a magnifying glass to determine if they are indeed crystals. Take a trip to the library and read up on the many different types of crystals and the minerals that crystallize in them.

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  • There are lots and lots of variations on the traditional Play-Doh recipe. Here are just a few.

    Traditional

    Ingredients:
    1 cup flour
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup salt
    1 T cream of tartar
    1 T oil
    food coloring

    Directions: Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When dough gets to the consistency you want, remove from heat and let cool. Make lots of batches in different colors. Store in a zip-lock bag or plastic container.

    Variation: Substitute cake decorating food coloring pastes for richer, darker colors.
    Another variation: Add some glitter.

    Koolaid Play-Doh

    Ingredients:
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup salt
    3 T of oil
    1 package of Koolaid powder

    Directions: Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium heat stirring constancy until reaching desired consistency. Remove from heat and cool. Keep in airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

    Uncooked Play-Doh

    Ingredients:
    3 cups boiling water
    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups of salt
    1 1/2 T oil
    3 tsp. cream of tartar

    Directions: Mix all ingredients except the flour in a large bowl. Mix well and then add the flour. Stir until dough scrapes off the sides of the bowl. Transfer to floured surface and knead to mix completely. Store in airtight container and refrigerate.

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  • How many of you remember the salty taste of Playdoh as a kid? Come on, admit it. You tasted it. We all did. That is why I prefer this version better. Just be  sure to work on a clean surface with clean hands.

    Ingredients:
    1 cup peanut butter
    1 cup honey
    2 1/3 cups powdered milk (for finer texture, blend powdered milk in food processor)
    Embellishments: mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, M & M’s, jelly beans, gummy worms, shredded coconut, etc.

    Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix and knead until completely combined. Create. Eat. Have fun!

    Another version, different ingredients:
    1 cup peanut butter
    1 cup nonfat dry milk
    2/3 cup powdered sugar

    Mix together in bowl and add embellishments if desired.

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  • Good for making ornaments, beads, volcanoes and more.

    Ingredients:
    12 cups flour
    12 cups salt
    7/8 cup water
    2 T. vegetable oil
    Food coloring

    Place flour and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Pour in the water and mix well. Pour in the oil and mix again. You can knead with your hands (more fun) or stir with a wooden spoon. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a clean, smooth surface that has been sprinkled with a little flour. Knead the dough until it is firm and wrap in plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag. Put in the fridge for at least a half hour before using.

    To color the dough, divide the dough into sections. Take one section at a time, roll into a ball and then punch down a little well into the center of the dough. Add a few drops of food coloring into the well. Fold the dough over the top of the well and start kneading until the color is mixed in. Add more color is desired.

    Now you are ready to make stuff. You can roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut with cookie cutters or you can shape into beads to make jewelry. Use a chopstick or toothpick to poke a hole in your shapes if you want to hang ornaments or string beads.

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