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I picked up this wonderfully entertaining and delightfully illustrated book at a Scholastic Book Fair a number of years ago and devoured it with my kids. The subtitle, “Green Thumb Magic for the Great Indoors,” says it all. It is chock full of fun gardening related craft projects and science experiments that easily answer the question, “How do things grow?” But that’s not all. There’s legend and lore about a magic turkey that planted the first corn and a mythical dragon that dropped the first peas on the ground. It is sure to inspire your child’s imagination and fascination with nature.
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
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.
This is the one crystal-making project your child can actually eat!
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.
These crystals look like snowflakes and make great winter, window-hanging decorations. They can also be used to decorate Christmas trees.
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.
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…
Hot tap water
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.
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.
These effervescent tablets when added to the bath, create soothing bubbles and make a delightful gift for both children and adults.
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup citric acid
10 to 20 drops of a fragrance oil
10 drops of food coloring
Large, deep soap molds (available at craft stores)
Wax paper covered cookie sheet
Thin sheet of cardboard
Place the first three ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Scoop out 1/2 cup and place in a small bowl. Add the drops of food coloring and mix well. Return the contents of the small bowl to the large bowl and mix again. Remove 1/3 cup of the blended, colored salts to a small bowl. Spritz lightly with a fine mist. Be careful not to add too much or the salts will start to fizz. Using your hands, mix the salts. They should be damp enough to hold together. If not, mist a little more. Pack the damp salts into a clean, dry mold. Press down hard to pack in. Let set for few minutes. Place a thin piece of cardboard over the mold and gently flip over. The solid bath salt should fall out. Carefully slide the fizzy bath salt onto the wax paper covered cookie sheet and let dry overnight. Repeat the process with the other salts. Wraps salts in colored tissue paper and tie up with ribbon.
While planning your Halloween decorations this year, why not include some actual spider webs? You can preserve your own with just a few household supplies. When looking for one, make sure you find one that doesn’t have any occupants. You wouldn’t want to take someone’s home.
Black construction paper (You may want to back the paper with some cardboard)
Non-aerosol hair spray
Sprinkle the strands of the web with the talcum powder. Working quickly, spray the web gently on both sides with the hairspray. Hold the paper behind the web. Pinch off the web’s “guylines” where it is fastened and let the web fall onto the paper. The wet spray will help it stick. Once it dries, spray it again to give it a protective coating. If you like, frame your masterpiece to hang on your child’s bedroom wall.
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. Read the rest of this entry »