Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Growing Crystals Recipes

Growing Crystals RecipesLast spring I posted about how I kept a notebook of children's activities for my kids to do during the summer then each Wednesday I wrote about one of the activities. Based on the popularity of the posts I must not be the only mom out there who panics when she finds herself staring summer right in the eyes so I'm doing it again this year.

The first activity? Growing crystals. Now this isn't rocket science--I'd guess you'd call it rock science--and it's easy and safe for children with minimum supervision.

You'll need:

Two glass jars
A pencil
Nylon thread
Water
Alum*

* Now alum sounds odd but it's actually a chemical used in pickling and can be found in most grocery stores in the spice section. Schilling carries little jars of it for a couple dollars. It's completely safe (though I wouldn't recommend eating it--you'll get a super pucker for sure).

1. Boil about a cup of water then stir in as much of the alum as you can get the water to hold. The water will be cloudy and the extra alum that can't dissolve will settle to the bottom.

2. Allow it to cool down for a day or so. As it cools overnight crystals will begin to form in the bottom. These are the seed crystals.

Growing Crystals Recipes3. Pour off the solution (not the crystals and dust in the bottom) into a clean glass jar then pick out a couple of the biggest seed crystals to sit in the bottom of the new jar.

4. Wait. And wait. As the solution evaporates it will clear and the seed crystals will grow. Alum tends to form single crystals rather than clusters but if new little crystals begin to form on the bigger seed crystals then gently pick the tiny ones off.

5. Every day the seed crystals will grow. When they're big enough to tie a nylon thread around you should suspend them from a pencil placed across the mouth of the jar so that the crystals aren't touching any of the glass sides. They will grow fatter this way though not necessarily bigger. I noticed that the crystal lying on the bottom of the jar was about the same size as the one suspended but it wasn't as sharp and pretty and it was much flatter.

6. Continue to wait and watch, the crystal you see in the top picture had been growing about a week. The evaporation process is slow but it's not hard. I've wondered how big I can get our little crystal to grow . . .

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19 comments:

page2 said...

Oooh! I get to make the first comment!
My six year old wants to be a scientist when he grows up, so I'm sure he'll love this project. Thanks for the idea.
Also, I made your dump cake today. It was delicious! Thanks for the recipe.

Julie said...

I remember doing this as a kid.
Vaguely remember adding drops of food colour to turn them blue or yellow - check this out?

One other thing to do is make an ice bowl - fill two nesting plastic bowls with water, layer flowers in the deeper one, and wedge the top into the bottom 1" apart and freeze them (allowing some head room) - you get a frozen bowl to put chilled fruit etc in for a summer picnic.

Sheila said...

We've done this before! It's lots of fun.

But it takes FOREVER. And so those little glasses for crystals are left all over your living room for months at a time until you think of them like furniture, and it never occurs to you to remove them because they're done.

But it is great for the kids--

Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

Janet said...

This is a very cool project. I may even have some alum around (God only knows why).

My Ice Cream Diary said...

We make crystals all the time. We make our own syrup and the next morning there is a whole carpet of thisck sugar crystals on the bottom of our jar. The kids love looking at them through a magnifying glass.

Oh, and I once held my brother down and put a teaspoon of alum in his mouth. One of the best ways to get back at a sibling EVER. (But I'll never tell my kids that)

Audra Marie said...

I've always wanted to make crystals with the kids, but have never done it. I like your idea of an activity notebook. I'm off to read that post next. :)

Katy said...

I saw your post on Problogger. Great insights about mom blogs.

Thanks for explaining alum here. I've seen that in some recipes, didn't know what it was. Great idea.

Amy said...

GREAT idea- you always have the best kid activities.

Amy G. said...

This is great! We used to make Rock Candy in a similar way, although it seemed to take eons for the candy to form. The bonus was that we got to eat our science project.

I love the idea of starting a summer file. I'll have a rising first grader home this summer and he's a science kid, too--thanks for the tip!

Three P's in a Pod said...

Bless you my dear because Summer is freaking Right ARound The Corner and THEY will be HERE with ME ALL the TIME!! Ahhh, activities are good.:)

tarable said...

My little kids love Curious George and they always have those videos of real kids in the classroom doing projects that go along with the animated episodes. There are lots of cool ideas. You can view all the videos on the PBS website. http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/video/

Daisy said...

Look for a recipe for rock candy. It works in much the same way. Fun, and yummy!
I used to have a recipe in my school files, but I don't teach rocks and minerals any more, more's the pity.

miriama said...

I have never made them that way! We make borax crystal ornaments kind of using these instructions: http://www.ehow.com/how_3866_grow-borax-crystals.html

I used to be a GS leader and my girls loved making them year after year. The more ornate and fancier pipe cleaners the better!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

This looks like a lot of fun! Can't wait to try it with my kids...once the move is complete!

ames said...

Very cool! Have you ever made the ones with the charcoal briquette and the bluing? (What *is* bluing anyway?). Those ones are neat too, but very fragile!

diane allison-stroud said...

thanks for that one.... i like you, need to have those ideas rolling in my mind before summer starts.

Corbin Monkey said...

You are now my hero! When I was little you could buy "lump" alum. I've tried to find it for years and you've just taught me to make my own.

The Reason: Alum fixes Canker Sores! Just hold the lump/crystal against a canker sore for a bit. It takes away the pain and the canker sore is usually gone within a day.

cndymkr / jean said...

I just bought the Alum and now I can't wait to try this. I think I'm more excited then my son! Thanks.

oak furniture said...

Thats great my daughter has been pestering me for months about growing some crystals.
I will give it go it like being back at school again.