For Christmas this past year, my sister gave L. this really nice crystal growing kit which, alas, we haven't tried yet. It's not that he's uninterested in crystal growing, but growing crystals takes time, and patience, and the ability (and desire) to follow some rather lengthy sets of directions in order to achieve the desired results. And while L. definitely has a scientific mind, and a healthy respect for the process, he lacks the dogged patience to wait out lengthier experiments. This is why, I think, he gets more of a thrill out of the instant gratification types of experiments we did recently--exploding bags and flying corks are more his thing these days.
But I know we'll work ourselves around to the kit--it's just a matter of time. To jump start L.'s interest in crystal growing, and to help T. explore her own interest in the process (she loves to collect rocks--and her favorite of her collection is a sparkly geode), I decided to see if I could find a faster, more user-friendly method for at-home crystal growing. I was excited, then, to find an experiment using epsom salts in a local parenting magazine the other day. This experiment involved a disposable pie pan, epsom salts, water, and black construction paper. The idea is that you mix the salts and water, pour into the pan, and then leave it out in the sun until the water evaporates. When the water is completely gone voila! you're supposed to find a layer of fine, spiky crystals at the bottom of the pan.
We tried it twice. No crystals. I did some online research and discovered that many people have tried variations of this exact method and also come up with nothing. But I found this website, filled with lots and lots of neat crystal growing experiments, and the kids and I set to work on yet another version. This one involves dissolving 1/2 cup epsom salt into 1/2 cup of hot (not boiling) water, pouring it into a pan, and then refrigerating the solution for up to three hours--or more.
Our crystals after two hours--you can see a nice collection of them to the right of the sponge...pouring the solution over a sponge is supposed to accelerate the process
The kids were so excited by our tentative foray into crystal growing that I'm heading off to the grocery store later this week to buy some bluing, so we can grow our very own salt garden.
Crystal kit...here we come!