Salt Crystal Experiment


What to do on a cold, rainy day? Science experiments!

My little lady LOVES crystals, and anything to do with magic and fairies. So when I asked her if she’d like to grow some crystals she became very excited and went to get her brother for support!

Materials:

Two small cups
String (we used embroidery floss – about six inches)
Salt
Water
Screws (or nails – something to weigh down the ends of the string in the water)
Something to mix with
TOWELS, for life’s unexpected happenings.
One or two willing scientists!

This experiment is great for the younger crowd because accurate measurements aren’t necessary.

Before you get started it might be fun to taste the water and the salt and talk about how the water tastes before the salt is mixed in (well it doesn’t taste salty!), what it looks like (i.e. clear, you can see through it), and maybe do a practice stir in the plain water and talk about how easy it is to move the spoon or whisk through the water at this point. You can also take a close look at the string – is it soft or hard? Does it taste like anything? Etc.

It is time to begin the experiment. First pour the salt into the cups:

You don’t need TOO much salt – I tried to reign in my eager scientists when the salt reached about a half inch in depth.

Next, pour the water:

Again, try to stop the water from filling the cup. About half full is good.

Mix the salt and water to make a SOLUTION.

Query: What is a SOLUTION? A solution is
a.
the process by which a gas, liquid, or solid is dispersed homogeneously in a gas, liquid, or solid without chemical change.
b.
such a substance, as dissolved sugar or salt in solution.
c.
a homogeneous, molecular mixture of two or more substances.

Its easier for kids to understand that the salt disappears in the water but doesn’t go away. This is a good time to revisit the earlier observations of the water and salt before they were combined and discuss what’s changed. (Ex: the water is no longer clear, but cloudy, it tastes salty, its possibly more difficult to stir, it might smell bad, etc.)

NEXT: tie each end of the string (oh, and you only need about six inches of string – I had way too much) around your chosen weight (in my case it was screws) and drop one end into each cup so they’re connected.

Now that you have two cups of salt water connected by a string bridge it’s interesting to ponder what might happen. Also known as forming the hypothesis.

Young scientists might have trouble forming a hypothesis at the beginning of an experiment, or understanding what hypothesis means. Sometimes the picture becomes more clear once everything is set up and the concept of hypothesis is easier to explain after its happened.
Some possibilities to guide your scientists to consider are, do they think the string will absorb the water? What about the salt? What does evaporation mean? Will salt evaporate or just the water? And so on. Also take a minute to sit and watch the string. Is anything happening? No? Hmmm… Maybe tomorrow, then. Find an out of the way spot to put your experiment and check back 12-24hrs later.

And here’s what you can expect to happen after about 24 hours – salt crystals are beginning to form along the string where it laps over the edge of the cup. Given enough time and water and salt, there might begin to form in the center of the string salt stalagmites and stalactites. We did not pursue those formations in this experiment. Instead we were satisfied to see the salt was carried up the string by the water and then left behind when the water evaporated. Other things to notice at this point, the string is now stiff and crunchy, not soft and bendy as in the beginning. If kids are curious as to what the crystals are, suggest they give them a little lick. It will become obvious quickly that it is indeed salt!

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Jello Playdough


Store bought playdough is so boring compared to what you can do at home! Homemade playdough can be scented, texturized, and in other ways personalized. Not to mention the bonding experience!

Ingredients
1 Cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
1 three ounce package of jello – flavor of your choice. *Note, the flavor you choose will be the scent of your playdough. In our case we used lemon, so the final result is lemon scented and yellow.

Combine ingredients.
Couldn’t be simpler. Get a big mixing bowl and start measuring, scooping, dumping, and pouring.

The young lady in the photo is almost five and is able to do most of this with only minimal assistance. We couldn’t fit our tablespoon into the cream of tartar container, so i filled the spoon for her to dump, and I poured the oil – that’s a mess you don’t want to have to clean up, ever!

Homemade playdough is also fun as they can taste test the ingredients. Don’t let them scoop a big bunch of salt into their mouths – they might throw up. More of a reaction than you’re probably looking for. Its interesting to taste jello before its turned into its more recognizable jiggly form.

If you’re doing this with a smaller someone, I suggest premeasuring ingredients so the ingredients are ready to be dumped into the big bowl. Also, be ready to help guide younger hands so the ingredients don’t get dumped before reaching the mixing bowl!

Cooking – this is a mommy job, not a kid job.
Pour into a saucepan. I prefer a teflon coated saucepan to reduce sticking.

*This scalds easily, so use a medium (not high) heat.
Stir continuously. It will gradually begin to thicken, first becoming thicker, then lumpy, then clumpy, then just one big ball!

Work it!
Once the dough begins to clump don’t let it remain over the heat. Dump the hot ball of dough into something where it can sit, away from little fingers, for a minute to cool. This doesn’t take very long. When it is cool enough to touch, put some flour down and dump the dough ball out and start to knead! Do this for a couple of minutes, taking turns (mom/kid/mom/kid) to ensure the elasticity is built up properly.

Additions
If you want to alter the color, or enhance the color, add some food coloring. Glitter is a grrls best friend, so don’t hold back!
Craft stores sell a fine, brightly colored craft sand that adds nice texture, and using a contrasting color can really make the playdough fun. Pretty much the skies the limit when it comes to add-ins, just beware organic add-ins can mold!

Victory!
There we have it folks. Let it cool completely before storing. Makes an awesome gift, especially if you include the recipe!