Posts Tagged ‘grow’

Growing Crystals

September 20, 2009


Patience is tough for kids, especially in today’s world of instant gratification.  In this experiment, your kids will put a string in some colored salt water and watch and wait for crystals to grow.  The crystals aren’t huge and spectacular, but your child can see them and a magnifying glass makes them easier to inspect.

All you’ll need is a clear container or containers, water, salt, food coloring and string.  We used both kitchen twine and jute twine to see what would happen.  The kitchen twine is white and worked well, but the jute twine didnt’ work at all.  

First, have your child put a few drops of food coloring in the container(s) that you are using.  Then, have them cut a piece of string about six inches long.  It doesn’t have to be exact.  Help your child tie a knot or two at each end of the string.


Boil some water (a cup or two) and, when it is boiling, start adding salt to the water.  Add a tablespoon at a time, stirring the mixture to dissolve the salt.   Do this until no more salt will dissolve (you’ll see salt and it won’t go away no matter how much or how long you stir.)  At this point, you can let the mixture cool a little so it’s not dangerously hot.


When cool, pour an eighth cup or so of the salt solution you’ve made into the container(s) containing food coloring.  Let your child mix it and then have them place one end of the string into the colored salt solution.  They may have to swish it around to get it to soak up the salt water since the string will want to float.   Leave the other end of the string hanging over the edge of the container.IMG_3309

As the water evaporates, the salt that the string has absorbed will remain in the fibers on the string and form new, larger crystals on the string.  Have your child check the string every day and, if they want to, record the results in their lab notebooks.  It may take several days before the water evaporates and the salt crystals form – it took ours five days to evaporate.  Try not to let the end of the string that hangs over the edge of the jar or glass touch the counter, or the salt water will be wicked onto the countertop.  As I said before, a magnifying glass is a fantastic way to look at the crystals that form on the string.  Ask your child what shape the crystal are-cubes, spikes?  What do they see?  If they’re interested, have them draw the crystals and record their observations. 

There are great books on crystals and gems at the library.  Check them out!

Window Sprouts

April 30, 2009


When I was growing up, we always had a vegetable garden.  My mom grew up on a farm and was appalled when my sister or I would throw a fit upon finding a tiny bug in our lovely, homegrown lettuce salad.  “Where do you think the lettuce came from?” she would ask, and we’d have to admit that it grew in dirt, outside, and that there are bugs out there.  It was an invaluable lesson and one I hope I can pass along to my kids.  Our world has become too sterile and disconnected from nature.  Like plants, we need dirt, sunshine, fresh air and clean water to survive.  Who cares about a few bugs?

 Today, I thought we’d get a jump on the gardening season by starting a few bean and pea sprouts in plastic bags.  It’s a perfect project for my three year old.  She’ll love to check them every day to see what’s happening, and when it’s warmer, we can transplant them to the garden!  I’m sure my older kids will plant sprouts of their own when they see their sister’s!

You’ll need a few plastic zip-lock bags, dry beans from your pantry (or peas and beans from the garden seed packs you can find almost anywhere ), paper towels and water.  Cut a paper towel so that you can fold it a few times and it will fit into the zip-lock baggie.  Have your child soak it with water and help them put it into the bag so that it’s relatively flat.  Then, give them two beans or seeds to place in the bag, near the bottom.  I had to stuff a little piece of paper towel into the bottom of the bags so that the seeds wouldn’t sit in the extra water at the bottom.  Let your child help seal the bag.  Leave an opening near the top so the plants can get some air.  Finally, tape the bag in a window with the beans facing you so that your child can watch them as they grow.  (I’d recommend finding a window where they won’t get blasted by hot sun all day, or they might fry.)


As you do the project, ask your child what they think plants need to grow  (Plants need light, air, water and nutrients, or “food.”)  Ask them how they think the seed can grow without the dirt as “food.”  Tell them that when a plant first sprouts, it gets its nutrients from the seed itself.  They can watch the seed shrink as the plant grows.  Have them draw the seed/plant in their science notebook as it changes.  Older kids can measure the plants as they grow.  Eventually, you should be able to transplant them to a cup with dirt, or directly into a garden.  You may have to add water to the paper towels if they dry out.  Play it by ear. 


Go ahead!  Plant a garden this spring, even a very tiny one in pots!  Let your kids get their hands in the dirt.  Help them nurture plants that will eventually nurture them. (Children are much more interested in tasting vegetables that they’ve grown themselves. ) It is one of the most rewarding activities you can do with your children, and takes only dirt, seeds and water!  Find your inner farmer and let your children find theirs- organic food is cheap when you grow it yourself!