Kids love learning how to grow crystals. Oh who am I kidding, adults do too! There really is something magical about growing your own “geodes” and watching them develop over time. In this post we’ll show you the easiest crystals to grow along with 20 variations and other types of DIY crystals using a variety of materials.
Before we get started, let’s talk a little bit about the science of crystal growing and how to grow crystals easily at home or in the classroom.
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What are crystals?
Crystals are a type of solid material that is formed by patterns of repeating molecules. Crystals have flat surfaces and facets.
Crystals form when a supersaturated liquid solution cools and the water (the solvent) evaporates, leaving behind a solute (a substance dissolved in another substance) whose molecules re-form into new geometric shapes i.e. crystals.
What is a supersaturated solution? When a mineral like salt is dissolved in water, the water can only hold certain amount of the solute. When the maximum amount of solute is dissolved in the solvent it is said to be saturated. It is said to be supersaturated when the solution contains more solute than the solvent can actually dissolve. Fun Fact: Hot liquids can hold more solute than cold liquids.
Why do we put something in the supersaturated solution besides the solute and solvent? Impurities in a solution are where the crystal nucleation process starts. Pipe cleaners, pebbles, a sponge, seed crystals, these are places for the new crystals to begin forming.
How do you grow crystals at home?
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about crystals is that you need specialty ingredients or kits to be able to grow crystals at home. In fact three of the most well-known ways to grow crystals use easy to find household ingredients: Sugar, Borax, and Epsom Salt.
For most crystal projects the process is the same: You will mix up a supersaturated solution of water and a solute like salt or sugar, and then suspend something in that solution on which the crystals can form.
Below we’ll share links to different crystal recipes. Besides the individual ingredients for each recipe you will need the following for most crystal growing projects at home or in the classroom:
- Space: Because crystals often need 1-4 days to grow, you will need an area where they can sit undisturbed by children or pets for several days.
- A warm, dry environment: Not all, but many crystals grow faster when they are in a warm, dry location that encourages evaporation, a critical process in crystal growth.
- Extra Jars: Crystal growing can be tricky so plan to make more batches than you need. I always gather up additional jars and grow as many batches as I can at a time. That way if some of the crystals don’t grow you have back-ups!
What are the easiest crystals to grow?
TOP PICK: BORAX CRYSTALS
I always recommend growing Borax crystals first because they are fairly foolproof. The process is to add Borax to hot water, stir until dissolved, and then suspend something in the solution for the crystals to form on. Easy peasy!
Having done this at home and in the classroom we’ve learned that the one mistake to avoid is not letting the Borax fully dissolve in the water. The best and biggest crystals grow when the Borax is completely dissolved. And the hotter the water the easier it is for the Borax to dissolve.
How to Grow Borax Crystals
- Mason Jars
- Hot Water
- Pipe cleaners, pom poms, small fake flowers
- Craft sticks /dowels/pencil
Time needed: 1 day.
- Warm the water
(Adults only) Boil water on the stove. Let cool to warm but not scalding.
- Combine ingredients in jar
The basic ratio is 1 part Borax to 4 parts water. For a standard sized jar, pour 2 cups of the hot water into the jar, then add 1/2 cup of Borax.
Stir the solution until the Borax is completely dissolved. The biggest crystals form when the Borax is fully dissolved.
- Add a pipe cleaner
Shape a pipe cleaner or two as desired and then hang them from a craft stick/dowel/pencil. Place the pipe cleaner into the solution with the craft stick spanning across the top of the jar. Other items that are great for crystal growing are pom poms and small fake flowers. How glue a few to your piper cleaner!
Go do something else for 12-24 hours. When you come back you will find lovely crystals growing on the pipe cleaners!
- Drain and display
After a 24-48 hours your crystals should be fully formed. Removed from the jar and drain the water.
Borax Crystal Tips
- Use glass containers. The hot water may make plastic jars deform or melt.
- Make sure your pipe cleaner creation does not touch the sides or bottom of the jar. If it does it may stick to crystals growing on the jar bottom or side.
- If any of your strands do fuse together, gently pull them apart. Borax crystals are pretty hearty.
- To remove any crystals that may have grown on the sides of your jar simply fill the jar with hot water and let the Borax dissolve.
2ND PICK: EPSOM SALT CRYSTALS
Epsom salt crystals grow quickly. Unlike most other crystals they grow best in a cool environment like your refrigerator! Another interesting thing about Epsom Salt crystals is that they can be teeny icy looking slivers or rock-like, each batch is unique. Go here for full instructions for Epsom Salt Crystals.
More Crystals to Try
Now that you’ve seen the two easiest crystals to grow you will want to try more! Here are some other popular types of crystals to try including bluing crystals, sugar crystals, and alum crystals.
I hope you enjoyed leaning how to grow crystals easily at home! For more Science Fair Project ideas be sure to check out this post:
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