Science for Kids: DIY Crystal Landscapes is the fifth and final project in our collaborative series STEAM POWER: Empowering Kids to Explore The World Through Creative Projects. Today’s topic is GROW and I couldn’t help but want to revisit growing crystals. I’ve been kind of hooked on crystals ever since we did this project well over a year ago.
STEAM POWER: Empowering kids to explore the world through creative projects.
DIY Crystal Landscapes are a relatively involved project so all you short attention span crystal enthusiasts might want to start with Overnight Crystal Gardens…But of you have a few days patience, salt and bluing crystals are pretty dazzling to watch! We have done this experiment many times before and the one thing I love about it is that it’s a very forgiving process. I have seen many many variations to growing bluing and salt crystals online and tried different methods myself and they always yielded a result, some better than others but definitely you will see some crystal grow!
Our crystal landscapes are a modified version of the classic project found on Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing website. We “supersized” the project to create a large “landscape” and used liquid watercolors in lieu of food coloring, which made the crystals particularly colorful!
NOTE: These are probably the most delicate crystals you can grow. They look like cauliflower and are so soft that the slightest touch can crumble them. I recommend picking a suitable spot in your home to grow them where they can be observed but not disturbed much by movement.
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DIY Crystal Landscapes
- (2) Bottles of Bluing
- Large tray or cookie sheet with sides
- Measuring cup
- Liquid Watercolors
- Eye Droppers
Before you start: The great thing about the recipe is that you add all main ingredients (salt, water, bluing, and ammonia) in equal amounts. If you want to make a smaller version of the project simply downsize using a 1:1 ratio. Be sure to watch our video to see the process in action.
Note: This is how we did the project and in what order but is by no means the only way to go about this project. You can look up bluing crystals for a host of variations on the basic recipe.
- Step One Cut your sponges into chucks and spread them around your tray.
- Step Two Measure out 1 cup of each of the following: Salt, Water, Bluing
- Step Three Sprinkle each of the ingredients over the sponges. We did item this order: ½ salt, ½ water, all the bluing, ½ salt, ½ water. Some recipes like this call for mixing the ingredients first before pouring over the substrate.
- Step Four Add 1 cup of ammonia. Sprinkle an additional cup of salt on the sponges.
You should see some crystals growing! The next steps will crumble some of the crystals but it’s okay, more will grow in their place!
- Step Five Sprinkle 1 cup of each of the following onto your garden: salt, bluing, water. When possible, pour the next batch of ingredients into the pan rather than directly on top of the crystals. With the landscape set-up however we ended up pouring a fair amount of liquid on our sponges/crystals in order to saturate everything.
- Step Six Using an eyedropper drop a tablespoon of each color of undiluted liquid watercolors on the sponges/crystals.
Observe again, the crystals should be larger and less vibrant as the watercolors dissipate. If you want to keep your landscape growing add small amount of water, bluing and salt.
- Allow for plenty of air circulation to foster the crystal growth.
- Don’t do this outside unless you have unusually warm nights. We tried growing them outside but the cool nighttime air took a toll on the crystals. I recommend a nice warm spot in your home.
- Ammonia is not necessary but speeds up the evaporation and crystal growth. You can purchase it at your local hardware store with the cleaning supplies. It smells awful just so you know, but the smell quickly dissipates! I have to say it brought memories of blueprints back to me….If you choose to add ammonia an adult should supervise.
- Make sure the sides of your tray are high enough to contain the liquid! We learned the hard way when our bluing started overflowing onto the table!
Al Stewart. All Stewart was traveling salesman who in the late 1800s carried around a bottle of his homemade bluing; it had an image of his mother-in-law on it which is why it’s named Mrs. Stewarts. Bluing is used to make white fabrics whiter. In 1883 Mr. Stewart sold his recipe for bluing and the buyer, Luther Ford, began manufacturing it. It was widely used in doing household laundry before modern laundry products contained additives to accomplish the same thing. The amazing thing about bluing is that it is non-toxic.
Ready for more projects that explore growth with kids?
Hop over and see these posts:
Tinker Trays – Meri Cherry
The Biology of Yogurt – Left Brain Craft Brain
How To Grow Aragonite Crystals – Tinkerlab
Transforming Ninja Stars – What Do We Do All Day
14 Activities with Balloons – All for the Boys
Engineering with Jelly Beans – Lemon Lime Adventures
Crystal Landscapes is featured in the new STEAM Kids Book.
For more awesome STEAM ideas to try with your family check it out HERE!