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HANDS-ON SCIENCE AT HOME: Kitchen Crystals

May 2018

Try this at home

Crystals are simply amazing! They are colourful, come in all shapes and sizes and seem to capture our imagination like great works of art. Fortunately, you don’t need to go any further than your kitchen to both FIND and MAKE crystals!

What are crystals?
Most people when hearing about crystals will immediately picture some glass-like object which is spiky, sparkly and a little strange. Although many crystals do fit this description, people would be surprised to discover crystals are in fact all around us. From table salt to eggshells, crystals are a daily occurrence in all our lives.

Crystals are a special type of solid material, where the parts that make up the crystal (ie. atoms and molecules) are packed in regular, repeating patterns. It’s these repeating patterns that are responsible for giving crystals their unique shape that we have come to know (and LOVE!) them by.

So let’s get started with growing your own crystal at home!

A Crystal Wonderland in a Glass
You will need
• Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
• A glass dish (preferably wide and low)
• Tablespoon
• Mixing bowl
• Warm water

What to do to start growing your crystal at home
Pour half a cup of warm water in a mixing bowl. The warmer the water, the easier it will be to dissolve the Epsom salt.

Please be careful when working with hot water and always have an adult supervising!

Create a supersaturated solution:
Add the Epsom salt gradually to the warm water, stirring the mixture. As you stir you’ll notice the Epsom salt will dissolve. Continue to add Epsom salt until no more will dissolve in the mixture. This is called a supersaturated solution. At this point, the solution will be slightly thick.

For fun add a drop of food colouring to make your crystal a pretty colour. Pour this solution into your glass dish and store it in a warm, dry place where it will not be disturbed.

Watch your crystal experiment develop
Crystals will slowly begin to form as the water evaporates. Within 3 days all the water would have evaporated and you will be left with beautiful crystals!

Something interesting to experiment with
Try growing your crystals in two additional spaces, a warmer and a cooler storage space such as the fridge and in the sun. This will change how quickly the crystals grow.

Ask your child: Do you get larger crystals if they grow quickly or slowly?