Does anyone remember tinkering with the Magic Garden Crystal Growing Kit when they were growing up? I thought they were so cool. We recently received one from HappiKiddo and I was really excited to share it with the boys…
Magic Garden Kits are not only fun but they make an awesome science experiment you can do at home as well. Here are some of the concepts you can talk about with the kids as the experiment is running:
- Saturated solutions
- Crystal growth
- Solvent and solutes
- Capillary action
Ask questions and discuss the answers for a more authentic learning experience:
- how do you think this works?
- what’s happening when you add the solution to the tray?
- how are the crystals forming?
- what happens if we mix the solutions?
- where do the colours come from?
How Does It Work?
The kit comes with a tray, some paper cutouts made from blotting paper that form the landscape, and special crystal growing solution. This part is a bit fiddly so the kids might need an adult to help with the setting up. After setting up the landscape, you need to pour the liquid onto the tray. There are solutions for the mountain, the trees and the grass.
The liquid will be drawn up into the blotting paper through a physical phenomenon called capillary action, or capillarity.
This is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to external forces like gravity. It occurs for several reasons, namely cohesion (the tendency of molecules of a substance to stick together – water is very cohesive which is why it sticks together in puddles) and adhesion (the tendency of some substances to be drawn to unlike substances – which is how a tree draws liquid up to its top branches).
The liquid that we pour onto the tray is a saturated crystal solution.
A saturated solution is one where no more solvent can be dissolved into it. For instance, to make a saturated salt solution, you would continue to add table salt into water until you cannot dissolve any more salt into the solution.
The crystal solution is drawn up through the blotting paper through capillary action where it evaporates at the extremities of the paper. The greater surface at the extremities results in a higher evaporation rate of the solvent. As the liquid evaporates, it leaves behind the crystal solute formations that make up the tree leaves, flowers and mountain snow.
How do we get the different colours?
Water soluble dyes at the tips of the blotting paper add colour to the crystals to create a fantastic colourful effect.
Note to Parents
The Magic Crystal Garden is very fragile and falls apart very easily. Knocking the table that it is on can cause the crystals to fall off or to topple the trees. A curious younger child blowing on the crystals will also send them flying. The recommendation is to place the garden where you intend for it to remain until you are done with it.
Rinse and Repeat
The good news is that the garden is reusable so once it has finished growing, you can turn the shapes upside-down, brush the crystals back into the dish, add water and away you go again. The crystal flowers will not be as large the second time around and colours will be different because the dyes remain mixed in with the crystal solution. So even if your garden collapses, you can let you child know that it is not the end of the world.
Watch the Timelapse Video
Want to see how it works? Check out the timelapse video as the garden is growing:
DIY Crystal Garden
You can also make your own Magic Crystal Garden by following the instructions from Instructables – but you need to be able to get your hands on bluing agent, which is not easy to find.
See also: More Science Kits from HappiKiddo
More Crystal Experiment Kits:
- Smithsonian Crystal Growing Kit
- National Geographic: Earth Science – Crystals, Rocks and Minerals
- The Magic School Bus Chemistry Lab
- Scientific Explorer: The Ultimate Crystal Growing Kit
- Thames and Kosmos Crystal Growing
- 4M Crystal Growing Experimental Kit