DIY Salt Crystal Tree

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Create your own salt crystal tree in this at-home, kid-friendly DIY activity! As always, adult supervision required.

DIY Salt Crystal Tree

School may be out, but Spark Club is still in session!

A four-week program designed specifically for students ages 8–12, Spark Club participants tackle advanced STEAM activities in an engaging, inclusive environment. From costume design to 3D printing to molecular gastronomy, our monthly Spark Clubs rotate through different program areas in the museum. There’s always something new and fun each month!

Want a sneak peek into Spark Club? Take a look at this experiment from our May series, Chemical Craze. In Chemical Craze, participants explored chemistry through various experiments. They made this super cool salt crystal tree that you can recreate at home with adult supervision.

To recreate this experiment at home, you’ll need the following ingredients:

– 1 tablespoon Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing
– 1 tablespoon water
– 1 tablespoon table salt
– ½ tablespoon household ammonia (optional)
– Cardboard cut-out in tree shape that can stand up by itself
– Bowl
– Food coloring

Then, follow these step-by-step instructions:

– Put 1–2 drops of food coloring on the branches of your cardboard tree.
– Put the following together in a small bowl.
✓ 1 tablespoon water
✓ 1 tablespoon salt
✓ 1 tablespoon bluing
✓ ½ tablespoon household ammonia (optional)
– Put the bowl in a place where your tree will not be disturbed for a few days.
– Place the cardboard tree into the bowl with the solution.

So, what is happening here? The solution of water, salt, bluing and household ammonia moves up the cardboard “tree” thanks to capillary action. When a liquid flows in narrow spaces without gravity’s assistance—or even in the opposite direction of gravity—we call it capillary action. This is how trees get water from their roots. Over time, the water evaporates from the cardboard “tree” leaving the salt behind to crystalize. Ammonia advances the evaporation process, which subsequently speeds up the crystallization process. Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing contains small particles that are suspended in water—these particles make forming salt crystals much easier.

Interested in an upcoming Spark Club series? Register for one of our summertime Spark Club sessions! This June, explore the far-out fundamentals of design in Groovy Graphics. Dig deep into the ecosystem of a garden this July in What Makes Your Garden Grow? Combine food, chemistry and art in our August Spark Club, Food Fab Lab.

Come tinker, experiment and explore in Spark Club!

Disclaimer: Experiments at Thinkery are supervised by Thinkers. When recreating a Thinkery experiment at home, children should be supervised and supported by a parent or guardian.

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