How to Grow Aragonite Crystals

These beautiful aragonite crystals are grown straight from a rocks, with just a little help from vinegar.

Grow aragonite crystals from rocks.

We do so many cool projects that never make it onto TinkerLab. I wish you could see the stacks and stacks of photo files that are just waiting to be shared here. I am seriously in need of an assistant (who’s over six years old)!

A little over two years ago we grew a batch of amazing aragonite crystals. Have you heard of these? They are incredible: easy to grow, not expensive, and they offer up a cool lesson in geology and chemistry.

After digging around in our science cabinet the other day, I found the old box of dolomite rocks, which are the base for these aragonite crystals. And there were still about 20 rocks in there, just waiting to grow crystals on them!

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to aragonite crystals…

How to grow easy aragonite crystals

Ingredients for Aragonite Crystals

You will only need two ingredients for this project:

Dolomite Rocks

Distilled White Vinegar

Simple, right? (Honestly, I love simple)

Grow White Aragonite Crystals

Where Can I find Dolomite Rocks?

I found the BEST source for these rocks at Educational Innovations. They’re priced fairly – you can buy 25 rock samples for just $8.95, which is AWESOME if you’re a classroom teacher or interested in gifting these to a bunch of friends as we have. I’m not affiliated with this company, just a happy customer. I’ve done a thorough search and there aren’t a lot of places to find these (easily).

Dolomite rock and aragonite crystal

How to make Aragonite Crystals

I poured the rocks into a bowl and invited each child to pick their favorite one. Flat, tall, fat – sooo many choices!

Once the rock was selected, we placed it in a small glass mason jar. We used 4 oz. mason jars by Bell (affiliate), and I find ALL sorts of uses for these in our art and science projects. We store homemade paint in them, turn them into artistic tea light holders, and use their larger cousins for our new solar lights.

You can put it in any glass or ceramic container. Because I’m hugely in favor of putting kids to work (i.e. empowering them), I then poured the vinegar into a small pitcher and invited the kids to p0ur the vinegar into the jar.

The trick is to pour just enough vinegar into the jar so as not to cover up the top of the rock. Do you see that dry spot in the bottom right picture?

How to grow (EASY) Dolomite Crystals

After five days, our crystals looked like this:

Aragonite Crystals after 5 days

About half of the vinegar had evaporated, some crystals formed along the edges of the jar, and a small mound of crystals were growing on top of our rock.

The crystals are fully formed after about two weeks, once all of the vinegar evaporates. To speed up evaporation, place the jar in a sunny window.

What is aragonite?

The rocks we used for this crystal-growing experience are magnesium-rich dolomite. Dolomite is an evaporative sedimentary rock that’s made up of sediments and minerals. This unique variety of dolomite, found in an ancient lagoon that was surrounded by a coral reef millions of years ago, will grow white aragonite crystals when it’s placed in distilled white vinegar.

Aragonite is carbonate mineral that usually forms in oceans and warm, wet environments such as caves and hot springs. will turn into calcite over time. You can read up on aragonite here.

How to Grow Easy Aragonite Crystals | TinkerLab

How to Grow Aragonite Crystals

Place your rock in a jar. You can wash the sediment off of it first, or place it in the jar as it is.

Pour distilled white vinegar over the rock until the top of the rock barely pokes above the surface of the vinegar.

Place the jar on a shelf where it will be undisturbed but easily observed, preferably a warm, sunny spot that will encourage evaporation.

Small crystals will begin to appear within a day or so.

Observe the dolomite daily to track the progress of your crystals.

Leave the jar undisturbed until ALL the vinegar evaporates and the rock is COMPLETELY DRY, which could take one to two weeks. If you move the jar before this point, the crystals may fall apart. If that happens, just place it back on the shelf and begin again.

Once dry, the dolomite and crystals can be picked up and examined. They will be hard, but a bit fragile.

More Uses for Vinegar

Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiment

How to Make Curds and Whey: A Science Demonstration

Make Natural Dyes for Painting Eggs

Try the Naked Egg Experiment (free activity from the TinkerLab book – affiliate)

STEAM Activities | Teabag Hot Air Balloon

For more ideas that circle around the theme: GROW, I’m joining a creative group of engineers, scientists, educators, and artists to share projects that circle around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) ideas. This week’s theme is GROW, and you can see the other grow-related ideas here:

DIY Crystal Landscapes | Babble Dabble Do

10 Ways to Use Tinker Trays | Meri Cherry

Transforming Ninja Stars | What Do We Do All Day?

14 Activities with Balloons | All For The Boys

Biology of Yogurt | Left Brain Craft Brain

 

STEAM on Pinterest

You might also enjoy following my STEAM + STEM Activities board on Pinterest for more ideas like this.

Join the TinkerLab Community

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to sign up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’s free and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

TinkerLab Newsletter

Mason Jar Solar Lights for Kids

Science for Kids | DIY Solar Night Light

This month I’m blogging about science projects for a series of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) posts with a group of my favorite bloggers. More on that in a moment. But first, I’m excited to share our contribution of Mason Jar Solar Lights for Kids, aka Easy and Affordable Night Lights! 

This week’s theme is harness, and here’s the definition that I’m going with…

Harness Definition | TinkerLab.com

To get this going, my kids and I harnessed the sun’s energy and pulled together these quick, functional, affordable, and earth-friendly mason jar solar lights that my we can carry with us off to bed at night. These lights are all over the internet, and if anyone knows the original source of them, please give a holler! I’m giving ours a unique twist by turning them into night lights with frosted glass, although I’m certainly not the first to do that either.

However, I’m making this kid-friendly and sharing a cool art activity at the end of this post. Are you still with me?

We made two lights: One frosted and one clear. The frosted light was preferred as a night light and the clear glass was a hit as the source of a drawing prompt.

Supplies for Mason Jar Solar Lights

Note: This post includes affiliate links

  • Wide Mouth Mason Jars. These Mason Jars by Ball are awesome.
  • Solar Path lights. I found ours at Osh for $3.99 each. Some lights will not fit in the top of the mason jar, so be sure to test it first.

diy mason jar solar light

Steps for Mason Jar Solar Lights

  1. Take the solar pathlight apart by gently twisting the top off of the base. Remove the paper strip that protects the battery, as directed with the light instructions.
  2. Place the solar panel in the sun for a full day
  3. Fit the solar panel piece in the top of the mason jar. It should fit snuggly.
  4. Use it as a night light, emergency light, or picnic illumination.
  5. Easy, right?!

DIY Frosted Mason Jar Solar Light

We also made a frosted jar. Or I should say that made a frosted jar with etching cream which is not at all kid-friendly. Etching cream is NOT to be used by children and can burn skin. Please be cautious, wear gloves, and carefully follow the instructions on the etching cream jar for safe usage.

frosted mason jar tutorial

Supplies for Frosted Mason Jars

How to Make a 5 Minute Solar Night Light for Kids | Save Money | Help the Environment!

Steps for Frosted Mason Jars

  1. Place your jar on a piece of cardboard or covered table.
  2. With gloves on, thickly coat the outside of your jar.
  3. Leave the etching cream on for at least 60 seconds (per directions on the bottle). After 60 seconds, my glass was only partly etched, so I did it again and left it on for 3 minutes.
  4. Wash the etching cream off.
  5. Clean your brush per usual.
  6. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on your etching cream.

How Solar Lights Work

For the tinkerers, after you twist off the top of the light unit, take a look at the underside and you’ll see a battery pack, wires, LED, and controller board.

On the side that faces up you’ll see solar cells. The solar cells are connected to the battery via a diode. The battery gets charged during the day, and the diode tells the battery current to stop sending a current back to the solar cell at night.

Also inside the unit is a photoresistor, which senses darkness and signals that the LED should turn on when it doesn’t recognize very much light.

Turn this into an Art Activity

Once our awesome and affordable Mason Jar Solar Lights were done, we used them for a fun drawing prompt. Click over here for the full project.

Mason Jar Solar Light Drawing Prompt

Activate Learning with STEAM

If you’ve been a loyal TinkerLab fan (thank you! you mean the world to me.) you’ll know that I’m happiest sharing projects that live at the intersection of disciplines. Too often we’re quick to separate science from writing or math from art, but when we seek out ways to make interdisciplinary connections, learning can be more meaningful and novel discoveries can be made.STEAM Activities | Teabag Hot Air Balloon

In that vein, over the next few weeks I’m joining a creative group of engineers, scientists, educators, and artists to launch a new series called STEAM Power, which celebrates interdisciplinary learning with projects that circle around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) ideas. This week’s theme is REACT, and you can see the other reaction-related ideas here:

Tiny Dancers, Homoplar Motor | Babble Dabble Do

Design Thinking and Building Empathy | Meri Cherry

10 Ways to Play and Learn with Springs | Left Brain Craft Brain

Simple Circuit | What Do We Do All Day?

Rubber Band Car | All For The Boys

Lego-inspired Electric Play Dough | Lemon Lime Adventures

How to Build a Simple Electromagnetic Train  | Frugal Fun for Boys

STEAM on Pinterest

You might also enjoy following my STEAM + STEM Activities board on Pinterest for more ideas like this.

Is this your first time here?

Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about simple art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter.

TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Easy Mason Jar Solar Light | Save Money! | Make it in 5 Minutes

Kids Science: Flying Tea Bag Hot Air Balloon

My kids are fascinated by things that fly, and today I’m sharing the flying tea bag hot air balloon, a fun hands-on flying activity as part of a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) series. More on that in a second…

 

Flying tea bag hotair balloon experiment| Kid Science

Flying Tea Bag Experiment

This is a quick activity that only requires a fire-safe area and a few supplies you most likely have at home. My husband laughed after he saw the video of this activity (below) because he thought our space was most definitely NOT fire-proof. I disagree, of course, but I will leave it to you to find a safe space for this!

Because there’s some trial and error involved in this activity, it can encourage children to test theories and think like a scientist. See the Next Steps section below for ideas on how to extend this activity.

Flying Tea Bag Supplies

  • Tea bag (traditional style)
  • Scissors
  • Dish: Glass or Ceramic
  • Cup
  • Matches or Lighter

A Note on Safety

  • Be sure that children are supervised by adults.
  • Conduct this activity in a fire-safe area. We don’t want anyone setting their house on fire!

Flying teabag hot air balloon set up | Kid Science

Flying Tea Bag Steps

  • Cut the tea bag open.
  • Pour the contents into a cup and save for later.
  • Open the tea bag up and form it into a cylinder.
  • Stand the teabag up on the dish.

Science for kids | The simple flying tea bag exploration with materials you probably already have at home

 

 Activate the Flying Tea Bag

  • Light the top of the cylinder
  • Step back and watch it fly!

Watch our Video to see it in action:

Be sure to follow my YouTube channel to be the first to see more videos like this.

What’s happening?

As you probably know, heat rises! Hot air balloons work at lifting a balloon off the ground by making the air inside the balloon hotter, and ultimately less dense, than the air outside. Similarly, this tea bag flying machine lifts off once the fire burns the tea bag into lightweight ash. The rising hot air current lifts what’s left of the bag and blows it into the air.

Next Steps: Full STEAM Ahead

  • Ask: What do you think will happen if we light the tea bag on fire?
  • Ask: What could have caused the tea bag to lift off the plate?
  • Ask: What is it about the tea bag that makes it lift off the ground?
  • If it doesn’t work the first time, ask, “what could we try differently?” We initially tested this with a similar technique where we twisted the top of the tea bag. It didn’t work! And my 4-year old found it hilarious.
  • Ask: Do you think this would work with a different kind of paper?
  • Gather a collection of paper, form them into cylinders, and see if you can make them fly. Some ideas: Newspaper, copy paper, toilet paper. You’ll probably realize that lighter weight paper works best. Why is that?

More Flying Activities

How to Make a Paper Airplane

DIY Straw Rockets

Exploding Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

DIY Spin Art Machine (we used the flying mechanism from Snap Circuits for this spin art activity)

Activate Learning with STEAM

If you’ve been a loyal TinkerLab fan (thank you! you mean the world to me.) you’ll know that I’m happiest sharing projects that live at the intersection of disciplines. Too often we’re quick to separate science from writing or math from art, but when we seek out ways to make interdisciplinary connections, learning can be more meaningful and novel discoveries can be made.STEAM Activities | Teabag Hot Air Balloon

In that vein, over the next few weeks I’m joining a creative group of engineers, scientists, educators, and artists to launch a new series called STEAM Power, which celebrates interdisciplinary learning with projects that circle around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) ideas. This week’s theme is FLY, and you can see the other fly-related ideas here:

Dancing Balloons | Babble Dabble Do

Parachutes | Meri Cherry

Whirly Twirly Flying Birds | Left Brain Craft Brain

Indoor Boomerang | What Do We Do All Day?

Paper airplane | All For The Boys

Rockets | Lemon Lime Adventures

M&M’s Tube Rockets  | Frugal Fun for Boys

STEAM on Pinterest

You might also enjoy following my STEAM + STEM Activities board on Pinterest for more ideas like this.

Easy Stop Motion Animation for Beginners

While my girls have been in a little bit of camp this summer, it’s mainly been Camp Mom for our family: local adventures, crafts, and lots and lots of unstructured play. We’re lucky to have some great neighbors with kids, and our girls have been lost in imaginative play that expands beyond the reach of anything I could possibly fabricate for them.

However, we’ve had a few mornings filled with creative projects and this stop motion animation project is a winner. 

If you’re looking for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) project, this is for YOU!

Stop Motion Animation, explained

For the uninitiated, stop motion animation is a film making technique that makes inanimate objects appear to move on their own. Think Gumby or Wallace and Gromit.

To make it work, you place an object in front of a camera and snap a photo. You then move the object a tiny bit and snap another photo. Repeat this process twenty to ten thousand times, play back the sequence in rapid progression, and the object appears to move fluidly across the screen.

This Stop Motion Animation project is so easy to set up, and a great way to encourage STEAM concepts with children.

While my older daughter, age six, really flew with this project, her little sister who’s just two months shy of four also got in on the stop motion animation action. I’ll share their finished projects in just a moment. But first, let me show you just how simple this set up can be. Take this as a starting point and feel free to add your own flourishes.

Supplies for Stop Motion Animation

This list contains affiliate links for your convenience

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

The Stop Motion Animation Set Up

As you can see, there’s nothing too fancy about the set up. While you could certainly add some elaborate lighting, we set this up by a window to keep it simple. I added the trash can behind the piece of foam core to keep it from falling over during filming. I know, super glamourous, right? Any heavy object should do the trick.

Collect characters and objects for Stop Motion Animation Project | TinkerLab.com

The kids had fun sorting through what we call the Character Basket for their just-right objects. My six-year old was up first, and my little one took it as an opportunity to play with cars and mini sheep while she waited her turn.

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

Using the stop motion app was really easy and intuitive. I did a demo run to show the kids how it worked, and then my six-year old took over and worked on her video for a solid half hour. When she was done, her little sister took over. I was surprised at how easy it was for her too.

My kids’ Animations

From three-year old R…

From six-year old N…

Some Benefits of Stop Motion Animation

  • Offers children ownership and autonomy in the film making process
  • Teaches children how stop motion animation works
  • Debunks the mechanics of how movie-making happens
  • The creative constraint of the medium encourages problem solving
  • It’s a simple, hands-on technology that young children can achieve
  • Encourages children to project and plan out where a story is heading
  • Fosters iteration and experimentation through trying and testing
  • Supports storytelling

So, are you ready to give it a try?

If you upload your animation somewhere, leave a link in your comment. I’d love to check it out!

This Stop Motion Animation project is so easy to set up, and a great way to encourage STEAM concepts with kids | TinkerLab.com

More Stop Motion Resources

How to make a Stop Motion Animation, YouTube. This is a great little video, and it sounds like it was made by KIDS! Yay.

You can’t really beat the classic stop motion animation of Gumby! Gumby on the Moon, YouTube. This would be an inspiring thing to show a child as an intro to stop motion animation.

Best Stop Motion Videos from Short of the Week. Lots of good inspiration here.

How to make things fly in Stop Motion Animation, using PhotoShop: YouTube. This is for the super-advanced students, and worth checking out if you’re curious about how these things work.

What do you think?

We’re just getting started with this and have only tested a couple stop motion apps. Do you have a go-to app for stop motion, or a favorite resource?

 

Fun Science Experiments: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

My kids love fun science experiments. While cooking breakfast the other day, my three-year old asked about making concoctions with the breakfast supplies. While I’m all for mixing up ingredients with kids, I wasn’t prepared to have a lot of good food go to waste.

So we set up a classic concoction center with some baking soda and vinegar. So much fun!

Supplies: Fun Kitchen Science Experiment

I’ve included some Amazon affiliate links for your convenience

  • Vinegar – I like this big jug for the convenience of having lots of vinegar on hand for more experiments
  • Baking Soda
  • Tray
  • Small pitcher
  • Spoon/s
  • Bowl/s
  • Food coloring (optional)

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

Steps: Set up a Concoction Experiment

  1. Set up a tray or deep tub and fill it with a handful of small bowls.
  2. Fill a bowl with baking soda and a small spoon
  3. Fill a small pitcher with vinegar
  4. Offer this invitation to your little scientist

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

After some fizzy exploration, my daughter wanted to see what would happen if we added some salt, so we brought salt over.  In the past we’ve also added flour, baking powder, and a variety of vinegars. At this point, you could also introduce some food coloring for extra-colorful fun.

More Fun Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiments

When my older daughter was three years old, we did this same science experiment with a slightly different set-up. Hop over here to the fun Baking Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment.

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

This project, like so many others that you’ll find on TinkerLab, is process-based and it’s part of the CREATIVE TABLE PROJECT. 

These projects are set up as Creative Invitations, meaning that the materials are laid out in an inviting way where the child is invited to interpret and use them however he or she likes. With creative invitations like this, I’ll sometimes give my kids a little prompt, but usually I sit back and see what they come up with…and I’m often surprised by their ingenuity.

One of my favorite things about Creative Table projects is that they’re simple. Set up takes minutes and the child determines the outcome through a process of discovery and exploration. There’s no expected outcome, which frees the parent or teacher up to relax and enjoy the process.

Around here, these creative set-ups are part of the Creative Table series, and you can find more of these ideas here.

Creative Table Project | Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you enjoyed this activity, be sure to check out our new book, TinkerLab: A Handbook for Little Inventors (affiliate link). You might also enjoy these creative invitations:

Creative Table Highlights via Instagram

Creative Table: Tape and Paper Bags

Creative Table: Paint and Looping Lines

Creative Table: Doilies and Scissors

Creative Table: Leaves and Glue

Creative Table: Stickers and Frames