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Family STEAM Challenge: Salty Snow

Don’t be SALTY about the turning seasons! Turn some salt into a beautiful work of art, all while learning about some cool molecular action!

The Topic:

Exploring and observing the science behind salt absorption and the stickiness of glue!

The Mission:

Use your scientific and detective skills to figure out why the paint doesn’t spread to the paper and why the salt doesn’t fall off of the paper. 

The Challenge: 

How much paint can you put on the salt before it runs hits the paper? How much salt can you put on the glue before it falls off of the paper?

Materials you could use (but are not limited to): 

  • Paper (cardstock works best)
  • Glue
  • Salt
  • Water (in a cup)
  • Food coloring 
  • Paint brush

Making the Snowflake: 

This challenge is very open-ended as it can be applied whenever and wherever the materials are available! To start this experiment, you must draw a snowflake onto the paper using the glue. (For younger kids, an adult may want to make an outline for them to follow with a pencil.)

Second, you dump salt onto the glue so that the entire snowflake is covered. Shake the paper so that the salt gets to all edges of the glue snowflake.

Once it is completely covered, dump any salt that didn’t stick into the trash. (You can also dump it into a bowl or tub to reuse it for another snowflake!)

Let the glue and salt dry for a little while.

Now that the salt is stuck to the glue, put a few drops of your food coloring into a glass of water and stir it up.

Get your paint brush very wet and drip water onto the salt. Be sure not to brush too hard and move the glue or pull the salt off of the glue.

Watch as the water moves around the snowflake by itself and is absorbed by the salt!

Paint the whole snowflake and you’ll have a 3D, unique, textured art piece!

Questions to mull over: 

  • Can you mix colors?
  • Is there a point where the salt cannot absorb any more water?
  • Could you do it on another material besides paper and then pull it off as a hanging decoration?
  • What happens if you use sugar? Does it absorb as well?

Thank you to Sarah McInnis with the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire for making this STEAM challenge possible.

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