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These trees are often included in science kits as a cheap add on to give the impression of more experiments.
You can buy them on their own, like this very reasonably at only £2.13 including postage. Of all the crystal trees we have grown , from several different science kits, this is by far the best. It grows quite quickly with very large colourful clusters of crystal.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Not very much really. A paper cut out tree, a plastic stand and a bit of fluid. And in case you wondering if you can use your own paper shape instead of the tree - grow a dinosaur, a flower, a fish or Angry Bird - the answer is no. The paper is specially treated to react with the liquid. More's the pity - I could have a great time building a tiny aquarium with crystal fish.
USING THE MAGIC TREE:
This is very simple. You slot the paper tree into the base pour the liquid in and leave it to sit. Withing 1/2 hour you should start to see small crystals forming. My the next morning you will have a lush tree very much like the one in the photo. Placing this in a warm place - like near a radiator will get you the best results.
IS IT MAGIC?
Well the way this is packaged one might think so. Of course it isn't magic, it is science. The paper draws the liquid up, much as a plant draws water through it's capillary systems. The edges of the tree dry first, drawing more fluid to them, thus resulting in greatly increased concentrations of the chemical solution. The concentrated fluids then react with the chemicals in the paper forming crystals. If this did not happen the crystals would form at the bottom of the tree blocking further liquid from moving up and we'd just have a big mess. The chemicals themselves do not have any colour. The paper is also treated with food colour on the ends which is dissolved into the fluid giving the crystals their colour. Sadly, none of these kits explain this at all, and I quite likely have not done the best job of putting the science principles into words. I do wish they included a brief sheet with this to make this product more educational instead of just fun.
IS IT FUN?
Yes it is actually quite fun, at least for children. This is a very inexpensive item, and the kids do love seeing it grow. Unfortunately, no matter how much care you take, these never last long. The crystal fomations are very light and delicate. They will turn to powder if touched. Even the slightest movement of the table they are on will result in parts crumbling and falling. This isn't really a toy that you can expect to last for a long time.
IS IT EDUCATIONAL?
As it is packadged, I would have to say no. If you take the time to explain to your child how it works, then yes, this can be educational. You can tell the child that the paper tree is drawing a chemical solution up into branches in much the same way that real plant would draw up nutrients, instead of just be drawing to the lowest point as gravity would suggest. You can explain that this is the result of a chemical reaction - you need both chemicals to grow the tree, and of course the process of evaporation and the tendency of fluids to move from areas of heavy concentration to areas of lower concentration. It can be quite educational - it just depends on how much you want to put into it.
I considered rating this down becuase the trees do not very last long, but that is the nature of this type of thing. I really do wish they included an educational sheet, but again, none of these kits do - and the manufacturer does not claim that this is educational. I just like to include some learning in as many fun things as possible. As far as overall quality, this is the best crystal tree I have found, and considering the reasonable price, I am going to give this the full five stars.
Please note: This review is for the Tobar Magic Tree sold by Amazon for £2.13. There are other similar products, and I can only vouch the quality of this particualr brand.