Preserving Flowers with Kids

Preserving flowers has long been a way to remember the beautiful blooms of summer and spring. The art was perfected during Colonial times and is still used today. Preserved flowers are commonly used as framed art or as decorative touches around the home. Flowers that have been dried last for years, so they are an economical way to remember your favorite flowers. In addition, kids are fascinated with the process of preserving flowers. The next time you are looking for something to do with the kids, why not try preserving flowers?

There are several ways you can use to preserve flowers including pressing, hanging and using substances to dry the flowers. This article will teach you ways you can use drying agents to help you. You can easily preserve flowers using inexpensive and easy to find products. You may even already have some of the things you need at home. There are several types of substances you can use to speed up the drying process. In general, these products are called desiccants. Desiccants are crystallized substances that absorb moisture and aid in drying. With a little supervision, your child can learn to use a variety of desiccants to preserve flowers.

Common desiccants used to dry flowers include sand, powdered borax, and silica crystals. You can purchase borax at any store that carries washing powder and most craft and hardware stores carry silica crystals. Here are some tips for kids to follow for the various methods of preserving flowers:

Sand method:
Drying leaves and flowers in sand is probably the oldest method of preserving flowers. Drying flowers in sand is not quick. It will take several hours to get the sand ready and several days to complete the drying. You can find sand anywhere, so this makes a free craft for kids to try at home. Plus, when you use sand as a desiccant, you do not have to worry about chemicals. It is completely safe.

Before you begin, you will need to gather your flowers. Sturdy flowers such as roses and zinnias work especially well. After you have your blooms, you will need to gather and clean your sand. Yes, your sand must be clean! Place your sand in a bucket and fill it with water. Stir the sand and water and whatever floats to the top is debris. You will need to skim this out of the bucket. Do this several times to make sure that you get everything out of your sand. Now, put your sand in a warm oven and allow it to dry (or you can put it in a container in the sun and wait several hours). Next, place a layer of sand in the bottom of a box that has a lid (such as a shoe box or plastic container). Place your flowers on the sand with the blossoms up and gently shake the sand on top. Use a brush or a butter knife to make sure the sand gets between each petal and every nook.

Place the lid on the box and tape the box closed. Leave the box in a warm dry place for at least two weeks. When they are done, the petals will feel paper like. If they are still soft, replace lid and let them sit for another week. When they are ready, your flowers are preserved! Use a small paintbrush to brush the sand off. You can even make the petals shiny by rubbing the petals with a little oil.

Silica Gel:
This is probably the fast of the desiccant methods you and your kids can use to preserve flowers. It usually works within two to three days. Silica gel is available from hobby stores and garden centers. Silica gel is the preferred method if you want to make sure that your blooms have a nice color when they process is done. Silica gel is poison; so make sure that kids are supervised during the process.

To get started, find an airtight container and use flowers such as roses, asters, zinnias, and marigolds. Place a layer of gel in the container and use the method of covering the blooms as described above. You will need to seal the container tightly and leave it that way for at least 3 to 4 days. Kids can tell the silica gel is working because the crystals will turn from blue to pink as the moisture is absorbed. If the crystals have a pink tint before starting, you will need to follow the process below to re-dry your crystals.

After your flowers are preserved, you can actually re-use your silica gel by drying it out. Do not use the microwave, but you can put the gel in a warm oven. It will be perfectly usable for another drying!

Borax:
Borax is an effect drying method for flowers. This desiccant works well for preserving flowers. You can use borax alone or mix it with a combination of other drying ingredients including an equal amount of alum or two parts of cornmeal and one part borax. This method is not as fast as using silica gel, however for children it is faster than sand and safer than silica. You will follow the same method as the sand for covering the blooms, but you will not seal the box. Instead, leave the top off of the box for the best results.

Microwave: While not a desiccant, you can speed the drying time when using a desiccant such as silica gel if you use your microwave. If your kids are antsy for the results, try this method, which only takes minutes. The blooms you use will need to be fresh, otherwise, the flowers will fall apart in the microwave. The gel will expand in the microwave; so use a large glass or paper container that is safe for microwave use (plain paper lunch bags work well). Place a cup of water in one corner of the oven. You might need to experiment with times. Smaller and more delicate flowers may only need a 30 seconds, but heavier flowers may need up to two minutes. When the time is up, carefully remove the flowers from the gel and let them sit for 15 minutes. It is important for kids to remember that the gel will remain hot to the touch for about 20 minutes, so be careful!

Preserving flowers using desiccants with kids is a fun and interesting activity. You can even make it into an experiment and try all of the methods to see which one works the fastest and which one leave the flowers looking the best. Kids will love this entertaining project.

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