Making rock candy is a blast whether you have kids or not. It's easy to do and you probably already have all the things you need in your house. Rock candy is one of the oldest and purest forms of candy in existence. It consists entirely of sugar and was once used by Roman doctors to persuade patients to take their medicine. These days, Hungarians use it to stir their tea, the Dutch bake it into bread and kids across America make it in science class. If you do happen to have kids, you get the added benefit of convincing your offspring that you are a scientific genius on a par with Mr. Wizard.
This project is inexpensive and easy to do, so let each of your kids make their own rock candy. Each will need a jar, string, a pencil and a washer. Have everyone measure their strings so that when held at one end, they extend about three-quarters of the way into the jars. Add two inches to this length to make knots and snip the strings. Have your kids tie one end of their strings onto their washers. The weight of the washers will hold the strings in place later in the experiment. Everyone should then tie the other end of the string to the middle of a pencil. Hang each string in a jar, suspended by the pencils, to make sure that you measured correctly. Put the strings aside for a moment.
Boil about two cups of water on the stove. Completely dissolve about four cups of sugar in the boiling water, continuously stirring with your spoon so that the sugar doesn't burn. The solution should eventually turn clear and reach a rolling boil.
Take the solution off the heat and very carefully fill each jar until it is almost full. You need to do this very cautiously and make sure that your kids stay back because melted sugar gets extremely hot and can cause serious burns. Cover each jar with wax paper. If you have lots of kids, cook up another solution if you need more to fill the jars.
Have everyone dip his string into his jar. Take the strings out and place them on a piece of wax paper. Let them dry there for a couple days.
Once your strings are dry, put them back inside of the jars, suspending them by the pencils. Leave them there for seven days. During this seven day stretch, be absolutely sure not to touch or jostle the jars as this will result in scraggly looking rock candies. Watch as sugar crystals form on the strings, the washers and sometimes the jars over the next week before enjoying your candy.
If you want to make your rock candy really cool, you can add food coloring or flavoring to the liquid in the jars. Just a few drops of vanilla abstract or another flavoring will change the taste of your candy, but if you want to get a bright color you are going to have to use nearly an entire tube of food coloring in each jar.