These days, candles are usually reserved for fancy dinners and blackouts. But in colonial times, candles served as the only source of light after dark! In the American colonies, children would make candles to help their families by collecting and melting wax from bee hives. Candle molds were an expensive luxury that many people couldn't afford, so most families created cheaper "dipped" candles. This was an important chore for a colonial child, as it filled the home with light at night. This candle making activity is fun, and it also helps teach kids about colonial history.
What You Need:
- A long, thin metal can
- Old saucepan (It will get messy!)
- 1.5 pounds of wax, or enough to fill your can seven inches when melted (We recommend beeswax because it is the most historically accurate to colonial times. Bonus: It also smells great and results in a soft, buttery texture! Other options include parafin wax and old candle stubs with the wicks removed.)
- Candle wicks (available at craft stores) or plain string, cut to 15-inch lengths
- Straight, 12-inch long sticks (one for each candle)
What You Do:
- Add two inches of water to your saucepan. Place a chunk of wax into your can and place in the center of the saucepan to create a water bath.
- Boil water and melt the wax until completely liquid.
- Prepare wicks while wax melts. Tie one end of the string around a stick with a secure knot.
- Lay down newspapers and/or bring can of melted wax and wicks outside.
- Hold the sticks with the strings attached over the can of melted wax, and dip quickly in and out. Each dip should leave a thin coat of wax on the wick. For best results, keep the wick straight and dip quickly—leaving it in too long could result in the entire candle melting!
- Allow the first layer of wax to cool. Some fun ideas: dip the entire candle in a bucket of cool water to speed up the process, or have your child speedwalk while holding the candle wick for the 'run and cool' method.
- Repeat steps five and six until your candle is the desired size.
- Note: You may need to melt the wax again. To do this, just return the can to the saucepan and boil until melted. If excess wax balls up at the end of the wick, cut off the end so that the wick is even with the end of the candle, then return the ball of wax to the can.
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.