I have wanted to make some borax crystal ornaments for a long while now. I thought it would be timely considering the season but also a fun homeschool project since there is definitely some science going on here. Borax, as we usually buy it in the store, is a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals. We don’t think of crystals when we see it because we see powder. This project is great for helping kids to see the crystallization process as the water cools and molecules clump together. It’s fun, easy, and kids love it. Plus you have a lovely ornament or sun catcher in the end. Just make sure to supervise well. Borax is natural but that does not mean it is safe. It should NOT be tasted or inhaled.
List of Things You Need:
String (we used hemp)
Popsicle sticks or pencils
Jars or glasses
To get started you need to put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Then have your children make their ornaments using pipe cleaners. You can make hearts, stars, swirls, candy canes, snowflakes… just about anything their heart desires. BUT they need to make sure they are small enough to fit inside the jar without touching the sides or the bottom. When finished with their designs the ornaments need to be tied with string to a pencil of a popsicle stick so that they can be laid over the mouth of the jar and the ornament will hang down inside. Just make sure to leave enough string so that you can hang them later.
Pour the boiling water inside the jars (without the ornaments) and stir in 3-5 Tablespoons of Borax. The hot water will dissolve it and you should have a bit of sediment at the bottom. Place the ornaments inside the jars and allow them to sit for 24 hours. If you have any young kiddos who may mistake this for drinking water then move them up someplace safe please.
As the water cools, the molecules that moved apart when the water was hot will now move close together again and form crystals. You should start to see the translucent crystals in 3-4 hours. Be ready for squeals of delight when you first see them.
When they are all finished you just need to set them on a towel to dry, remove them from the pencils, and then hang them in a window or on your Christmas tree. Be prepared to repeat many times because kids LOVE this project. Be on the lookout for pipe cleaners at thrift stores and yard sales to make this project a bit “greener” and remember that these could be made for family as gifts… very affordable and handmade.
Don’t they look lovely on our tree? Oh and yes… in the real versus fake argument we go with second hand, fake. Annoying fake snow and all.
Sunday, December 5th, 2010