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.
A reader recently emailed me and asked about a concern that came up among her local moms group. Some moms insisted that sidewalk chalk has lead in it and others insisted it doesn’t. So which is it?
Well the connection between sidewalk chalk and lead became headline news in 2003 when several stores recalled chalk for lead. The good news that there haven’t been major recalls since, indicating that reformulation has occurred. BUT the chalk that was recalled was not major brand chalk like Crayola it was off brand or generic chalk made in China and used by stores as their own “brand”. I believe Target was one of the offenders in the 2003 recall.
These days the Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) certifies 3 brands of chalk as lead free and safe for children.. Crayola, Prang , and Rose Art. These are well respected brands and you can feel at ease using them. Personally I would avoid off-brands you may find at discount stores like Big Lots, or those found in cheap gift baskets (like Easter baskets) or cheap art sets. If it doesn’t have a recognizable and respected brand… I wouldn’t buy it. Chances are they won’t contain lead but I err on the side of safety just in case. I also prefer Prang to most of the other brands. They are more expensive but they also have more sustainable products (such as their soybean crayons) and their web site has tons of safety data on each product they sell. You can also make your own sidewalk chalk and take charge of the ingredients yourself or buy homemade chalk made by artisans on Etsy, who I am sure would be happy to disclose their ingredients.
All in all I think parents can feel at ease letting their kids play with sidewalk chalk but as with ANY product we have to stay informed and be vigilant. In the meantime encourage your kids to get outside and “create”.
If given the choice I will usually opt for soy or beeswax crayons. The conventional ones made from petro products are not a favorite. I will usually make an exception for recycled crayon products though because you are buying used instead of new. The fact that Eco Stars are made from recycled materials, along with the fact that my youngest needs to work on his grasping skills according to his therapist at school, made me think this product might be a good fit for us. Theses crayons are melted down into cute little stars and they are perfect for my son’s little fingers to grasp.
The box is also made form recycled materials so all around a pretty earth friendly product and the color array is good too. They are also pretty exciting to a four year old as well. No idea yet if it is helping with his grip issues but its not as if crayons will go unused in this house!
These, along with our beloved crayon rocks, might just be the cutest crayons ever.
Painting outside on the porch is what my kiddos spent most of this gorgeous day doing. I made some paper dolls for my daughter using some Trader Joe’s bags I have had laying around for a couple months. After cutting them out I set all the kids up with some natural paints from GLOB. My youngest boy just painted on paper and my oldest painted a cardboard house.
The paints use plant materials for their color… pomegranate, blueberry, tangerine, basil, plum, and lemon verbena. They even have their fruity smell still.. YUM! You mix some of the paint powder with some water, adding more water for thin paint and using less water for thick paint, and away you go. Using these is a bit more work than buying a plastic bottle of liquid paint from Walmart but I rest easy knowing they are using safe, non-toxic paints and that they are low impact.
The doll template is from the website for Family Fun magazine. I just love all the crafty stuff for kids in their magazine and much of it is perfect for natural families oddly enough.
Wishing all a lovely, warm, watercolor weekend!