Yes, another crystal ornament post! My kids keep asking to make more, and I’m happy to oblige…
I know I’m mentioned this before, but I’ve found that repeating activities, with slight variations, is really worthwhile. If the kids are continuing to show an interest in something, that’s a sure sign there’s still more learning to be had!
So when my daughter Bumble Bee begged to make a crystal snowman, so she could hang one on our Christmas tree….
You’ll see in the pictures below that I did this activity with my 4 year old daughter, BUT she had a lot of help from me. Bee’s also watched her big sister do this activity several times before, and so understood the steps involved and the need to follow instructions for safety.
How to make a Borax crystal snowman
What to do:
1. Twist a white pipe cleaner into two connected circles, making a snowman shape. Add a black pipe cleaner hat, trimming as necessary.
2. Tie a loop of invisible nylon thread to the middle of the snowman’s hat. (Nylon thread is tricky to tie for little hands. You can also use dental floss – which doesn’t look as good, but is much easier to tie on). Check that the snowman can easily dangle inside the glass without touching the bottom or sides.
These next steps require adult supervision. (See safety notes below.)
3. Put on safety glasses. Fill a glass with boiling water. (Careful – the glass will become very hot!) Add Borax powder to the water, and stir. (Note: Borax is not taste-safe.)
The actual quantity of Borax required will depend on the volume of your glass – allow for about 3-4 tablespoons per 250ml of water.
You’ll see the water become cloudy, but keep adding and stirring until it’s super-saturated and you can’t stir in any more without Borax powder collecting on the bottom.
4. Thread the nylon loop through a chopstick (or pencil) and lower the snowman into the Borax suspension, balancing the chopstick on top. Double check that it isn’t touching the sides or bottom off the glass. Set aside for 24 hours (or longer). Notice that the solution in the glass goes from cloudy, to relatively clear, to encrusted with crystals!
5. When the crystals have stopped growing, remove the snowman from the glass, rinse and let dry. Now you have a new crystal snowman ornament to hang (up high) on your Christmas tree!
I love studying the crystals afterwards. Every crystal formation is unique. So pretty!
And they sparkle like crazy in the sunshine!
Borax (also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate) is a naturally occurring mineral and salt, that is mined from seasonal lakes. Borax has numerous industrial uses. It is often dissolved in water to form an alkaline antiseptic solution that is used as a disinfectant, detergent, and water softener (which is why you can often find it in the laundry aisle. Or you can also find it online).
When you stir Borax into very hot water, you can see that the water becomes very cloudy. This is because the Borax molecules become suspended in the water. As the water cools to room temperature, the solution becomes super saturated, and Borax separates from the water molecules and attaches to whatever it can, including the sides of the jar, and the pipe cleaner decoration dangling inside, forming beautiful translucent crystals.
Borax crystals are generally well formed and quite large, although you won’t typically find them in jewellery or in museum displays. This is because the crystals won’t hold their structure over long periods of time, like other crystals would. Because they are a salt, they go through a process called efflorescence. Dehydration causes the translucent crystals to become opaque, and eventually crumble into a white powder. (This is just starting to happen to the Borax crystal flowers we made almost 1.5 years ago, with a dusting of powder starting to appearing on the surface of the now opaque crystals).
Be careful with boiling water around young kids. Have kids place the glass on a surface before adding boiling water – glass with boiling water inside will become too hot to handle almost instantly.
Borax is a commonly used natural ingredient in grade school science experiments, and is safe for older kids to handle when used responsibly. It is not edible however, and will irritate if put directly into eyes. It is also a mild skin irritant for people with sensitive skin. I recommend using safety glasses and washing hands afterwards.
With Borax being inedible, please make sure that your crystal creations are stored out of reach of babies, toddlers or pets (or hung high up, well out of reach, on your Christmas tree.)
All kids’ activities on this blog require attentive adult supervision. Parents and carers will need to judge whether a particular activity is appropriate their child’s age and skill level. Click here for more information.
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