Tag: Craft

How to make a cute Big Dipper pillow, that glows in the dark! A fun (and cuddly) craft that helps kids learn about space, stars and constellations.

Easy No-Sew Big Dipper Pillow, that glows in the dark! Fun science craft for kids that teaches about space, stars and constellations.

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I’d like to welcome author, engineer, mom Tracy Borgmeyer from She Loves Science to guest post on Go Science Kids today. Tracey is going to share her very awesome DIY glow-in-the-dark Big Dipper Constellation pillow. Thanks Tracy!


Some of my fondest memories of science as a kid were looking into the night sky with my Mom in search of the Big Dipper and another time trying to spot Halley’s Comet with my granddaddy’s old telescope. So it warms my heart when today my 7 year old daughter tells me that when she grows up she wants to be the first person on Mars. As her mom I cringe a little thinking of the long journey and the dangers of space travel, but I also want to help her reach for the stars. So, I decided we would make an easy no-sew pillow with a Big Dipper design to keep her dreaming big dreams while teaching her about my favorite constellation. You can try it too with your science girls!

Easy no-sew Big Dipper pillow (that glows!) Fun and cuddly science craft for kids to learn about space and constellations

How to make a Big Dipper Constellation pillow

What you need:


What you do:

  1. Wash and iron two scarves
  2. Press the two scarves together and pin if needed
  3. Measure a 2”border around the top scarf and mark with chalk. This will make a 18”X18” pillowUse chalk to mark edges
  4. Cut 1” slits around the edge of the scarf up to the chalk line
  5. Cut corner squares and removeCut stars (for the no-sew Big Dipper Pillow)
  6. Print out the stars from The Big Dipper Design printable (page 1) on transfer paper and cut the stars out.
  7. Print The Big Dipper Activity (page 2) on regular paper and complete to enhance teaching about the Big Dipper
  8. Flip the top scarf over so the chalk is on the inside of the pillow
  9. Arrange the stars in The Big Dipper PatternArrange stars in the big dipper pattern
  10. Follow instructions on transfer paper to adhere the stars with an iron
  11. Tie the top and bottom scarf together by making knots in the 1” slits around the pillowHow to make a big dipper pillow
  12. Leave a small opening in a corner and stuff the pillow with Poly-fil
  13. Tie the remaining 1” slits to complete the pillow


** Click here to download your free Big Dipper design template and activity page. **

This printable is free for personal and small classroom use only. Once you’ve clicked on the link, it should download directly into your downloads folder, and you can print it out from there. It’s designed for US Letter paper. If you’re printing on A4 paper, you will need to tick a box called “Ignore scaling and shrink to fit page width” (or similar) under Page Set Up before printing.


What’s the science?

Long ago people used the stars to navigate their travels. They would connect the stars make shapes to remember their location. These star shapes are known as constellations. The Big Dipper is located in the Great Bear constellation. The North Star, a bright star in the night sky, is centered above the north pole of the earth and is located in the Little Bear constellation.

Easy, no-sew Big Dipper constellation pillow - that glows in the dark! Fun science craft to teach kids about space and constellations

And this is how the pillow looks with the lights off.

DIY glow in the dark Big Dipper constellation pillow

My daughter was so excited when we finished her pillow. She immediately took it to her reading nook no doubt to dream about her future adventures in space!


About the author:

Tracy Borgmeyer is a mom and engineer writing about inspiring our girls to be curious and confident about science. She is the author of She Loves Science which gives readers simple easy ways to try out science in their kitchens and homes. During her science adventures, Tracy decided that kids need a relatable science girl hero. She has recently published Halley Harper; Science Girl Extraordinaire chapter book series because Halley is the hero that she wished she had growing up. You can find the book on Amazon http://www.shelovesscience.com/halleybook.


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Make the cutest monkey puppets, from mushroom spore prints! Fun science craft idea kids can make, and learn about mushroom biology at the same time.

Mushroom monkeys! Cute science craft kids can make & learn about mushroom biology and spore prints

Do you remember when we first tried making a mushroom spore print, using a large field mushroom? I thought we could try this again, using little button mushrooms this time, and use the spore prints to make a cute monkey science craft!

Suitable for

I think this would a fun craft for school-aged kids (say, the 5-9 year old age group). Although, having said that, my 4.5 year old daughter loved helping with this, so maybe this craft could work for some preschoolers too…

How to make Mushroom Monkeys

Read More Science Craft: Mushroom Monkeys!

How to make a magnetic marble run for your refrigerator door. Fun STEM (or STEAM) activity for kids!

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Suitable for

You can adapt this activity to suit preschoolers, kindergarteners or young school-aged kids. My daughters Jewel and Bumble Bee were 6 and 4 years old when we first made this.

We made this fridge-door marble run ages ago, but I’m only just getting a chance to share it now, because, you know, kids and life and stuff…

It was lots of fun, and super simple to make.

How to make a Fridge-Door Marble Run

We used:

Fridge door marble run!

Of course, you could make this with plain cardboard rolls, but decorating them with washi tape is fun, and much prettier!

I used a hot glue gun to stick magnets onto the side of our tubes (mainly because the results are quick, and I’m impatient!). You could also use regular PVA craft glue, and just wait overnight for it to dry. If you use self-adhesive magnets, you may have to add extra glue between the cardboard tube and the magnet so they stick ‘properly’.

Stronger magnets are best, especially if you plan to use heavier balls, like marbles or steel balls, as they have more force behind them. If you’re only planning on using pompoms, then you could get away with weaker magnets (like the promotional ones you sometimes get in your letter box).

Decorate toilet paper rolls with washi tape & stick on magnets to create a magnetic marble run for the fridge door.

My daughters (Bumble Bee, 4.5 years old and Jewel, almost 7 years old) helped decorate a few of our cardboard tubes, and I finished the rest. Stripes are easy and look great!

Testing out the marble run

We created some shape variations by cutting an angle in the end of some of the cylinders, or by cutting a small section out of the side of another. (These variations are great to have later, when the kids are trying out different marble run designs.)

Creating magnetic marble run piecesOnce you’re done creating and decorating your tubes, pop them on the fridge, and wait for the kids to come and play! (I *might* have played with them a wee bit too. It’s fun!)

Magnetic marble run for your fridge door - fun science for kids

Make a magnetic marble run

Some questions to ponder:

  • How many zig zags can you incorporate into your design?
  • Use a stopwatch to time your marble run. Can you modify your track to make it quicker? Slower?
  • Test your marble run using a heavier smooth ball (eg a marble) vs a lighter rough ball (eg a pom pom). Do you need to modify your design to suit the ball type? How does the type of ball affect the speed?
  • How far does your ball roll when it comes out of the end of marble run? Can you modify your design to get the ball to land in a particular spot?

Make a colourful DIY magnetic marble run

Fun Science

There’s a number of factors that influence your marble run design.

The first is gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls objects downwards (towards the centre of the earth). It’s what causes the marble to roll downwards.

The second is energy (and conservation of energy). The faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, changing their motion. When a ball hits a zigzag in the marble run, the energy is transferred from the ball to the marble run wall, and then back into the ball, causing the ball to change direction.

The third is force (and the relationship between energy and force). The faster and heavier an object, the more force it will have. Heavier balls will require a slower track (or stronger magnets), else the force of the ball will push the track out.

The fourth is friction. Friction occurs when two objects rub against each other (slowing movement and creating heat in the process). The texture of the ball and/or the track will affect the friction.

Make a DIY magnetic marble run for the fridge using toilet paper rolls and washi tape!

Science isn’t the only subject that can be introduced here. You could easily turn this into a playful STEM or STEAM (STEM + art) activity:

  • Science – see above! Marble runs are a classic physics activity covering gravity, energy, force and friction.
  • Technology – You could use a digital stop watch to time the marble run.
  • Engineering – taking in the various forces into account, testing and making design modifications are all classic engineering activities.
  • Math – estimating, measuring and comparing times is all great maths practice. Likewise, estimating, measuring and comparing how far the marble will roll. You could record results in a table.
  • + Art – decorating your tubes! We used washi tape, but you could also paint the cardboard tubes or draw patterns using markers…

Make a DIY magnetic marble run - for your fridge door!

For more physics fun, check out our Physics Experiments for Kids archives, including:

Make a magnetic marble run for the fridge door - STEAM activity for kids

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How to make a paper plate ladybird (or ladybug) craft, with rotating elytra and hidden wings underneath! Fun biology / nature science project for kids.

Anatomy of a ladybird craft, with elytra and wings

Did you see the paper plate ladybird life cycle craft that I shared last week? (If not, you can check it out here). My daughter and I made it to celebrate the loveliness of ladybirds that appear in our backyard each spring and summer. (Loveliness is the collective noun for a group of ladybirds – isn’t that the coolest thing ever!!)

(In case you’re wondering, ladybird, ladybug and lady beetle are all the same animal – they are just called different things in different countries. Technically they are called coccinellids, but I’ve never heard anyone actually call them that. We call them ladybirds here in Australia…)

Anyway back to our story. Shortly afterwards, my daughter found another species of ladybird at a nearby park!! This one was orange and black, and had v shaped markings on it’s back (which, as we’ve since discovered, is a type of ladybird called a Transverse Ladybird). She brought it home to show me.

Orange and black Transverse Ladybird

Tiny transverse ladybird with orange and black markings

Transverse ladybird

And so, of course, this got us thinking about different types of ladybirds, the anatomy of ladybirds, what each species eats, where they live, etc.

Here’s a fantastic website that delves into basic ladybird anatomy. Did you know that a ladybird’s ‘shell’ is actually called the elytra, and underneath the elytra, there is a hidden set of wings?

We decided to make a ladybird craft, for three different species of ladybirds:

  • The orange and black Transverse Ladybird with v shaped markings is the type of ladybird my daughter Bumble Bee found in the park that morning.
  • The yellow and black Fungus-eating Ladybird has zigzag markings. These are the ladybirds we often find in our own backyard.
  • The red and black Seven-spot Ladybird (also known as the Seven-spotted Ladybug), has three spots on each side and one spot in the middle. This is the most common ladybird in Europe, and is the ladybird we most often see in children’s picture books.

Seven-spot ladybird craft for kids, with hidden wings!

Suitable for

This is a fun craft idea that uses common craft supplies and other everyday items.

Preschoolers will enjoy learning generally about ladybirds, and should be able to help paint the paper plates (with an adult assisting with the rest of the craft). Kindergarteners may be able to do more of the craft themselves, and learn about basic insect anatomy. Older kids may enjoy researching ladybirds in more detail, including variations between different ladybird species, their markings, their habitats, their diet, etc.

Bumble Bee had just turned 4 years old when we did this activity. She enjoyed painting the paper plates, and “helping” me with the rest of the craft. She also enjoyed learning about the various ladybirds that we’ve come across, and their basic anatomy. Plus she really enjoyed role-playing with her new ladybird toys afterwards!

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Make a paper plate ladybird and learn about beetle anatomy


How to make a paper plate ladybird

We used:

The first thing we did was to look at our real life samples of ladybirds (for the fungus-eating ladybird and the transverse ladybird), and online (for the seven-spot ladybird) to get an idea of their basic shape, colours and markings.

We noticed that each ladybird has a head with two antenna, a section just behind the head (the pronotum), a body with brightly coloured elytra, and three tiny legs on each side. We noticed that the elytra is symmetrical – with exactly the same markings appearing on each side. We also noticed that ladybirds have hidden wings, that are folded away under the elytra when a ladybird is not flying.

We used two paper plates for each ladybird craft. We painted the underside of the first paper plate black, and set aside to dry. This would become the ladybird body.

We cut the second paper plate like this below, to create a head, and the two sides of the elytra, or shell.

(If you were doing this with older kids, you might like to add more detail to the head area, adding in the eyes, the mouth and the pronotum.)ladybird cut lines

We referenced our real and online ladybirds to see what colours and patterns to paint. We painted the underside again (which creates a doming effect, making our ladybirds look slightly 3D).

While we waited for the paper plates to dry, we cut two long wings from a plastic bag – roughly twice the length of the ladybird’s body.

We also cut one regular black pipe cleaner into six small pieces, which would become the legs, and a second black “bump” pipe cleaner into two pieces, which would become the antenna.

(We used bumpy pipe cleaners because we had them already and they look cool! But you could use regular pipe cleaners for the antenna too if you want).

Once the paper plates were dry, we glued the head to the body. I poked two holes though, so we could add the antenna, twisting into little knots at each end to stop them slipping back out (and to make cute knobbly antenna ends!)

We stapled the six legs to the sides of the body as well. (Bumble Bee loves using the stapler, so she really enjoyed that part!)

Next we glued the plastic wings to just below the head. (You could use double sided sticky tape here instead if you prefer).

How to make a paper plate ladybug

Then we attached the two elytra pieces on top, attaching with a split pin. I used a knife with a sharp point to create the holes, before pushing the split pins through and fastening underneath. Here’s how it looks on the underside.

Paper plate ladybug craft

When we flipped it back over, we could now choose whether to fold the wings neatly underneath if we were pretending our ladybird was walking, or rotate the elytra slightly and release the wings if we were pretending our ladybird was flying.

Fungus-eating ladybird craft

Paper plate ladybug craft for kids

Paper plate ladybird (or ladybug) craft, including three different ladybird species. Fun nature science activity for kids

How to make a ladybird (ladybug) craft with hidden wings! And learn about three different ladybird species. Fun biology entomology nature scien

Fun Science Facts

Coccinellidae is a widespread family of tiny beetles, known as ladybugs in North America, and ladybirds in Australia, UK and other areas.

Entomologists prefer to use the term ladybird beetles or lady beetles, because technically they’re not actually classified a ‘true bugs’.

A “bug” is actually a technical term which describes insects that have sucking, beak-like mouth parts. Bugs also have an incomplete metamorphosis life cycle – meaning they go from egg to nymph to adult with no larva stage. Aphids, cicadas, bedbugs are all true bugs. Beetles are not.

Beetles are a group of insects whose front wings have hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. They are the largest order of insects: roughly 400,000 species make up about 40% of all insect species described, and about 25% of all animals – wow! Most beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, passing through four main stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

More light reading: A Bug Is Not A Beetle (American Scholar)

Paper plate ladybird (ladybug) craft, with wings! And learn about three different species of ladybird.

If you’re looking for more fun activities like this, check out our Biology archives, including:

Paperplate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird (ladybug)- fun nature study activity

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Nature Study Activities for Kids boards on Pinterest.

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox. We’d love to have you join us!

How to make paper plate ladybirds (ladybugs) and learn about different ladybird or ladybug species. Fun insect entomology biology nature scienc

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Not all ladybirds are red & spotty! Learn about metamorphosis and the life cycle of this cool yellow & black ladybird beetle. Fun spring nature study craft for kids.

Paperplate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird (ladybug)- fun nature study activity for preschoolers and up!

This spring we’ve been inundated with ladybirds (or ladybugs or ladybeetles as you might call them). Except that our ladybirds are not red, and they aren’t spotty!

The ladybirds in our backyard are always yellow and black, and they have a cool mask / zigzag pattern on their back instead of spots.

Fungus-eating ladybird - yellow and zigzaged, instead of red and spotty!

My 4 year old daughter Bumble Bee is obsessed with insects and entomology. So of course, these yellow and black ladybirds presented the perfect opportunity to learn more!


Suitable for

Try this nature study activity with preschoolers or kindergarteners. Bumble Bee had just turned 4 years old when we did this.

But first – can I tell you the most adorable thing? I just found out that a group of ladybirds is called a “loveliness of ladybirds” or a “loveliness of ladybugs”. Isn’t that so sweet! We have a loveliness of ladybirds in our backyard. 🙂

fungus-eating ladybird

Anyway, back to our story. Turns out that the yellow and black zig-zag ladybirds in our backyard are actually called Fungus-eating Ladybirds (illeis galbula), and they feed on tiny spots of black mould that grow on the underside of leaves (and, as I discovered, on the underside of our dog kennel). And here I was thinking all ladybirds ate aphids!

This particular ladybird is actually native to New Zealand, but seems to have infiltrated much of Sydney. Sydney’s a very humid city in spring and summer, so it makes sense that black mould and fungus-eating ladybirds would both thrive here.

Lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird eggs, larva, pupa and adult

Ladybirds undergo a complete metamorphosis, just like a butterfly, changing from an egg to larva to pupa to ladybird.

We found lots of ladybird larvae all over our backyard – they’re super speedy, running around all over the place! The pupa took a little more searching as they seek a secluded place to undergo their transformation. I found many stuck to the underneath of our dog kennel, where they (normally) wouldn’t be disturbed. Once the metamorphosis process is complete, they break through the pupal casing and emerge as a beautiful yellow and black ladybird, complete with wings!

larva and pupa of the fungus-eating ladybirdPupal case of the fungus-eating ladybird

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fungus-eating ladybird Life Cycle craft

Bumble Bee and I decided to create a fungus-eating ladybird life cycle craft, that tracks all the stages that this ladybird goes through, from egg to metamorphosis.

We used:


We did one life cycle plate each, crafting alongside each other, as we like to do. It’s a two-way learning experience – Bee copied from me and I copy from her, as we both learn about this fascinating insect together.

We also spent a lot of time referring to the live specimens in our backyard, making sure that we were getting as many of the details as accurate as possible. Lots of nature study going on!

Studying a fungus-eating ladybird

Fungus-eating ladybird adult and larva

Our first step was to divide our paper plates into quarters.

Drawing quarters

We painted yellow eggs in one quarter, using the stem of a gum leaf to create tiny little dots. (We couldn’t find any actual eggs in our backyard, so we Google searched to find out what fungus-eating ladybird eggs look like.)

Painting ladybird eggs with a leaf

We mixed yellow and white paint to make a pale yellow, which we used to create the body of a larva and a pupa. We used a brighter yellow colour to paint the head of the larva, and the ladybird.

Painting the pupa and larva body

We waited a few minutes for it to dry (paint dries quickly in the Australian heat), then we added all the extra details using black permanent markers.

Drawing a ladybird lifecycle

We noticed that the larvae have 6 legs (but no wings). You can’t see any legs on the pupa at all, as the ladybird is inside the pupal casing. Once the ladybirds emerge, they have 6 legs and 2 antennae. They also have wings underneath their shell. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find a ladybird that has just landed, and see its wings quickly before it folds them away. The wings are about double the length of the shell when they’re unfolded.

Bumble Bee decided to draw wings coming out from underneath the shell of her ladybird, so everyone would know that they were there.

I wrote labels on mine, which caused Bumble Bee a bit of angst, because she doesn’t know how to write. She didn’t want me to write on her project, as she wanted to do it all by herself. I suggested that perhaps I could write labels on another paper plate, and she could cut them out and glue them on. She was happy with that idea.

Sticking labels onto her paperplate ladybird lifecycle

And here’s her finished project!

Paper plate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird - nature study activity for kids.

While we were crafting, a teeny little ladybird larva decided to walk on Bee’s project! I thought this would be a good chance to show you how small they are, as you can use the plate for scale.

Fungus-eating ladybird larva

Of course, being the snap happy blogger that I am, I took hundreds of photos of ladybirds. They’re so cute! Here’s just a few of the best ones…

Collage of photos of the fungus-eating ladybird, including adult, pupa and larva images.Fungus-eating ladybird

Fun Science Fact

Ladybirds are also known as ladybugs or ladybeetles. There are over 100 species of ladybirds in Australia.

Ladybirds are an insect that goes through complete metamorphosis, which means that they go through a four stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupa and adult ladybirds.

One species of ladybird is the fungus-eating ladybird (or its scientific name is illeis galbula). Both adults and larvae feed on mildew fungus, so fungus-eating ladybirds are very welcome in most gardens to help with this problem!

The adult fungus-eating ladybird are bright yellow with two black zigzag markings on their back. Female ladybirds lay small groups of white eggs on the underside of leaves infested with powdery mildew.

These eggs hatch into pale-yellow larvae, with rows of tiny black dots on the back. The larvae are very active, and shed their skin as they grow.

When the larvae are fully grown, they attach themselves to a sheltered place and moult into a pupa, which remains attached by one end.

Adults hatch from the pupa and mate, to start the life cycle over again.

You can find more detailed information on the fungus-eating ladybird here.

Ladybird life cycle craft - learn about metamorphosis, and that not all ladybugs are red and spotty!

For more nature study ideas, you might like to check out our Nature Study Projects for Kids page, including:


You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Nature Study Activities for Kids boards on Pinterest.


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* This post contains affiliate link(s) to similar products used. An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you so much for your support.

What’s the best way to make crystal snowflakes? Try this crafty winter science experiment for kids.

Make your own crystal snowflakes at home - Go Science Kids

Making crystal snowflakes seems to be the ‘classic’ Borax crystal science project. I’ve seen it in a bunch of places (like here, here, here, and here), but everyone seems to do it slightly differently. Some leave their snowflakes white. Some use coloured pipe cleaners. Some add food colouring to the solution. (And I’d heard of a fourth technique used to make crystal rocks, which I was super keen to try out with snowflakes to see if it worked!)

So, being a science family, we decided to do a little comparison experiment at home, to see which technique yielded the best looking crystal snowflakes.

Suitable for

Generally I’d recommend this activity for primary (elementary) aged kids (ie 7-9 year olds). Younger kids (5-6 year olds) may like to try it too, with assistance. My kids first made Borax crystals when they were 4 year olds, BUT they fully understood the need to take safety precautions and not put any Borax in their mouth. Please see safety notes at the bottom of this post when judging if this activity is right for your child.

Four ways to make crystal snowflakes

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We used:

  • 6mm furry pipe cleaners in white and navy blue (also called chenille stems)
  • invisible nylon thread and scissors
  • Borax powder
  • 4 wide mouth jars (or, more accurately,  we used 3 jars and 1 tumbler – as I didn’t have a 4th matching jar…)
  • boiling water
  • spoons for stirring
  • pencils or chopsticks for balancing on top
  • paper (optional)
  • safety glasses (optional, but recommended. We have these ones.)

Pipecleaner snowflakes - Go Science Kids

1. Create pipe cleaner snowflakes by cutting and twisting the pipe cleaners. We used about 1.5 pipe cleaners per snowflake. Please bear in mind that snowflakes are always six-sided. Your snowflakes also need to be small and narrow enough to be able to easy dangle inside your containers, without touching the sides or bottom. We made 3 x white and 1 x blue snowflake.

2. Tie on a loop of nylon thread to one of the snowflake arms of each snowflake. This will be used to dangle the snowflake inside the jar (and also doubles as a handy ornament hanger later on).

3. (Please see safety notes at the bottom of the post before starting this step.) Fill your jars with boiling water. Add Borax powder and stir. Keep adding Borax until the solution becomes super saturated and you can’t add any more without Borax powder settling on the bottom of the jar. We used about four tablespoons of Borax powder per jar.

4. Add blue food colouring to just one the jars.

5. Loop your snowflakes over pencils (or chopsticks), to balance on top of the jars. Add a white snowflake to the jar with the blue food colouring, and the other snowflakes to the remaining jars. You can also add paper covers if you wish, by cutting out a circle slightly larger than the jar diameter, and cutting a radial line for the thread to pass through.

Making Borax Crystal Snowflakes - Go Science Kids

6. Leave for 24 hours (or longer). The solution will be cloudy at first, but will start to clear after about an hour. You can start to see small crystals forming, and they’ll continue to grow for the next couple of days.

How to make Borax crystal snowflakes - Go Science Kid

7. Remove the snowflakes from the solutions. You should now have a blue crystal snowflake (the food colouring one), a second blue crystal snowflake (the blue pipe cleaner one), and two white snowflakes.

Crystal Snowflakes

8. Here’s where we tried out the special new technique! Use watercolour paints to paint one of the white crystal snowflakes blue, and watch how the crystals absorb the colour towards the centre of the structure – it’s fascinating! (Thanks Happy Hooligans for the inspiration!)

Watercolour Blue Crystal Snowflake

Below is a pic of the watercolour painted crystal after it’s had a chance to dry. Can you see how the large outer crystals have remained largely transparent, and that the blue colour has snuck in through the little crevasses, in towards the pipecleaner at the centre of the crystal structure? This is a great way to demonstrate how moisture can seep though rocks. SO AWESOME!

I’m so excited about this new technique – we’re definitely going to try this again!

Crystal painted with watercolour paints

But, ahem, getting back to our original question – what’s the best way to make crystal snowflakes?

Let’s compare.

Below is how they all look being held up to the window. (Top left = watercolour, top right = food colouring, bottom left = blue pipe cleaner, and bottom right = control / plain white.

Crystal snowflake collage

And here’s how they look outside in the sun. (The water colour one is the bottom right, and the food colouring one is bottom left.) I love how they all sparkle in the light!

Four crystal snowflakes in the sunshine

And here’s how they look on the coffee table inside. (You can tell the watercolour one by now right? It is at the top.)

Winter science craft for kids - how to make crystal snowflakes (experiment _ tutorial)

Crystal snowflakes - science craft for kids

The verdict?

For me, the watercolour snowflake wins, hands down. Not only are you able to choose the colour that you want more easily (as you can choose from the whole watercolour pallet), but the way the paint is absorbed through the crystal structure is both fascinating AND beautiful!

Fun Science

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 2 years ago, with a dusting of powdern just starting to appearing on the surface of the crystals).

Making crystal snowflakes would be a great winter science project, but as it happens, we made ours just before Christmas, and Christmas falls in summer-time in Australia! Snowflakes in summer? Ha! I guess somehow Christmas and snow are intrinsically linked, even for us down-under! (If you are interested, you can find more Christmas science projects here.)

Homemade crystal ornaments do look amazing hanging on your Christmas tree. (I have some pics of them on the tree, but they’re still on my camera. I’ll add them when I get a chance!)

We went a bit crystal crazy this year – it seems we’ve amassed quite a DIY Christmas crystal decorations collection! (And this pic below doesn’t even include the crystal candy canes that we made last year!)

DIY Crystal Christmas Decorations!

You can see all our crystal activities on Crystal Science page. Yes, we are officially crystal-obsessed. 🙂

While we are on the topic, just a quick note about storage. Because Borax is a salt, the crystals will eventually dehydrate, and start to crumble back into a white (or perhaps blue!) powder. This is a slow process – but it is starting to happen to some crystals we made about 2 years ago, and I’d like our Christmas crystals to last longer than that! So, in an attempt to slow down this process, I’m trialing storing our crystal Christmas ornaments in a zip lock bag between seasons to prevent moisture loss. I’ll let you know how they go!

Safety notes…

Be careful with boiling water around young kids. Place the glass jars down on a table before adding boiling water – glass with boiling water inside will quickly become too hot to hold.

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. Treat it like you would handing laundry powder. I recommend wearing safety glasses, using spoons, and washing hands afterwards.

With Borax being inedible, please be mindful of who might be able to reach your crystals afterwards. Make sure that your crystal creations are stored out of possible reach of babies, toddlers or pets. We hang ours up high on our Christmas tree, and store them in zip lock bags in our Christmas box in the garage for the rest of the year.

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Make your own DIY crystal snowflakes at home - Go Science Kids
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