This science experiment is my favorite kind – it’s low fuss, and quick, impressive results. If you do this activity in the afternoon, you’ll have crystals by the time you wake up in the morning.
**Safety note- Borax is harmful if swallowed, and can cause eye and skin irritation. Supervise your children closely, and take precautions to protect your skin and eyes.**
All of the supplies for this lesson can be easily found at Target (or Walmart or Amazon if you live so rural that you just want it delivered)! You’ll need: glass canning jars, water, borax, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners & string.
Start by taking your pipe cleaners and bending them into a snowflake shape. You can get as creative as you want with this step, but be careful to make sure that your shape is small enough that it can get into the jar without touching the sides, and leave a little room for the crystals to grow. If they grow too large, you’ll have trouble getting the snowflakes out of the jar.
Pour 1/3 cup borax into your empty jars. (Be careful to not inhale the powder.)
Boil water, and pour it carefully into the jars. Stir the mixture with a spoon until all of the borax is dissolved into the water. We did not add any food coloring to this step because I had colorful pipe cleaners, but if you are using white or want extra color on your crystals, add 20 or so drops of coloring. More is better!
Tie a string around your pipe cleaner snowflake, and tie the other end around the middle of the popsicle sticks. Drop your snowflake into the jar of borax suspension, and rotate the popsicle stick to get the right depth. You want the snowflake to be right in the middle of the jar.
Leave the snowflakes to sit overnight! Crystals begin forming quickly, so check in on your progress often throughout the evening. Crystals will form on the bottom of the jar, on the pipe cleaner and on the string.
In the morning use the string to pull your snowflake out of the jar. Hopefully, it’s still small enough to fit through the mouth of the jar! Place it on a paper towel to dry and admire the crystals you grew!
How it Works:
When you mix the borax and boiling water, you are creating a suspension. When the water is hot, the molecules move apart, and you can dissolve the borax into it. However, you are putting more borax than the water can hold, so as the water cools down, and the molecules move closer together, the borax begins to separate from the water. The borax recrystallizes and will settle on the pipe cleaner (and on the bottom of the jar). These first borax crystals form seeds, where other crystals will form.
Watch this PBS video about the Science of Snowflakes to learn more:
Read this children’s book with your kids: