Why not amaze the kids, flaunt your knowledge of six-sided hexagonal shapes and sparkle up the joint a bit for the holidays..whichever they may be...with a few Borax crystal decorations?This old time-y project is fun for the whole family.
Please note that this project uses Borax, a common household cleaner/chemical and can be harmful if ingested particularly by the little ones. Use constant supervision and do not allow children to touch, eat or inhale Borax. This is based on a pretty common grade school science experiment about the properties of crystals. Here is more information about the chemical properties of Borax:
Step 1: Gather Necessary Materials
1 large-ish empty recycled glass jar with a preferably wide mouth (I like to use glass peanut butter jars because they tend to have large openings and we just seem to have an over abundant supply of them given our PB & J addiction)
Large pipe cleaners or as they are sometimes fancifully called "chenille stems" (I prefer single colored stems because they add a nice pop of pigment to the crystals)
Borax (20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster). If you're having a hard time finding Borax I recommend checking your grandparent's laundry room or go to the detergent aisle of your local AARP grocery shopping hot-spot and you're sure to locate a box.
1 Tablespoon measuring spoon
1 spoon for stirring
Boiling hot water
String (we like embroidery floss or twine but even unused dental floss works)
Step 2: The Perfect Color
Step 3: The Shape of Things
Step 4: Cookie Cutter Option
Step 5: String It Up
Step 6: Heat Things Up a Bit
Step 7: Tip Me Over and Pour Me Out
Step 8: Perfect Measure
Since I've posted this I've gone back and have retried the experiment with less Borax and found you can use a bit less with similar results. This time around I used only 5 tablespoons for the medium jar and 7 tablespoons for the large.
You might want to place something under the jar when pouring and stirring the Borax to cut down on the mess.
Step 9: Mix Master
I allowed my 2 1/2 year old 2 stirs with a long spoon so she could feel involved. Then we washed our hands.
Step 10: Reached Saturation
Step 11: Hanging by a Thread
Step 12: Fully Submerged
Now's the time you wait. Sit back, relax, go to bed and in the morning check on your creation. You might even want to wait up a bit. Perhaps, read a book to the kids. We like Kenneth Libbrecht's cool micro-photography book "Snowflakes". Then check on the jars to see if anything has happened yet. So exciting.
Step 13: Magic Crystals
Step 14: Dry Time
At this point your child might say "Wow! How did that ugly pipe cleaner grow all those sparkly-shimmery crystals?"
Here's your opportunity to prove that you are in fact the smartest parent on the planet, perhaps even the world's smartest person by saying:
"You know junior, the Borax we used is a type of crystal meaning it's a symmetrical solid shape with flat sides that form a repeating pattern. A snowflake forms when water molecules cool and move close together creating a six-sided crystal. Similar to snowflakes, Borax also forms large and small crystals in cooling water. Hot water can hold more Borax crystals than cold water because when water molecules are heated they move farther apart. This creates space for more Borax crystals to dissolve until saturation is reached. Then, the magic happens. The water molecules begin to cool and move closer together making less room for the dissolved Borax thus causing crystals to stack when water evaporates releasing the extra Borax. How fast your water cools determines the size of your crystals. If your water cools quickly you'll grow small crystals and if the water cools slowly larger crystals will form. Now, dear, judging from your crystals how do you think your water cooled?"
Step 15: Shiny Happy
A creative imagination yields a pretty cool crystal decoration. In case you couldn't tell from the photo, which I'm sure you have no idea what my children decided to make with their pipe cleaners, my 9 year old son made a "Joker face from the Batman series" while my 2 year old daughter was aiming for something more abstract in the fashion of Kandinsky...I think they succeeded.