Teach your kids how to make Borax crystals so they can transform pipe cleaners into icicle ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree. This is a fun science experiment for home or the classroom, for kids of all ages.
Borax Crystals – Simple Science for Kids
You probably remember making Borax crystals when you were a kid in school. You most likely made Borax snowflakes because it’s one of those classic science class experiments that kids have been doing for years.
Well, my daycare hooligans love a good science experiment, and they also love making Christmas ornaments, so recently we combined their two loves and tried the Borax crystal experiment here, but instead of making Borax snowflakes, we made Borax icicles.
2-Ingredients: Borax and Hot Water
Growing crystals from Borax is such a simple chemistry experiments to do with your kids.
All you need to make your crystals is Borax and hot water. You just dissolve the Borax in the hot water, and provide something for the crystals to form on (in our case, a pipe cleaner), and before you know it, you’ll have crystals growing right before your very eyes.
Fast and Fascinating Transformation
My daycare kids were truly fascinated with this experiment, and I have to admit, I was too.
This was the first time any of us had done a crystal experiment, and it was pretty exciting. We were thrilled when the first crystals began to form on our pipe cleaners (success!!), and we checked on them frequently throughout the day, fascinated to see how quickly the crystals grow so quickly from one hour to the next.
If you have curious kids or crafty kids or a combination of both, you’ll love this experiment!
- it’s easy to do
- supplies are minimal
- you’ll see results quickly
- it’s inexpensive
- the results are fascinating
- you’ll produce beautiful ornaments that will last for years
Ready to make your own crystal icicle ornaments? Let me show you how it’s done.
Supplies for Borax Crystal Icicle Ornaments
Prepare your Pipe Cleaner
Twirl your pipe cleaner around a pencil to form a spiral.
Tie a piece of string to the top of the pipe cleaner. Note: Use enough string that you can turn it into a hanging loop for your icicle ornament later.
Use coloured pipe cleaners for colourful crystal ornaments
To make coloured icicles, use coloured pipe cleaners. You can also use white pipe cleaners and food colouring, but I’ve heard the food colouring will eventually fade, and you’ll be left with white crystals.
Metallic or Chenille Pipe Cleaners?
Borax crystals will grow on both metallic and chenille pipe cleaners.
The Borax crystals we produced have a very distinct, cube shape, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the metallic pipe cleaners or how much Borax we used in our solution. I often see Borax snowflakes made with chenille pipe cleaners and the crystals aren’t quite as distinct as the ones that grew on our metallic pipe cleaners. Regardless, you can grow Borax crystals on both kinds of pipe cleaners.
How to Make Borax Crystal Icicle Ornaments
In a pot or a large spouted container, dissolve 9 tbsp of Borax in 3 cups of very hot water. We boiled our water in the kettle first so it would be hot enough to dissolve the Borax.
Dissolve Borax completely
Stir your solution for several minutes until the Borax has completely dissolved and your solution is crystal clear.
Pour this Borax and water solution into your glass jar.
Suspending your pipe cleaner
Now you need to suspend a pipe cleaner in the Borax solution. You can do this one of two ways.
You can tie your pipe cleaners to the handle of a spoon (or a pencil or craft stick) and lay that across the top of the jar.
You can tape the string to the side of the jar, ensuring the pipe cleaners aren’t touching each other or the sides of the jar (that’s what we did).
And now, the waiting begins…
Set your jar in a safe place where the solution can cool. We left ours on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight.
We went off and played for a while, and within a couple of hours, our crystals were starting to form. They looked amazing! Just like teeny-tiny cubes of ice clinging to the metallic fibres of the pipe cleaners!
To maximize the crystallization process, we left our pipe cleaners resting in the Borax solution overnight. In the morning, they looked like this:
Aren’t they beautiful when the crystals shimmer in the sunlight?
Borax Crystals are strong and long-lasting!
Although they look delicate and fragile, these ornaments are tough! Our icicle ornaments have been handled by lots of little hands, and dropped on the floor a few times and dropped more times than I can remember, and Borax crystals haven’t budged. Our icicles are still perfectly intact!
Edited to add: As long as the Borax crystals aren’t exposed to water or high humidity, your icicle ornaments should last for years. I just hung ours on the Christmas tree for the 4th year in a row. The crystals themselves are more opaque than clear now, but they still look great.
Before you leave, be sure to check out:
Get my latest e-book, Fizz, Pop, Bang!
40 hands-on, learning activities for kids ages 3-8. Recipes, experiments, art projects, printables and play ideas with links to 80 activities not featured in the book.
Follow the Hooligans on Facebook
Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. In 1997, Jackie stepped out of the corporate world to start a family and to open her own home daycare. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.