So as with most things in life, our borox crystals took some trial and error with a little bit of research to figure out how to get the biggest possible formations. We eventually learned it’s all in the cool down process. Something I like about this activity is that it’s really fun and interesting to a huge range of ages, even the older kids. However, that being said this one is a little bit tricky to do with the younger set and it’s likely that you’re going to need to do most of it for them as they observe. I tried to keep my daughter involved by picking out the pipe cleaner colors, making the pipe cleaner ball, choosing which color food dye, asking her lots of questions about what she was seeing and what she thought was happening as we went along and making notes about what she saw as it developed at different intervals. Now, a little more on what I said about the key being the slowest cool down possible. The hotter you are able to get the solution, the longer it will take to cool down , the more time the crystals have to build on each other in their new shape. So let’s get started!
First you will need:
Borax powder from the laundry section
A medium saucepan to boil it in
Popsicle stick or pencil
Food coloring (optional)
Large glass container that can handle high heat, clear containers work great because you are able to see the process. I used a thick clear glass vase
note: So as I start boiling the water, I like to have my daughter start picking out her pipe cleaners and prepare them with her as I wait for the water to get hot
Boil the water to a rolling boil. Once it reaches this point, start pouring a good amount of the borax into the water and stir continuously until it is completely dissolved and bring back to a boil. If you are adding food coloring, this is the time to add it, stir until it’s completely mixed and return to a boil.
Pour in another large amount of Borox and stir until it’s completely dissolved again and return to a rolling boil. Repeat this process until the water literally cannot absorb any more.
As the water is boiling with borax, make a tight little ball or spiral with the pipe cleaner and tie it to the string
Tie the other end of the string to the popsicle stick or pencil
Take the solution and fill up the glass container all the way and place it in an area where it can stay for 12 hours without being moved. It’s important to keep it very still so the crystal formation is not disrupted or disturbed
Take the popsicle stick or pencil and slowly lower the pipe cleaner ball into the water until the stick is resting across the top, making sure it’s not touching any sides of the container and quickly cover the top. You can use anything, a magazine, a book, a plate, I used a silicone pot holder. The point is to trap that heat into the container forcing it to cool down more slowly
At this point, you’re basically done and just waiting. I like to have my daughter check on it every 3 hours to take notes on its progress. This way she stays in involved during the long wait, it builds up the excitement, and we can keep a science based conversation going.
You can remove anywhere from 8-12 hours, the longer you wait, the bigger it will be. Patience for a full 12 hours isn’t always possible with our little ones, so 8 hours will turn out just fine too. Just lift it straight out by the popsicle stick, snip it free at the base of the string, and dry it off with a paper towel.
The thing I like about this project is that you can reuse the solution more than once, and see how the results vary from crystal to crystal, especially when food coloring is used.
*Clean up Note: if it gets everywhere and you find yourself with tough little white crystals and powder all over your stove, pot and counters, all you to clean it up is very hot water on a scrubby sponge and it will dissolve it right back down. You will also have a lot of crystal build up on the inside of the container you used. Just boil very hot water, pour it into the container as many times as you need and the crystals will dissolve back down to nothing.