How to make beautiful Borax crystal flowers – fun science project for spring (or any time of year)!
Have you ever tried making crystals yet? There are quite a few ways of making them, and we’re so keen to try them all! These Borax crystal flowers were our first attempt, and I might be just a little bit in love with them. 🙂
To make Borax crystal flowers, you will need:
- 6mm Pipe cleaners (also known as chenille stems)
- boiling water
- old glass jars
- Safety glasses (optional, but recommended. We have these ones).
Because Borax is commonly used as a detergent alternative or laundry booster, you should be able to find it in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store. Borax (also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate) is actually a naturally occurring mineral and salt, mined from seasonal lakes.
What to do
1. Create a pipe cleaner flower, and attach a second green pipe cleaner which will act as the stem and leaves later on.
Flowers come in all shapes and sizes, so this is where kids can use their imaginations and get creative! Jewel even made one with a red stem, which she explained belonged to the rhubarb family.
2. Coil the green (or red) stem around a chopstick, so that the flower can dangle below.
The idea is that the chopstick can balance on the lip of a glass jar, with the flower dangling down inside. It’s a good idea to test this out – does your flower easily fit inside the neck of the jar? When the chopstick is balancing on top, can your flower hang freely inside the jar, without touching the bottom or sides? Once you’re happy, set your flower and chopstick aside.
3. This next step requires adult assistance. Fill the glass jar with boiling water. With safety glasses on, add several tablespoons of Borax powder to the boiling water in the jar, and stir with a spoon until all the Borax is suspended (and looks dissolved).
The actual quantity of Borax will depend on the volume of your jar – allow for about 3 tablespoons per 250ml of water. Please see safety notes below. Borax is not taste-safe.
4. Lower the pipe cleaner flower into the Borax suspension, balancing the chopstick on top.
Double check that the flower is hanging in the solution, without touching the sides or bottom of the jar. Then put it in a safe place where it won’t be disturbed.
5. Over the next few days, crystals will start to form!
You should be able to see some of the progress through the sides of the glass jar, but it’s also OK to lift your chopstick up every now and again so you can see how the crystals are growing. It’s fascinating!
We did a little experimenting with adding scents and colours, but found that the biggest and clearest crystals formed on the flowers without these additives.
6. Once the crystals have stopped growing, remove your flower from the jar and let dry. Uncoil the pipe cleaner from the chopstick, and re-shape into a stem and leaves.
Fun Science Fact
Water is made up of tiny molecules. If you mix Borax with water, some Borax can become ‘suspended’, which means that the water molecules can ‘hold’ onto it for a while. When water is very hot, the water molecules move further apart, and make room for the water molecules to ‘hold’ onto more of the Borax. As the water cools, the water molecules come closer together, and the water molecules can’t ‘hold’ the same quantity of Borax as they could before. This is called supersaturation. The extra Borax separates from the water molecules, and form crystals which stick to the pipe cleaners (and to the bottom of the jar).
Jewel and I had so much fun, that we ended up making eight crystal flowers! A veritable crystal garden. 🙂
If you want to explore the science behind Borax crystals further, Scientific American has some great experiment suggestions.
Be careful with boiling water around young kids. Glass jars with boiling water inside will become too hot to touch.
Borax is a commonly used natural ingredient in grade school science experiments, and is safe for older kids to handle when used responsibly. However it is not edible, will irritate if put into eyes and is a mild skin irritant for people with sensitive skin. With Borax being inedible, please make sure that your beautiful crystal flowers are stored out of reach of babies or toddlers.
All kids’ activities on this blog require attentive adult supervision. Parents and carers will need to judge whether a particular activity is appropriate their child’s age and skill level. Click here for more information.
You can find lots more sparkly ideas over on our growing Crystal Science page, including:
- how to make the best crystal snowflakes (an experiment in technique)
- interlocking crystal hearts necklace
- how to make a snowy fir tree using salt (which is a great one for little kids)
- crystal Christmas tree or candy cane ornaments
And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities via email. We’d love to have you join us!
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