Holidays Homeschool Science Subject

Christmas Science Experiment: Make Beautiful Borax Crystal Ornaments

This Christmas Science Experiment: Borax Crystal Ornaments article is one of our most popular holiday articles, and we understand why! It’s a way to add some hands-on fun to your holiday homeschool and, at the same time, to create holiday memories and do a science experiment!

We usually share hands-on ideas for elementary ages on Only Passionate Curiosity and for middle and high schoolers (along with homeschool humor!) on Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. But this holiday science experiment is one we published years ago, and because folks love it so much, we want to share it with you again this year.

Why? Because, even if you take a break from formal homeschooling during the holidays, it’s still easy to help your kids keep learning!

Have you ever heard of making Borax crystal ornaments from Borax and pipe cleaners? If not (or even if you have!), keep reading to find out how. It’s lots of fun, super easy, and it’s a great way to spend some time being creative with your kiddos and learning something fun at the same time!

Christmas Science Experiment: Borax Crystal Ornaments

This Christmas science experiment takes a little while (a few hours or overnight), but it’s worth it to wow your kids with how Borax makes crystals out of pipe cleaner ornaments. It’s a little like how the Word of God makes us more sparkly—if we stick with it!

crystal ornaments

Materials

crystal star ornaments

Preparation

  1. Shape various Christmas ornaments using pipe cleaners. For example, shape pipe cleaners into a stocking, star, or cross. Note: The shapes must fit into the jars.
  2. Tie a string to the top of the ornament.
  3. Fill jars with hot water.
  4. Add three tablespoons of Borax per cup of water that you added to each jar. Mix it well. (For example, if you use 3 cups of hot water in your jar, you’ll need 9 tablespoons of Borax for that jar.)
  5. Lower the string so that the ornament is completely covered. Then tie the string around the top of the open jar to keep it in place. Note: You’ll want to be sure the ornament isn’t touching the edges of the jar.
  6. Leave the ornaments in the water for at least several hours or overnight.
  7. The next day, the Borax will have crystallized in the water and become attached to the pipe cleaner ornaments.


Explanation for the Science Behind Borax Crystal Ornaments

Borax is an example of a crystal. Salt, sugar, and Epsom salts are other examples. Hot water molecules move away from each other. When you add Borax, the molecules make room for borax crystals to dissolve. But a point of saturation can be reached, meaning there will be some remaining crystals. As this water cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Crystals begin to form and build around another item in the water, such as the pipe cleaner. This is especially true as the water evaporates.

Discussion

The Borax crystals are a little like God’s Word. We can read the Bible, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference in our lives—not right away. But the Word of God sinks in slowly. We have to have patience. Our walk with the Lord is life-long. Philippians 1:6 says you should be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Someday we can be assured of being complete–like beautiful ornaments–if we read God’s Word regularly even though we might look like plain old pipe cleaners while we’re reading at first!

More Resources

Take a look at this video showing how to make borax crystal ornaments! 

This video by yoyomax12 demonstrates how to make borax crystal ornaments. It really is easy!

Want to give it a try without borax?

Or, if you don’t have borax and want to go ahead and make your crystal ornaments right away, you can take a look at this article by Steamsational.com to find out How to Make Pipe Cleaner Crystals Without Borax! If you choose to make ornaments without borax, keep in mind that there won’t be as many crystals, and they won’t look quite as fancy and sparkly, but it’s definitely an option if you don’t have borax and don’t want to wait to make your ornaments.

How about making some borax crystal flowers for Mother’s Day or another occasion?

You can make borax crystal ornaments or flowers (or whatever!! Use your imagination!) any time for any occasion (or no occasion at all). Just keep in mind that, if you decide to make borax crystal flowers, you’ll need to use artificial flowers since real flowers will be ruined by the hot/boiling water that’s necessary for this project. Take a look at this article explaining How to Make Crystal Flowers if you’d like to give it a try.

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7 Fun Ways to Use A Christmas Carol for Holiday Learning

 

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About the author

Wendy

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 30 years ago, and they live in the South. Hannah, age 26, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 24, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 18, is the most recent homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

46 Comments

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  • Mary-Kate,

    I’d like to do this, but is there any way to seal the crystals to the pipe cleaner so that they can last? Hairspray, maybe? Do you know? (I’m not a crafter!) I’m assuming the crystals will easily fall off.

    Beautiful object lesson to go with it.

    Thanks,
    Becky

    • Becky, I’m not much of a crafter either, but I did make one of these with my daughter recently. The crystals actually hold quite firmly to the pipe cleaners. At least ours did. It was almost like rock candy. I don’t know if these ornaments would be suitable for storing and using the next year, but I think they’ll be fine for using this season. And they’re inexpensive to make, so you could just make more next year. 🙂

      • I can’t wait to try this but I am wondering about doing it with our Sunday School children but we wouldn’t be there the next day.

        • I don’t think it would hurt to wait until the next Sunday to take them out, but you might want to try it out yourself just to be sure. 🙂

        • I do this every year with my kindergartners and we have left them in the solution over the weekend and they do just fine. It is a really cool project and the kids are always amazed. You just have to make sure that the water is either boiling or very close to boiling or the crystals will not form. Good luck!

      • Oh no! I’ve tried it several times, and it has worked very well every time. I’m very sorry it didn’t work correctly for you! (One of the times I tried it was when I made the ornaments that are shown in the photo at the top of the post.) Did you make sure the Borax was completely dissolved? And did you use pipe cleaners? It works much better with pipe cleaners or some kind of yarn or string that has a lot of texture. Also, you might want to try adding more Borax than the recipe calls for. I don’t see how it could hurt to use more than the recipe calls for. When I did mine, it only took a few hours for the crystals to start forming, so you might want to try it again at home tonight and then do it again with your class first thing in the morning–or even this afternoon if you have time. I hope it works better for you next time!

      • Mine was super hot tap water. But it’s hard to say what might have gone wrong. I made these several times and didn’t have any trouble. I would suggest trying it again and using more borax to see if that does the trick.

  • I want to try these but don’t have the borax. I wondered if you’ve tried them with Epsom salt or salt or sugar? Has anyone tried to make colors? Maybe drop some food coloring in one to try?

    • yes that would work with any kind of crystal. you can add food coloring and even flavoring if you want – but sugar is the only one you would want to eat..

  • MAYBE. Use a clear acrylic spray paint in light coat? I would try this outside not just for ventilation but also not sure what type of reaction it might cause. I an an artist but not a chemist! Lol!

  • I love this idea! I especially like the discussion part. You could go on to add that when we allow God’s word to work in our lives, we can then shine for him, like the crystal snowflakes shining from the tree. Definitely doing this one. My girls will love it!

  • Thank you for sharing these instructions. I am making them with my elderly patients. They will love to have these hanging in their Windows. I will also make then with my granddaughter and use your teaching. Thanks again!

  • Borax is somewhat toxic if injested, and is listed as toxic on the box. Very young children are tempted to put this sort of item in their mouths, as it looks like candy. Just use common sense and instruct age appropriate children.

    • Yes, all science experiments should be supervised (whether they contain toxic substances or not) when young children are present. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Christy, I honestly don’t know if the containers have to be glass or not. I’ve always used glass. I apologize for not being able to answer your question! I would suggest just giving it a try and seeing what happens. 🙂 Then maybe you can come back and let us know how it went!

    • If you do, it’s possible that they will “grow” together. It would have to be a pretty big jar with plenty of room between them. But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would rather not take a chance on having to break them apart and ruining them.

  • Hi Jan,

    Maybe you didn’t give it enough time. Or it could have been that your solution didn’t have enough borax in it. The crystals don’t actually freeze–they form slowly over time. Depending on the concentration, the crystals could take hours or perhaps longer to form.

    Hope this helps!

  • We love these. We had the girls shape their pipe cleaners into their names about 3 years ago and they are still doing great. They love their crystal names.

  • Thank you for sharing this great, fun craft. Thank you for being a blessing and the chance. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • I haven’t done this experiment in years! Thanks for the reminder. I love how you made tree ornaments out of these.

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