This is a simple science experiment for kids to enjoy with a minimum amount of supplies. Growing crystals does take some time, but it is fun to watch the process begin soon after you add the hot water solution. Approaching Christmas, why not use pipe cleaners to make crystal candy canes! This is also a great opportunity to learn about suspension science (chemistry).
- Pipe cleaners (we used Christmas colors in red, white, green)
- Mason jars (wide mouth preferred)
- Pan, spoon, measuring cup and tablespoon
- Jumbo Popsicle sticks
- Optional: ribbon
To make three small mason jars, add 6 cups of water and 18 tablespoons of borax. You will want to heat the water first in the pan, remove from heat and add the borax. Stir well.
While the water is heating up, cut the pipe cleaners in half. Twist and form into candy canes. Tie a string around each candy cane and onto a Popsicle stick. Place candy cane inside each jar, being careful to not touch edges or the bottom – it will stick!
Once the solution is mixed well, pour into mason jars. Be sure to cover the whole candy cane so crystals will form over the whole candy cane. Crystals will only form on what is inserted into the solution. In a few hours you will see crystals beginning to grow. The next day, the candy canes should be covered! Gently take them out and place on paper towels to dry. They look neat hanging on a window or even as an ornament!
What we made at the beginning with the water is called a saturated solution. The borax has been suspended throughout the solution and remains that way while the liquid is hot. A hot liquid will hold more borax than a cold liquid. As it cools, the particles settle out of the saturated mixture, and the settling particles form the crystals that you see. The impurities remain behind in the water and cube-like crystals will form if the process of cooling is slow enough.
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Photos & content by: Heather Kucenski