B loves “treasure” and “jewels” AND Science, so I thought it might be fun to combine them all into one fun at-home project. Growing our own crystals!
This was so fun and easy to do, even I was having fun with it! We made different shapes with our crystals, including a “B”, spiral, and a circle. The rest were just some random shapes.
How Does It Work and What’s the Science Behind It?
Making crystals is really easy! There are several ways to do it using Borax, sugar, or salt. We chose the Borax method.
You simply create a supersaturated solution (using Borax) and as the pot cools the crystals slowly form. In doing this experiment you are recreating what happens in nature. In nature, crystals form when liquid rock, magma, slowly cools. The molecules in the liquid gather together as the cooling process takes place. The molecules come together in a uniform pattern that repeats, creating a unique shape. See, the thing that makes a crystal a crystal, is the order in which the molecules come together with the arrangement of the atoms. (Note that a molecule is made up of atoms. When 2 or more atoms are combined it’s called a molecule.)
In this experiment, you will heat up a large pot of water and after it boils you’ll pour in the Borax (molecules). After it dissolves you will place your shapes into the pot of water. Over time the liquid will cool and the molecules will need a surface to cling to. They will cling to your shapes in a pattern as the liquid cools. This will slowly create your crystals! Please know that this does take time. Your shapes will need to sit in the liquid overnight to fully form.
What You’ll Need:
- Large pot
- Wooden spoon
- Pipe Cleaners
- Food Coloring (optional)
To prep, you’ll want to make some shapes using your pipe cleaners and then tie the shapes to a wooden spoon using your string. The more simple the shapes, the better. We made a circle, letter B, a spiral, and some other random shapes B twisted the pipe cleaners into for fun. For the first go round I used yarn instead of string. I do not recommend this if you can help it because the yarn is large and the molecules found this to be a surface that it worked into its pattern during the cooling phase.
It will eventually look like this. Do not place your wooden spoon over the pot just yet though. This is just to show you what it will look like.
Making Your Own Borax Crystals:
- Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil
- Add Borax. *This is where it gets tricky because there’s no set amount. A lot factors in so you’ll need to observe and add what’s needed* Begin with about a cup of Borax and let it dissolve. You’re going to be adding a LOT! We used about 3/4 of the box of Borax. When it dissolves, add another cup. Keep going! What you are trying to do is make a supersaturated solution, meaning the amount of water is maxed out in how much crystal substance is dissolved. You will know that you’re done adding Borax in when not all of it dissolves and a small amount stays at the bottom.
- OPTIONAL: Add your choice of food coloring. If you’re using colored pipe cleaners, the colored pipe cleaners will also serve as the color that bleeds through if you’d prefer no food coloring. As an example, the yellow circle here was used with no food coloring, but the pipe cleaner was yellow. We made several batches. In one batch we used purple food coloring to make the “B”.
4. Place the wooden spoon over the pot. Be sure that the shapes you made are completely set in the water. You don’t want them too long where they touch the bottom of the pan though because the crystals will form on the shape and the pan, making them stick. Also, try to space out the shapes where they’re not touching one another or they’ll grow together.
5. Turn off the heat and wait! 24 hours may not be necessary, but at least overnight.
When They’re Ready:
When the shapes are ready simply cut the string off as close to the crystals as you can so that it’s now showing.
You’re all done!
Now the fun part…cleaning up!
You will notice that your pot also has crystals formed all around it that have hardened. It’s okay! I actually used this as an opportunity to “recycle” the crystals in the pot to make more! Or, you can use this method to clean your pot. Up to you!
Place the pot back on the stove and reheat. You’ll want to bring it to a boil again. You’ll begin to notice the molecules heating and beginning to dissolve again.
You have 2 options here:
- Add a little more Borax and repeat the steps to make another batch of crystals
- When the liquid is heated and the Borax has dissolved you can just dump it out. Easy clean up!
We had so much fun with this and I know we’ll be doing it again!