- Pipe cleaners
- Thread or string
- Boiling water
- Glass container, large enough for the letter to hang (mason jars work well)
Before I began, I formed one blue pipe cleaner into a letter "A."
A mason jar would be perfect for this activity since it can withstand the heat of the boiling water without cracking. I don't have any mason jars so I tested some boiling water in a vase and it was fine. Make sure you are using something that can withstand the heat. At the end of the activity there were a layer of borax crystals stuck on the sides and bottom of the vase but with a little scraping, the vase was as good as new.
I wish I could say that I followed some kind of recipe here, but I did not. I added 7 or 8 tablespoons of Borax to the bottom of the vase. I found my Borax at Target in the laundry aisle.
Next, I added enough boiling water to be sure that when I dipped my letter in, it would be totally submerged. The amount of water will vary depending on the size container you use. Stir well. You will want the water to be cloudy. If after stirring it is not yet cloudy, add some more Borax. I added another 2 tablespoons at this point, so I probably ended up using about 10 total tablespoons of Borax.
Tie a length of thread to your letter and then tie the other end to the middle of your pencil. You will then dip your letter into the Borax filled boiling water, being careful not to let it touch the bottom or sides. If it touches the bottom or sides of the container then it will get stuck there when the crystals form. I had trouble with my pencil rolling, so I added tape to both ends to secure it to the vase.
Nothing is going to happen for a while. My kids kept coming by every hour looking for crystals. After about 5 hours I noticed something going on. Crystals were starting to form!
I left it soaking over night and when we woke up the next morning we were treated to a crystallized letter "A." The kids were impressed! We hung it from a chandelier and it looks so pretty when it spins and catches the light.
For little ones, this activity doesn't require much explanation. It's a neat thing to observe. I wish the kids would have been more involved in the process, but between the Borax and the boiling water I thought it was best for them to just observe. Older kids can help more and you can get into more of the science behind the transformation which I discovered here.
For more kids science activities check out Chemical Reactions for Preschoolers and Colorful Dancing Milk.