Grow your own Christmas Decorations

Crystal stars - Jar set-up from top

I recall having varying success growing crystals as a child, and it's a project I've been meaning to do with my kids for quite some time now. I believe you can grow crystals from pretty much any salt (Table, Epson and Borax are the most commonly available), as well as sugar. The science behind it, put very simply, is that the water can only hold a certain amount of your crystalline substance in solution, in other words, you can only dissolve so much in it until it becomes saturated. By heating the water it has the capacity to hold more, as essentially it's molecules have moved further apart. As your solution cools, the molecules move closer together again, causing your solid to crystallise out of the solution once more. The crystals are attracted to solid surfaces to reform, so you can encourage them to grow where you want them to by providing a foreign object within the solution. For our crystals we chose to use Borax, as the crystals are reputed to be fairly sturdy once they have formed, and we plan to use ours as decorations.

Crystal Stars - you will need

We used a pipe cleaner, an extra piece of wire, borax (which we sourced through ebay), a glass jar and a pencil to suspend our creation from.

We started by cutting our pipe cleaner into 3 equal lengths, and twisted it in the middle so it would hold its shape. You could use any shape or object, although I think having a rough surface for the crystal to attach to works best.

Crystal Stars - cut pipecleaner into 3 equal lengths

Crystal Stars - attach wire for hanging

We bent a little loop on one of our arms, and twisted our extra piece of wire onto it so it held firm (remembering once you suspend your object in the solution it may try to float up if not held securely)

Using our jar as a guide we then worked out how long to leave the suspension wire so it would hold our start in the centre of the jar (you don't want it touching the sides or bottom)

Crystal Stars - jar set-up

Crystal Satrs - crystals forming in pipe cleaner

We heated up 1 litre of water until it was very hot but not boiling and stirred in the borax a tablespoon at a time until no more would dissolve (in our case it was 10 spoons). We then simply poured into our jar and popped in our star. This photo shows our crystals after about 2 hours.

Crystal Stars - leave to dry

The star on the right was left overnight, whereas the one of the left was only in the solution for 3 or 4 hours. The crystals are fairly robust, over time they can become less sparkly, and it is suggested that you paint them with a clear nail polish to prevent this happening. I believe that by adding food colouring to your solution you can grow crystals of different colours, although we haven't tried this yet. The kids are absolutely delighted with their crystals, and can't wait to take them in for show and tell at school!

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  • Reply Kelly Robinson

    This looks brilliant! I will definitely be giving this a go over the festive period. Thank you #Trash2Treasure

    December 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It’s a perfect activity for Christmas – really fun to make, let me know how you get on :)

      December 21, 2015 at 6:06 pm
  • Reply Silly Mummy

    This looks like a really fun idea to do with slightly older kids – will have to try to remember it! #MMWBH
    Silly Mummy recently posted…How to (Not) Make Christmas Cards With a Toddler and a Baby*My Profile

    December 17, 2015 at 1:55 am
  • Reply John Adams

    This is just brilliant. It is so simple. I’m going to make some of these with my eldest tonight. I shall also start following your blog. Looks like you have some great ideas. #MMWBH
    John Adams recently posted…How many clothes do you own?My Profile

    December 16, 2015 at 5:04 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      They are great fun to make, and we’d be delighted to have you following us – we’ve got some great craft projects planned for the next few months :)

      December 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm
  • Reply A Patchwork Life

    These are brilliant Sarah! Loved those crystal growing kits when I was a kid. Happy memories – something magical about it. The overnight star is amazing! Really covered in crystals (great idea using pipe cleaners). Don’t remember anything I did working quite so well!
    A Patchwork Life recently posted…We Three Kings…. #makeanativityMy Profile

    December 8, 2015 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      These work much better than I remembered from childhood too, and much quicker – sure we waited for total evaporation back then which doesn’t really hold many kid’s interest :)

      December 8, 2015 at 10:06 pm
  • Reply sarah

    These are awesome! Thanks for your detailed explanation, it now feels like something we could do….though still have to work out what borax is!! My son really likes sciencey experimenty things….these seems like the results are relatively quick. Different colours would be fab too. I need to pin this!! Thanks Sarah #trash2treasure

    December 7, 2015 at 10:52 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Apparently borax used to be used as a washing product among other things so sometimes you can get it next to washing powder at the supermarket, but I ordered ours off ebay. They would be great in different colours and its a perfect activity for a rainy day :)

      December 8, 2015 at 9:11 am
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