Crystal-Coated Pipe Cleaner Ornaments
Science doubles as fun with this winter craft for the older kids. Create fun shapes with pipe cleaners and magically coat them with crystals. The chemical reaction is much the same as turning sugar into rock candy. Both require a simple set-up and a little patience for eye-catching results.
Borax is made of soft crystals that dissolve in water. By creating a super saturated solution with borax and boiling water, the water molecules expand so the borax can’t dissolve. As the solution starts to cool and the water molecules contract and start to evaporate, the borax comes out of the solution and collects on the pipe cleaners. The chemistry results in beautiful ornaments to decorate your home.
How to make crystal coated ornaments:
You will need:
Floral wire or thin string
Craft sticks or popsicle sticks
20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster (available in most supermarkets)
Warning! This is a craft for older kids. Borax is not dangerous to handle, but be sure to NOT drink the solution and be sure to wash your hands after handling. Grown-ups should deal with the boiling water, and keep kids away from the hot jars.
Create your pipe cleaner figures (see below for instructions) so each will fit fully inside a mason jar without touching the bottom or the sides, about 2 ½ inches wide. Tie a piece of floral wire or thin string to the top of the pipe cleaner figure and loop and tie the other end around the center of a craft stick. Test that the figure rests in the center of the mason jar when the stick rests on the top of the jar, so the pipe cleaners don’t touch the sides and float at least an inch above the bottom. Remove the figure and set aside.
These next few steps are best performed by an adult. Boil at least two cups of water for each jar. Place 5 tablespoons of Borax in the bottom of a mason jar. Pour boiling water into the jar, stir with a wooden spoon, and lower the pipe cleaner figure into the jar. Add more boiling water if needed to cover the pipe cleaners. You will need 3 tablespoons of Borax for each cup of boiling water you use, so add additional borax if necessary. Let the jar sit for 24 hours before removing the ornament. Remove the ornament and rest on a wire rack or hang to dry.
To make the snowflake:
Cut a pipe cleaner in thirds. Bend each third into a “V” and twist around each other at middle to form six spokes. Snip the ends so it’s about 2 ½ inches across. With another pipe cleaner, snip off six 1-inch pieces. Twist each piece around each spoke. Tie a wire or string around one spoke and loop around a craft stick.
To make a snowman:
Cut a white pipe cleaner in two pieces, one longer than the other. Form a circle with the larger piece and twist the ends closed. Form a smaller circle with the smaller piece, twisting the ends closed but leaving a little tail. Twist the two circles together using the tail to wrap around the bigger circle. Cut a 3 ½ inch piece of pipe cleaner from a different color pipe cleaner, twist around the neck to make a scarf. Tie a wire or string around the top and loop around a craft stick.
To make a tree:
Simply form a triangle with a green pipe cleaner (you may need to trim the pipe cleaner smaller to fit in the jar) and twist the ends closed. Snip a piece of brown pipe cleaner, form into a rectangle and twist to the bottom. Tie a wire or string around the top and loop around a craft stick.
Meaghan Mountford, author of Sugarlicious: 50 Cute and Clever Treats for Every Occasion, has been creating crafty sweets for 15 years. She is especially fond of decorating cookies, marshmallows and putting sweets on sticks. See more on her blog, the decorated cookie.