I am having great fun with borax and pipe cleaners. With the pipe cleaners, you can make all kinds of shapes or sculptures. Let your sculpture sit in the borax solution over night, and in the morning you have a funky crystal sculpture. You can make 2 dimensional hearts, or snowflakes, or 3 dimensional trees. I put this on my son’s piano as it was somewhat reminiscent of a candelabra. I don’t think he appreciated the humor. I was also thinking that if you have a tabletop train set, it might be fun to have a section where you have crystal trees and snow. In some respects, it also resembles coral. You and your child could make a cool underwater shadow box, or diorama, with crystal coral and salt dough fish. Hmmm… sounds like a future project!
- Dye or food coloring
- Pipe cleaners
- Waterproof gloves
- Hot water
- Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a salt. It should not be eaten and care should be used when working with it. Remember to wash your hands and counter surfaces when done.
- I used 20 Mule Team Borax laundry detergent for my source of borax.
- Take 10 pipe cleaners and pull 4 out so that they are about 2 inches longer than the rest.
- Take 2 more and pull them out so that they are about an inch longer than the 4 remaining.
- Take the bunch of pipe cleaners and twist so that the ones you just pulled out can be the roots of the tree, and what you are twisting will be the trunk of the tree. Only twist about 3 inches of the trunk, because you want to leave enough pipe cleaner to make branches.
- Take the roots and separate them out so that your tree can stand up without help. Give the roots some kinks, so that they look more like roots. (Who has ever seen a straight root?)
- Take the top branches of the tree and shape them to look more like a tree. Cut some smaller pipe cleaner pieces, about 2 inches, and twist those onto the branches so that it looks like smaller branches coming out of the bigger branch. Shape again to look like a tree.
- Make a saturated solution of borax using 20 Mule team laundry detergent, enough to cover your sculpture in the container. Add dye if you want colored crystals. I used rit dye. Your container needs to be big enough that you can remove your sculpture the next day without bending the pipe cleaner. I used a big bean can that I got at the dump. Take hot water and add the detergent. It is about 3 tablespoons per cup of very hot water.
- Leave the sculpture in a spot where it will not be disturbed for 18 hours or so.
- Pour off the solution, pull the tree out. You may find that the crystals have grown around the roots of the tree and are sticking to the bottom of the container. I turned the container upside down and gently knocked on the bottom. That broke the crystal’s hold on the bottom and the tree broke free. You may also find that the crystals have grown between the roots obscuring the structure. Carefully remove any crystals that have grown where you don’t like them.
- Crystals, like those that grew on the bottom of your container, can be reused another day, by adding water, and microwaving until dissolved.