Enjoy a fun seasonal experiment and explore chemistry concepts by making crystal candy canes. Create a saturated solution, then watch the crystals grow! Not only can families watch chemistry in action, afterward, the canes can be used as decorations or cute holiday gifts.
- Borax (Found in the laundry detergent section at the grocery)
- Mason Jars or wide-mouthed jars
- Pot to boil water
- Pipe Cleaners in red and white to make candy canes
- Measuring Cups
- Ribbon or string
- Popsicle Sticks or pencils to suspend the candy cane in the saturated solution in the jars
- Start by making candy canes with the pipe cleaners. Cut them in half and use two pipe cleaners to twist together into a candy cane shape.
- Tie some string to the top of the candy cane and wrap it around a pencil or popsicle stick. Test the length of the candy cane versus the jars. The idea is for the pencil or stick to balance the candy cane in the jar, without it touching the sides or bottom of the jar. Trim the candy cane as needed. When they’re the right size, set your candy cane and pencils aside.
- With adult assistance, boil enough water to fill the jars. Once boiling, an adult can fill each jar with the water. The jars will be hot!
- With adult assistance, add a few tablespoons of Borax to each jar. The ratio is about 3 tablespoons per 250ml of water. Borax is not consumable.
- Stir the Borax into each jar until it looks dissolved.
- Lower the pipe cleaner candy canes into the jars allowing the pencil or popsicle stick to sit on the top of the jar, letting the candy canes dangle in the solution.
- Set the jars aside. Check on them within a few hours and you should start to see crystals forming on the canes.
- After about 24 hours, you’ll see the crystals have formed on the cane. After two days, the crystals should be finished forming and you can remove the canes from the jars.
- Place the canes on paper towels and let dry. Now you have crystal candy canes to give away or hang up for decorations.
Wow! That’s really neat – what happened?
Borax becomes suspended in the water – hot water holds more Borax than cold water – allowing the solution to become supersaturated. As the solution begins to cool, the water molecules move closer together and the “extra” Borax that cannot be dissolved separates from the water. This forms crystals on the pipe cleaners.
Photo Credit: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/christmas-crystal-candy-canes-science-activity/
Activity Sources: https://gosciencegirls.com/crystal-candy-canes/