Family Fun Science Activity for the Holidays

Looking for a fun, easy craft to do with your kiddos this season? Here is a super simple activity that parents can do with materials that are most likely already around the house. Salt crystal ornaments are pretty to decorate with, and you can also discuss the science behind the growth of the crystals.

The only materials you need are

  • salt
  • chenille stems
  • scissors
  • jars or other containers
  • clothespins
  • a pot for heating water (you can also just use hot tap water)

Start by creating designs with the chenille stems by bending and cutting them into different shapes.

You can get creative and use multiple stems to create 3D shapes:

Add an extra piece of a chenille stem on the end of your ornament so that the clothespin has something to hold onto while still being able to submerge your ornament completely in the water. You could also just attach an ornament hanger at this point.

Prepare the salt water solution. (Heating water on the stove makes the process go more quickly, but you can also use hot tap water.) Use as much water as you need to be able to completely fill the jars. As the water heats up, pour salt in a bit at a time and stir to dissolve.

As more and more salt is added, the water will eventually not be able to dissolve any more salt. You will see the salt stay at the bottom of the pan. It’s now ready.

Pour the salt water solution carefully into the jars. (Please note, if you heated the water on the stove, the jars will be VERY hot once the water is poured in. Please use caution when touching them.) Carefully add the ornaments, one per jar. Make sure the clothespin rests at the top of the jar to keep the ornament suspended in the solution.

Salt crystals start forming pretty quickly on the ornaments. You should be able to see a nice layer of crystals after about an hour.

Why is this happening?
When salt is dissolved in water, the water molecules separate the salt molecules. The added energy (heat) is what helps break the bond apart. As the water starts to evaporate in the jars, the salt molecules start to bond together again. This is called ionic bonding. As the salt crystals form and fall to the bottom of the jar (because they are heavier than the water), some cling to the chenille stems.

Leave the ornaments in the jars for about 24 hours. You can also try different lengths of time to see if that changes the amount of crystals that form. Then gently remove the ornaments and let dry completely.

Once dry, hang the ornaments on your tree using the long stem that was used for the clothespin, or attach ornament hangers. You can also hang them in windows or other areas to add some fun holiday décor around the house.

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