First Light of Advent: Growing Crystals

As part of our Festival of Stones week, we decided to do a super easy science project and grow some crystals. We tried two methods and one was definitely more successful than the other. The first was to suspend pipe cleaner shapes in water saturated with table salt (about 1 cup of boiling water to 4 tablespoons of salt, colored with liquid watercolors) and allow salt crystals to form on the pipe cleaners. This one was a big failure. The pipe cleaners rusted. There weren't really crystals of salt that formed; more of a somewhat gross coating of salt residue that was left behind. Silas still wants to hang them on the tree and we absolutely will, but I think we'll try it again, following a different tutorial that is similar, but uses borax instead.

The second method was, luckily, a smashing success. You just combine 1/2 cup very hot tap water with 1/2 cup epsom salts and stir until all the salt is dissolved. Add liquid watercolors (or food coloring) and then pop in the 'fridge for three hours. Pour off the water and you're left with really beautiful needle-like crystal formations. The red ones we grew in a bowl and I scraped them into a clear jar so that we could display them on our seasonal table and the green ones we grew directly in the clear jar.

Silas thought this whole process was pretty fantastic. We mixed up the solution and put in the refrigerator before we left the house to run some errands and it was pretty magical to find what had formed when we returned home.

Find more of our thoughts on the first week of Advent here.


  1. SO glad you had success! We tried your successful method over the summer and nothing happened. I heard it can be hit or miss though, so we may try again. Your look great!

    1. What a bummer! We tried it three times and had success twice. I think the failure was because I didn't stir enough on one and the salt wasn't completely dissolved in that batch. Luckily, it's a pretty easy project and it's not to difficult to try more than once!

  2. Just came across your blog and really enjoying it. Love this project too!