Snowflake Experiments for Children

Learning about science and the natural world in a hands-on, visually interesting way is more likely to hold the attention of children and be retained than would just reading something in a book.  Two enjoyable, educational, snowflake activities for children are to examine snowflakes, and to make their own snowflakes.

* Examining snowflakes

This is a very simple process.  Most people have caught a snowflake in their hand to get a closer look at it.  This is just a little more efficient version of that.

Place a good size piece of black paper or fabric in the freezer for at least two to three hours.  Set it flat on the ground outside when it is snowing.  Take a close look at the snowflakes that land on the paper or fabric.  The contrast against the black background should make it easier to see them clearly and examine their structure.  (A magnifying glass will further enhance this activity.)

If you want to keep the children occupied for awhile (like, probably the remainder of the history of the universe), offer a prize for the first one to find two absolutely identical snowflakes.

* Creating snowflakes

This one is considerably more elaborate.  Because it involves boiling water and substances that are harmful if swallowed, younger children should only do this experiment with adult supervision.

To make snowflakes, you’ll need:

Wide mouth jar

White pipe cleaners

String

Pencil

Scissors

Boiling water

Borax (as in 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster, not Boraxo soap)

1.  Cut a pipe cleaner into three equal sections.  Twist the sections together at their centers to make a six-sided snowflake shape.  Trim the ends if necessary to make them even and to make it so it will fit inside the jar.

2.  Tie the string to the end of one of the six arms, and the other end of the string around the pencil, so that with the pencil resting across the top of the jar, the pipe cleaner shape will dangle suspended in the jar.

3.  Fill the jar almost to the top with boiling water.

4.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of borax per cup of water.  Add gradually and stir as you go along to dissolve as much of it as possible.

5.  Hang the pipe cleaner shape from the top of the jar with the pencil, so that it is suspended in the water.

6.  Leave the jar to sit undisturbed overnight.

The result should be a six-sided snowflake-like shape covered with crystals.

With these activities, you can use children’s preexisting curiosity about snow to help them to learn.

Sources:

Anne Marie Helmenstine, “How to Grow a Borax Crystal Snowflake.” About.com.

“Examining Snowflakes.” Weather Wiz Kids.