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Sugar Crystal Ornaments

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Rock candy with a twist! Help your kids create sparkly rock-candy ornaments for the holidays. The colorful and bendable chenille sticks means there are lots of small fibers for the crystals to grow on. And the more crystals there are, the more fun it is to watch the ornament sparkle in the holiday lights.
Rock candy with a twist! Help your kids create sparkly rock-candy ornaments for the holidays.
What You’ll Need
  • Chenille sticks

  • Sugar

  • Water

  • Heat-safe jars

  • Waxed paper

  • Thread

  • Craft sticks

What to Do
  1. Twist chenille sticks into shapes for ornaments. (Make sure the shapes can hang in the jars without touching either the glass or each other.)

  2. Put four cups of sugar into a saucepan. Add two cups of water.

  3. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves completely and comes to a low boil. Use caution, as the solution gets very hot. Pour it carefully into the heat-safe jars. (We used two pint jars and were able to hang two ornaments in each one.)

  4. Let the solution come to room temperature. Dip each ornament into it. Lay the shapes on waxed paper to dry for two days.

  5. Use thread to hang each ornament from a craft stick set across the top of a solution-filled jar. The ornaments should not touch each other or the jar.

  6. Now… wait! For about two weeks. When the ornaments are covered with crystals, lift them from the jars and hang them to dry, with waxed paper underneath to catch sugary drops.

How It Works

When you need to dissolve a lot of sugar, heat is the key. Heating the water causes its molecules to move faster. That makes them collide more frequently with the sugar crystals, knocking sugar molecules from the crystals. The sugar dissolves in the hot water, meaning that as the crystals break apart, their molecules get mixed in among the water molecules. A lot more sugar can dissolve in hot water than at colder temperatures. The mixture becomes “saturated.”

Once it cools back to room temperature, there is too much sugar to stay dissolved in the water. Now the solution is “supersaturated.” The ornaments give the sugar molecules “nucleation” sites—places where they begin to form crystals. As sugar molecules bump into each other in just the right way, they lock together, forming the first crystals. Other sugar molecules in the solution gradually lock on, and the beautiful crystalline structure grows.  

Extend the Fun

Younger kids: Waiting two weeks is close to waiting forever when you’re little, so help your child mark the days by creating an ornament calendar. Number the days 1-14, and each day, cross off one number. 

Older kids: Rock candy is made by crystallizing sugar from a solution in which it has been dissolved. If your kids want to make rock candy to eat, use a craft stick instead of a chenille stick. Rock candy is usually grown on a string or wooden stick, so grab one of those before you begin.

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