Deck the Halls with Science

Decorate your home for Christmas with colorful polymers.

You are decorating your home; why not add a little science while trimming the tree? We have several homemade Christmas decorating ideas and Christmas crafts to do with the kids. Your house will be sparkling and glowing with holiday decorations this year.

Experiment Materials

  • Insta-Snow
  • Jelly Marbles
  • Fizzers coloring tablets
  • 1-liter or 2-liter bottles
  • 16-ounce bottles
  • Rocks (for weights)
  • Votives or candles


Icy Jelly Marbles Candle Holders

Note: this project takes several hours (overnight is even better) for the Jelly Marbles to hydrate and the ice to freeze. Make these ahead of time.

Hydrate your Jelly Marbles the day before you want to freeze your candle holders. To do this, just drop your Jelly Marbles into a bowl with water. Add the Fizzers color mixing tablets to the water to color the marbles. Depending on how many Jelly Marbles you are coloring, you will need 5-10 color tablets to get a bright rich color. The colored marbles will not be as large as uncolored Jelly Marbles.

Next, cut the tops off of a clean 1- or 2-liter soda bottle and a smaller 16-ounce soda bottle. Fill the smaller bottle with rocks to weigh it down. Set it in the center of the larger bottle. Fill the larger bottle with water and Jelly Marbles or just Jelly Marbles. Set it in the fridge overnight to let it freeze solid. For a layering effect, insert the smaller bottle into the larger bottle and fill the bottom of the larger bottle with one color of Jelly Marbles. Allow it to freeze for several hours. Add another band with a different color of Jelly Marbles. Freeze. Repeat until you have the height that you want.

For a totally different effect, you can also stack Jelly Marbles and freeze them together. The colors may run together a little bit if you don’t freeze the layers separately.

To remove the inner bottle, take out the rocks and fill the inner bottle halfway with warm water. Rock the bottle back and forth to loosen.

Add a votive candle or try LED lights, as we used in our examples, to keep the ice from melting quickly.

You can keep your candle holder in the soda bottle to protect furniture, etc. as the candle burns and the ice melts. Or you can remove them from the soda bottle and place them outside as luminarias or outdoor decorations. To remove the candle holder from the bottle, run the outside of the bottle under warm water to loosen it. Or let the bottle sit outside of the freezer for 5-10 minutes to melt slightly. Just make sure to put them back in the freezer when you are done to prolong their life.

Jelly Marbles in Floral Arrangements

Jelly Marbles are beautiful when used in glass vases with floral arrangements. Hydrate the marbles and fill a vase about ¾ full. If you want floral arrangements to last for several days, add extra water in the bottom of the vase to prolong the life of the flowers and the Jelly Marbles.

More Jelly Marble Ideas

Add glitter, ornaments, tinsel, or confetti to the marbles for a fun, festive look. Just be sure not to use anything like jingle bells that could rust as the Jelly Marbles dehydrate and release water.

Sprigs of holly berries or evergreens are also very festive. You can use live branches or fake ones. Just make sure to use plastic stems, as wire can rust in the water.

Candles placed around the base of the vase reflect and glow.

Decorating with Insta-Snow

Hydrate Insta-Snow in votive holders and other glass candle decorations. Mix cranberries, confetti, small ornaments, etc. into the snow for extra fun.

To color the snow, dissolve a Fizzers coloring mixing tablet in water. Pour the colored water on the snow to hydrate. To make darker specks inside the colored snow, mix a few drops of the same color of food coloring into the snow. The food coloring globs in the snow and makes flecks.

Add a votive or candle and you’re done!

Every few days you will need to mist the Insta-Snow with water to keep it looking fresh and hydrated.

Scented Jelly Marbles and Insta-Snow

Science will not only make your holiday decorations shine, it can also make them smell amazing. When hydrating Jelly Marbles, Jelly Crystals, Orbs, or Insta-Snow, add a water-based or oil-based potpourri liquid to scent the mixture. For a stronger scent, hydrate in just the liquid potpourri.

Place in a vase, bowl, or on a plate and add a candle. It’s beautiful and smells great. The scent will remain even after the polymer has dehydrated.

Icy Insta-Snow Star Candle Holder

Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Insta-Snow powder into the bottom of a soda bottle. Fill the soda bottle with water up to about the first line. The Insta-Snow should be oversaturated and floating in the water.

Place in the freezer for several hours.

The Insta-Snow will sink into the feet of the soda bottle and form a star. Run warm water over the outside of the bottle to loosen the ice. Place the Insta-Snow star on a plate, outside in the snow or cold, or float it in water. (Make sure you do not float the Insta-Snow stars in punch or anything you will ingest. Insta-Snow is non-toxic but doesn’t taste very good).

Add a votive or LED light on top. If using an LED light, first place a lit votive candle on top of the ice to melt a small indentation in the ice to hold the light. The Insta-Snow stars will melt much faster with lit votives.

If using your Insta-Snow Star on a plate or flat surface, sprinkle hydrated Insta-Snow around it for a totally different look.

Also try freezing colored Insta-Snow in water. The star will really show.

Other ideas for decorating with Insta-Snow

  • On mantels or tables around centerpieces, candles, or other decorations
  • On Christmas trees
  • In Christmas villages
  • Pour on the floor around the fireplace or doorway to capture Santa’s footprints
  • Anyplace you want snow that won’t melt. But don’t forget to spray with water every few days to keep it hydrated.
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