I’ve seen this with flowers before but it’s Christmas so it’s about time we did something Christmas-y. Have you made a paper snowflake yet this year? Today’s X-peri-mas is going to be about paper snowflakes that unfold themselves when you add them to water.

What you will need

This is a simple one – make a snowflake pattern on paper and cut it out.

But wait… Is a snowflake a simple pattern?

Nope. Snowflakes are beautiful and unique and every single one is different to the rest, right? I’m sure you’ve all heard that before. There are a few things that all snowflakes have in common though…

They always have six sides or points.

There will never be a hole in the middle.

Remember these rules when you make yours! I haven’t found the ideal pattern just yet but I’ll work on it and update this page when I’ve got one that fully opens every time. You can go simple and then it will work, but they are a bit more boring!

You need to make sure that the folded bits don’t necessarily get in the way of each other or tangle up. I made holes in one that were in just the wrong place and the points opposite got stuck in those holes! Fail. I had plenty that didn’t work out.

How to do the trick

Fold in the pointy bits of your snowflake into the middle. Don’t make your creases too deep or it might struggle to open fully.

Drop it into the middle of a tray of water and watch!

What’s happening?

The paper absorbs some water as soon as it hits the surface. The paper will expand slightly as that happens and that will push the paper outwards to try and be as straight as possible and not have any bends or corners. This will flatten the shape out as it goes – like blowing up a wrinkly balloon, as it expands the wrinkles smooth out.

There could also be an effect from surface tension but I think that is less likely to be the big force at play here.

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