Colorful Ice Sculptures

This is one of my favorite winter-time sensory activities!  Though it’s great any time of year, colder temps outside make it easier to freeze all those ice blocks!  Get your kiddos in on all the action by letting them mix the colors (I like to use washable liquid or powder watercolors), and letting them observe the change from liquid to solid…..and then back again!  Pop the colored ice into your sensory table, kitchen sink, or even the bathtub, and get building!  (Originally posted 12/18/09.)

Ice is a fun, inexpensive, and fascinating material to explore in your sensory table!  I like to add color to the water before filling my ice molds, to add interest, and so that the colors begin to mix as the ice melts.  Then I fill a variety of containers – ice-cube trays, of course, but also empty plastic food containers (Cool Whip, sour cream, yogurt, etc.), plastic cups, popsicle molds, muffin tins – anything to create an interesting shape.  You can place these in your freezer, if you have the room, or if you’re lucky enough to have absolutely frigid temperatures as we did here, just place them outside overnight.

Place the ice in your sensory bin with paintbrushes and water, and show the children that if they brush the ice with water and then press two together, the water freezes and holds the ice pieces together like glue!  They can build castles and forts to their hearts’ content!  I also add a salt shaker so that they can observe what happens as salt is added to ice.  Inevitably, they’ll eventually want to chop at the ice (particularly if they’re only partially frozen, with water in the middle, a fortuitous and fascinating accident), so if you want to protect your paintbrushes, provide something else, like craft sticks to use for chopping.

This activity provides experience with science concepts like freezing and melting.  Talk about why the ice is slowly melting and discuss whether the ice would stay frozen or melt outside right now!  It also provides a frigid sensory experience that paves the way for language development as you use synonyms for the word “cold”, like “freezing”, “frigid”, “chilly”, and “icy”.  Other words to describe the experience, such as “slippery”, “smooth”, “melting”, “freezing”, and “dissolve,” easily come into play.  (And, if your children are anything like my own boys, words like “destroy”, “blast”, and “invincible” will also likely come into play.)

See how much learning fun you can have with a little water and coloring?  For a fun spin, you could also try the same activity outside on a snowy day!

For more wintry activities, click here!

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity, sensory activity

14 responses to “Colorful Ice Sculptures

  1. Love this idea. We have actually had a few cold days here in Florida where t has gotten cold enough that we could do an ice activity…am going to save this idea for when it gets near freezing again to do with my sons.
    Thanks for sharing.
    🙂 Colleen

  2. Hi! I tried this this morning in our little “fake” home pre-school and it was a big hit! Here in MT, freezing was a little too easy:) I even threw in the term cylinder and it was fun hearing them describing different objects as cylinders or not. We read a few stories about snow and freezing and it was great! Thanks so much for all your great ideas and thinking points!

    • notjustcute

      It’s amazing what kids can learn when they’re actually using the terms and the objects at the same time! Great job using the teachable moment! I’m so glad to hear the activity was a success for you! (And I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “fake” home pre-school. The structure may be different, but your kids are obviously learning! :0)

  3. This was a great post! I love the idea of making ice sculptures and adding colors to them as well. This was one of my favorite posts that I saw this week and I’ve linked up to it here:

  4. Pingback: 10 Ways to Make Today Magical | A Magical Childhood

  5. This is so cool! (pun intended). We definitely have frigid temps around here so this would be a great thing for us to do!

  6. One of my colleagues did this and placed popsicle sticks in some of the ice pops, then let the kids paint onto watercolor paper with the melting watercolor popsicles. Very fun! I’m thinking this would be fun to look at in a clear bin on a light table, as well…

    • notjustcute

      Oooh, a light table would be awesome! (As long as you can make sure the water/electricity issue is securely taken care of, of course. :0)

  7. Thank you, I love this idea…and will need to do it soon! The temp has not come down to 32 degrees here yet so we’ll need to freeze those guys.

    We did this
    that you might like…similar idea : )

  8. I recently did this with my kids and am posting about it today. With a link back to you of course 🙂 Thanks for the great idea!!

    • notjustcute

      Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. I really like to see the activities come to life for real people. I’m glad your kiddos had a good time!

  9. sharon grunberger

    Just to say thanks so much for a fellow `children should have fun ` educator, I`m a SAHM and partime childminder in the uk, Ive always used lots of natural exploratory play for as long as i can remember,[brought up by a fantastic,inventive mom !!] I have finally gone and done somehting about out my yearning to explain to other parents that its ok to NOT have plastic toys around and use what we have around us..its so much more fun. soo i`ve set up my own activity sessions fo rparents and toddlers and its brill..parents are pleasantly surprised to find hteir kids will sit for an hour playing at the rice table and theres hardly a sound throughout the hall as children are so absorbed in what theyre doing!!
    I use carpet tubes from carpet shops, they give me carpet and fabric samples, kids make their own balls from newspaper and masking tape..lis t goes on anyway , last few weeks have been doing freezing ice shapes with fruit/veg inside and then i use essential oils to complement the piece of fruit and orange essential oil and parent alike love it….just thought i`d share this with all you like minded parents and say .lets educate the world with messy exploratory play…
    thanks for your inspiration and making me do something finally about my love of these ideas…sharon x

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