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!