Ice, Ice, pla-ay: ice sensory play activity

Or “Ice, Ice, big boy” as Ev insisted I sing (because he is absolutely NOT a baby). Putting aside my terrible singing, this is a sensory activity that’s brilliant for babies and older children alike. This is definitely one for the garden and warmer weather, so now is the perfect time of year to enjoy it!

You need:

  • water;
  • plastic containers of different shapes and sizes;
  • food colouring;
  • a large tray; and
  • utensils for your little ones to explore with (as well as their hands and feet!)

Simply colour you water before freezing. I added pineapple and raspberries for Ev and Harmie to find too, and opted to prep the night before (having checked the weather forecast 253 times).

Before you get started: be sure to check out my 8 Principles of Play!

Bringing out the tray Ev was VERY excited. I think perhaps I set the bar a little too high with our jelly extravaganza (let’s face it, water in any form is going to struggle to beat a wobbling pile of sweetness, but I went for it nevertheless). While he quickly realised that large blocks of ice are not quite so fun to eat, being able to give them a good bash with a hammer quickly won him over.

Then the science came in and stole the show, because the ice began to melt. And I suppose that this was the first time Ev had actually stopped and watched and understood what happens to water when it gets really cold, and what then happens when the ice it has formed melts. “But there’s WATER everywhere!” he gasped in amazement before studying the remaining blocks of ice more carefully.

The water in the tray then proved mesmerising for both him and Harmie as they each noticed their reflections. They both enjoyed peering at themselves, waving and then splashing the water to see the effect. Harmie was perhaps less keen on the cool temperature of the ice and water, getting quite cross with it each time her fingers braved the cold.

This activity is perfect to show your little one science in action, especially if you want something that’s really easy and cheap to set up. And don’t forget your soundtrack, baby!

This activity is great for developing the senses and fine motor skills. 

Further development through play:

  • Cause and effect: invite your little one to join in with putting the water in the freezer, and then check on it’s progress so they can see firsthand how water becomes ice.
  • Imagination: try freezing plastic toys or blocks in the water for an icy treasure hunt.
  • Language: discuss the feel of the ice, it’s taste, and the sounds the utensils make when hitting it.
  • Observation: compare the speed at which one ice cube melts to a larger block of ice.

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