Offering new sensory experiences to our little ones invites them to investigate and experiment. In the summer, ice activities are just the thing!
When they get engaged with repetitive actions, they experience a sense of flow which leads to deep learning. In that way, ice activities and water play are both fun and an ideal way to help toddlers exercise their concentration muscles!
Read on for ideas that you can set up at home!
Ice Play Activities for Two-to-Three-Year Olds
To make Messy Little Monster’s Fish Ice, use food coloring with water and place into ice molds shaped like fish, or any other marine animal of your choosing.
Once frozen, place the fish ice into a tub of water and let your little one watch as the dye from the ice mixes with the water. This activity is a great way to spark your child’s imagination- they can name the fish, invent stories, and more!
Ice Melt Animal Rescue
This activity was described by @bringingupbabe who showed how she placed a few different marine animal figurines into a large tub of water and then froze it. Introduce your child to the ice block and provide your them with tools to water down the block of ice- freeing the animals trapped inside! A few tools you can use for this are watering cans, beakers, cups, and small pitchers! Not only is this super fun, but it’s a great opportunity to practice fine motor skills, context-specific vocabulary, and social-emotional skills like compassion and empathy!
Rainbow Ice@thrifty_crafty_mama introduced us to a clever way to introduce color to sensory play! In a large ice tray, place 1-2 drops of food coloring into each cube before adding water and popping in the freezer. Once frozen, line up the pieces of ice in the shape of a rainbow! Your little one will love to interact with the colors on the ice.
Nature IceAnother fun variation of ice play is to make nature ice: Gather flowers and leaves from the garden and place them into ice cube trays with water overnight. Your toddler will wake up to beautiful ice cubes displaying different types of flowers! This is a great opportunity to introduce your child to nature vocabulary. For example, “These petals are yellow and the stem is green.” You can also provide your child with tools containing warm water to warm the ice and release the flowers inside! This idea comes from a round-up of activities from Learning for Littles.
Ice PaintingAnother clever way to paint outdoors this summer is to use ice! Mommy’s Bundle explains how to fill an ice cube tray with different colors of kool-aid (for a taste-safe version of paint). Cut popsicle sticks in half place them into the center of each ice cube. Cover the whole tray in plastic wrap (to get the popsicle sticks to stay in place) and leave to freeze overnight. Take out your popsicle sticks, place them next to a large sheet of paper or a canvas and watch what your child creates!
If all this seems too complicated to you, one last idea: simply use what you have. Emptying ice cubes into a tray, bowl, or resealable plastic bag and giving your little one a spoon or tongs to practice controlling is a great (and free!) activity.
Your little one will benefit from the sensory input when they interact with the ice. They will absorb the information that ice melts. And finally, they will practice fine motor skills as they attempt to pick up or transfer the ice with a utensil.