Get free weekly activities sent to your inbox. Sign up now.
- Age: 0 to 8+
- Time: 1 hour+
- Materials: freezable container (ice cube tray, muffin tin, recycled container), water, small objects from nature, table salt, wooden spoons, (optional) food coloring
No matter the season, the sparkle and feel of ice is mesmerizing. In winter, ice steals the show. In summer, ice offers a welcome reprieve from the heat and a constant lesson in the states of matter.
At Tinkergarten, frozen treasures are one of our favorite ways to harness the beauty of frozen water. They are super simple to make, pique curiosity, stimulate kids’ senses, and even offer relief from the summer heat. What are they? To us adults, frozen treasures are pieces of ice, formed in containers of various shapes and sizes. To kids, they are pure magic. And once made, the possibilities for play are endless!
Make frozen treasures
- Head out on a nature treasure hunt with your child to collect a variety of small rocks, leaves, flower petals and other colorful objects from nature.
- Welcome your child to add the treasures to a freezer-safe container. You can use ice cube trays, muffin tins or even recycled containers.
- (optional) If you want to add an extra dose of color to some of your treasures, put a few drops of food coloring/watercolor paint into the container.
- Pour in the water and freeze for about 24 hours.
- Take them out of the freezer and give them a minute to warm up, then pop them out into a bowl.
Invite kids to use their senses to explore the frozen treasures. Wrap the cubes in a cloth or thin sock. Where can you put the ice cube that keeps you coolest? (Tip: Putting ice on pulse points, like behind knees and on wrists is extra cooling).
Give them space to play, and your children will come up with their own ideas about how to play with these sparkling jewels. Or, try out some of these Tinkergarten favorites:
Frozen treasure hunt: Hide the treasures in your outdoor space and welcome kids to find them. They don’t have to be very hard to find, but don’t place them in plain sight, either -- behind a tree or under a bush works. You could also hide tools for your children to find, such as a magnifying glass, small containers of rock or table salt, or wooden spoons.
Free from the freeze: Offer warm water, salt, sticks or mallets and welcome kids to use their problem solving skills to free the trapped treasures from the ice.
Ice painting: Add a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors to water and insert sticks before freezing and you’ve got some frozen paint sticks! Offer paper or an old bed sheet for an icy cold painting experience.
Go fishing: Freeze one end of a piece of twine into the ice treasures. Once frozen, tie the other end to a stick and you have a fishing pole complete with cool fish.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Frozen treasures offer the perfect exercise for children's developing senses. Plus, they encourage the kind of tinkering that builds curiosity and leads to independent experimentation. Practice with this kind of self-directed discovery early on builds habits that help kids become self-motivated and persistent learners later on. Plus, the intrigue and beauty of frozen treasures lend themselves easily to imaginary play.