Simple Ice play activities for excellent sensory play and ice science experiments. It’s free (unless you buy a bag), always available, and pretty cool too! Ice and water play make the best non-messy/ messy play around! Keep a couple of towels handy, and you are good to go. Learn about ice play’s many benefits and set up a fun project to try today. Even enjoy ice sensory play all year long!
Ice Play Activities All Year Long!
The simple act of melting ice is a great science experiment for the youngest child. This play type opens many avenues for exploring, discovering, and learning about the world.
Provide your child with squirt bottles, eye droppers, scoops, and basters, and you will also work on strengthening those little hands for handwriting down the road.
I love how simple, readily available materials create opportunities for observing, examining, and thinking. Problem-solving, formulating guesses, making predictions, and enjoying the process will prepare your kids for years of success.
Don’t forget how much fun they are having too! Open the freezer and see what you can create today!
Quick Ice Play Activity Tip: Empty the ice cube tray into a bin and add kitchen supplies and bowls of colored water (as shown below)! Super fast setup for long-lasting fun, no planning needed.
Watch the Ice Play Video!
The Benefits of Sensory Ice Play
Ice play can be fun and engaging for kids, including toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, and up! Ice science experiments also double as sensory play activities and vice versa. Here are some of the developmental benefits of ice play for kids.
Ice play allows kids to explore different textures, temperatures, and sensations. They can touch, squeeze, and hold the ice, experiencing the coldness and the transformation of solid ice into water (science). This sensory experience enhances their tactile and sensory development. See more tactile sensory play ideas here!
Fine Motor Skills
Engaging with ice cubes or objects frozen in ice can help improve kids’ fine motor skills. Picking up, manipulating, and transferring ice cubes using tools or their hands require precision and coordination, enhancing their dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Think kitchen tongs!
Ice play stimulates kid’s cognitive abilities. They can observe the melting process, experiment with freezing and thawing, and predict changes. This promotes critical thinking, problem-solving, and scientific inquiry as they explore cause-and-effect relationships.
Language and vocabulary development
Ice play provides an opportunity for language development. Kids can describe the sensations and talk about what they observe with peers or adults. It enhances their vocabulary, communication skills, and ability to express their thoughts and ideas.
Creativity and imagination
Ice play encourages imaginative play. Kids can use ice cubes as building blocks, paint brushes or incorporate ice into pretend play scenarios. This fosters creativity, imagination, and the development of storytelling skills.
Manipulating and playing with ice can have a calming effect on children. The sensory experience of ice can help them regulate their emotions and provide a soothing effect. Ice play can be particularly beneficial for kids who need sensory input to calm down or self-regulate. There are many benefits to sensory play with kids.
Ice play can be a social activity, allowing kids to engage and interact with their peers. They can collaborate, share ideas, take turns, and engage in cooperative play. It provides an opportunity for socialization, teamwork, and the development of social skills.
Ice play introduces scientific concepts hands-on and experientially. Kids can learn about freezing, melting, and the states of matter through their exploration of ice. They can also learn about the water cycle, temperature, and the properties of different materials.
Overall, ice play offers a multi-dimensional learning experience for kids, encompassing sensory, cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of development. It is a versatile and enjoyable activity that can be adapted to suit different age groups and interests. Plus it is easy to recreate with holiday and seasonal themes!
As an alternative to these ice play activities below, check out these water sensory bins!
How To Set Up Your Ice Activities
Sensory ice play is pretty cool (figurately and literally!) and it’s also easy to set up. We enjoy freezing water for play in many different shaped containers! There’s always new and interesting ways to create an ice theme activity for the season or holiday.
How To Make Ice Blocks
We use milk cartons, plastic food containers, disposable gloves, balloons, and ice-cube molds to create unique ideas.
The most helpful hint to remember is to freeze in layers if you want to have all of your trinkets and items spread out evenly. Though this is not possible with the glove activities below.
For balloons blow them up first to stretch them out before adding items!
What To Freeze In Water
Some of the things you can include in your ice play are plastic animals, cars, glass gems, glitter, sequins, magnets, super heroes, plastic coins, jewelry and stars.
We have also used feathers, real items from the beach, and pieces of our Christmas tree! The possibilities are endless.
Favorite Ice Play Activities
Here are some quick and simple ways to get started with ice play!
Freeze small toys or objects in a large block of ice. Provide kids with tools such as plastic spoons, spray bottles filled with warm water, and small hammers (under adult supervision) to excavate the toys from the ice. They can chip away at the ice, melt it with water, and discover hidden treasures.
LOOK: Rescue The LEGO
Give kids a tray of colored ice cubes and a large sheet of paper. As the ice cubes melt, they can use them as “paintbrushes” to create unique artwork on the paper. Experiment with different colors and observe how they blend as the ice melts.
3. Ice Sensory Bin
Fill a large container with ice cubes or crushed ice and provide various tools and objects for sensory exploration. Kids can use their hands, scoops, cups, and small toys to manipulate the ice, build structures, and explore different textures. Provide warm water for play, when it all gets too cold! Learn more about sensory bins here.
4. Ice Bowling
Set up a bowling game using frozen plastic bottles filled with water as the pins and a ball as the bowling ball. Kids can take turns rolling the ball to knock down the frozen pins.
5. Ice Science Experiments
Conduct simple science experiments with ice. For example, explore the effects of salt on ice by sprinkling salt on an ice cube and observing how it melts differently. You can also experiment with different liquids to see which ones freeze faster or slower. See more examples below.
6. Ice Cube Math
Use an ice cube tray and small objects such as beads, buttons, or counters. Kids can sort and count the objects, practice simple addition and subtraction, or create patterns using the compartments of the ice cube tray.
7. Ice Sensory Bath
Add a few ice cubes or frozen objects to the bathwater during bath time. Kids can experience the cold sensation while playing with the ice, pouring water over it, and observing it melt in the warm water.
More Fun Ice Activities For Preschoolers
Arctic sensory play inspired by Dr. Seuss!
These frozen dinosaur eggs are perfect for your dinosaur fan and an easy ice activity! Super easy to make, kids will be hatching their favorite dinosaurs in no time.
Frozen stars are fun anytime of the year! This time we combined our ice play with a favorite baking soda and vinegar chemical reaction.
Freeze a brain for a spooky ice play activity for Halloween! You can also make zombie brain fluffy slime.
Learn about the parts of a flower, play and sort, and enjoy a water sensory bin all in one activity.
Kids will love fishing for ice cubes that can be done indoors, no matter the temperature outside.
Make these easy ice lanterns for a fun winter activity to do with the kids.
These sweet winter ice ornaments are so simple to make and look so festive on our tree outside the kitchen window.
This magnetic ice science activity is the perfect combination for learning and playing.
Who says sand castle toys are just for sand? Not us! We like to use them for simple science and ice play activities too!
Use ordinary food storage containers to mold mini oceans. Add items in layers so that there is lots of fun things to unfreeze with this ocean theme ice play.
Learn about penguins with this fun ice melt activity. Free printable penguin worksheet pack included!
Scented Ice Play Sensory Bin
For this activity, make blocks of froze lemon and lime-scented water in different-sized containers. I used bottled lemon and lime juice and tinted the water with yellow and green food coloring. He decided to use his super soaker backpack outside on the blocks of ice. You can also use ice cube trays!
This space ice melt science is easy to create from items you may already have. We added space men, space helmets, green aliens, plastic stars, a bouncy ball planet, and more for a fun space theme activity.
Turn an ice play activity into a creepy Halloween melting ice experiment. You can add treasures or any theme you want to this activity. We have used this set up for Christmas and Valentine’s Day too! See Santa’s Frozen Hands.
Helpful Resources To Get You Started
There’s so much more to learn about sensory play. Here are a few ideas, with free printables, to help you set up sensory activities easily!
- Make Your Own Playdough
- Free Printable Playdough Mats
- Best Sensory Bin Ideas
- Sensory Bin Fillers
- Tips For Easy Clean Up
- 21 Sensory Bottles and Glitter Jars
- Easy Sensory Play Recipes
Bonus: Simple Ice Science Experiments
Ice activities are great for learning about reversible change, temperature, and properties of water. Melting ice science is also great for practicing fine motor skills with spray bottles, squirt bottles, and eye droppers or basters!
Make a yummy frozen treat using ice and salt. A fun way to learn what happens to the freezing point of water when you add salt.
Observe the changes in water from solid to liquid to gas in a fun and easy way to demonstrate this important science concept to kids of all ages.
What makes ice melt faster? Try three fun and easy to set up ice science experiments and STEM activities to add hands-on learning to your ice play.
Explore the freezing point of water and discover what happens when you freeze salt water. All you need are some bowls of water and salt.
More Sensory Play Activities for Kids
If you’re looking for more sensory activities to go along with your ice play, such as sensory bins, homemade doughs, and other tactile play activities, this is the resource for you👇