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A big block of ice

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Explore/experiment

Duration/age

Suitable for children: 
Location: 
Skills this activity improves: 
Block of ice

Playing with a big block of ice can keep your child interested for a long time.

Get a large container like a plastic basin and fill it three quarters full of water. Freeze it for about 12 hours. The next day take the ice out of the container and put it outside on cement, the deck or the lawn. Give your child some tools to use with the block. You could use a toothbrush, a fork, a butterknife, or even some cups to pour water over the block… use your imagination! Even a toy hammer and chisel would be great.

Materials you will need

  • Containers
  • Water
  • Butterknife
  • Fork
  • Toothbrush
  • Cups

Alternative tools

  • Toy hammer
  • Toy chisel

Why does this matter?

Children learn most from hands-on experiences, and ice and water are great for learning. They will learn about temperature, time, shapes, textures and colours. They can predict and estimate and solve the problem of how to crack the ice. They will also be developing both small and large muscles. As they talk with you about their experience they will be learning new words and developing their vocabulary.

What does this lead to?

Concepts like textures, temperature and time, and colours and shapes are all ideas about numeracy. Prediction and estimation are also useful numeracy skills and help in everyday life. A wide vocabulary helps children with reading.

Language to use

  • Water, ice, cold, freeze, melt, evaporate
  • Hammer, chisel, toothbrush, fork, butterknife
  • Top, side, bottom, under
  • Scrape, hit,
  • Chip, break, shatter

Questions to use

  • What do you think will happen to the ice?
  • How does it feel?
  • How can you break it?
  • What happens when you put your hands on it? How do they feel?

Useful tips

  1. For safety information see Safety for children 0-4 years or visit www.parenting.sa.gov.au.
  2. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Use an eyedropper to drip coloured water onto the ice.
  2. Freeze some shells or plastic animals in the ice block.
  3. Use food colouring to colour the ice.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Put some ice cubes in a container for your baby to play with. This works well with baby either in a highchair or on the ground with a mat or towel.
  • Make some coloured ice blocks by mixing a little food colouring into water and freezing it. These are fun to paint with outside.

Three to five year olds

  • Freeze coloured water in balloons to make ice balls.
  • Mix some water with different food colourings and pour each colour into the different compartments in an ice cube tray. This will give you different coloured cubes. Before you freeze it thread a string from cube to cube then let it freeze. When it is frozen hang up the string of cubes outside and watch what happens.

Questions to use

  • How does that feel?

Questions to use

  • How does the ice feel on your fingers? Does it feel the same on your feet?
  • How long does it take to melt the ice?
  • What happens to the water when the ice melts?
  • Is it different if you put the ice in the shade or the sun? What happens if you put it on the lawn instead of the driveway? 

Language to use

  • The ice is cold and slippery.
  • It makes you shiver.
  • Look, it is melting.