Ice sculpture

HomeIce sculpture

Ice sculpture

HomeIce sculpture

Summary:  playing with ice offers children a lot of potential for exploration, experimentation and physical manipulation and the fun lasts until the ice is all melted!

Set-up: Prepare different ice shapes by freezing water in containers of different shapes and sizes. Try water dyed with food colouring, or putting small objects such as shells or lego figures inside to be frozen within the ice.

Play: 30 mins – 1 hour

Complexity: Easy – but children will gain a range of understandings of the properties of ice depending on their age


  • Prepared ice
  • Ice cubes
  • Hammer
  • Rolling pin
  • Other tools for chipping away ice
  • Salt
  • Food colouring
  • Droppers

What to do

Set up the ice on a table (outside is best) and invite children to explore. They might like to stack or build with the different ice shapes, and they might be intrigued by the tiny things caught inside the ice. Ask questions like “do ice blocks stick together?”, “what happens as the ice melts?”, “do larger ice blocks melt faster than small ones?”.

Encourage your child to think about how to free those items frozen in the ice blocks. A lot of energy and creative problem-solving can be applied in trying to break the ice open in different ways! (Here you might introduce some useful tools, and encourage children to chip away at the ice. Your child might have other ideas too).

Introduce salt. Sprinkle it onto the ice shapes and ask your child to observe what happens. Drop food colouring into the holes created as the salt melts the ice. Talk about the real-world application of this discovery: for example, how ice is put on roads to stop the roads getting icy when its cold.


Learn how it works: Salt makes it hard for water molecules to form ice. Try filling two containers with water, adding 1/3 cup of salt to one, and placing both in the freezer. Which one freezes first?

Find out more about the properties of salt in water. Fill two glasses with warm water, and add ½ cup of salt. Try floating an egg in each solution. The egg will sink in plain water (the egg is more dense than the water), but float in the salty water. This is because the salt makes the water more dense. Try this experiment with other small items such as paper clips, pens, small balls and rubber bands.

What learning does this activity promote?

Curiosity, fine motor skills, problem-solving, theorising


Dr Vicki Hargraves

Vicki runs our early childhood webinar series and also is responsible for the creation of many of our early childhood research reviews. Vicki is a teacher, mother, writer, and researcher living in Marlborough. She recently completed her PhD using philosophy to explore creative approaches to understanding early childhood education. She is inspired by the wealth of educational research that is available and is passionate about making this available and useful for teachers.

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