If you feel like you’re melting in the summer heat, these ice play activities will cool things off while you learn and play with your kids!
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I grew up in central California where summers literally got hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. August was downright brutal, with highs that hovered near 110 degrees!
Now I live in Utah, and while temperatures aren’t quite as extreme here, our summer days still often get into the nineties.
I love summertime, but it can be hard to get out and play in the sunshine when it’s just too darn hot!
Unless…you play with ICE!
It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s the perfect solution to those blistering-hot days of summer. Here are nine ways we love to beat the summer heat by playing with ice.
Ice-play activities for kids
Ice sensory bin
Do you have a water table? Instead of putting water in it, dump the contents of your freezer’s ice bin into it and let kids scoop and play with the ice. Give them spoons, shovels, measuring cups, etc. and sit back and relax in the shade.
After awhile, the ice will begin to melt and you will end up with ice soup! Add a little more water or some additional ice to keep the play going.
Don’t have a water table? Just use any large, shallow plastic tub you have on hand (one like this would work great).
Ice cube paintings
Fill up an ice cube tray with water, cover with foil, and poke popsicle sticks into each ice cube.
Once frozen, you have ice cube “paintbrushes” that can be used to paint. If your ice “brushes” are just water, you can paint on a patio or deck. As the ice cubes come into contact with the hot ground, they will begin to melt, allowing you to draw fun designs and pictures with water!
Or, to really simplify, forget the popsicle sticks and just let the kids paint with the ice cubes as is.
If you want colored ice paint, put some food coloring in the water before you freeze the cubes and use them like watercolors on paper.
Note: I don’t recommend using colored ice on any surface other than paper. Food coloring has a tendency to stain, and I don’t want my kids masterpieces to be permanent garden art!
Frozen ice block excavation
Freeze small toys (Legos, toy animals, etc.) in a bin of water. I used a plastic shoe box. Once frozen (I prepped mine at night and then it was ready to go in the morning), pop the ice block out of its container. Dip it in a little hot water if it’s stuck. Set it outside on a towel and encourage kids to “rescue” their toys from the ice using “excavation tools”.
Make shapes and letters out of ice
Set out a bucket of ice cubes and encourage kids to make shapes or spell their name with the ice. Simple and fun!
Ice melting experiments
Ask your kids the following question: What affects the way that ice melts?
Then, devise an experiment to test their theories. Does ice melt faster on cement or grass? On metal or plastic? In hot water or cold water?
Ice cube rope experiment
Did you know you can lift an ice cube with a simple piece of string? No knots required. All it takes is a little science know-how!
My boys loved pretending they had magical powers as they did this simple ice experiment from Playdough to Plato.
Snow in summer
make crushed ice using your freezer, or put ice cubes in your blender for a few seconds until you have homemade snow! You can use your “snow” in a variety of ways:
- paint your snow using watercolors
- make snow cones
- dump it in a sensory bin and let the kids play
Build an igloo
Okay, you’re probably not going to be able to build a full size igloo that you can fit inside, but give your kids a bin of ice and challenge them to see if they can build some kind of structure.
It’s really hard! They may get frustrated at first because the ice will get slippery as it melts, but push them to be problem solvers. What can they do to make the ice more stable?
Hint: Try using crushed ice (snow) as “mortar” between your ice blocks. What other solutions can your family think of?
Use a hammer to smash ice cubes. Really, that’s it! If you have boys who love to destroy things like mine do, you know why this simple activity was a huge hit at our house!
Hint: I recommend putting something underneath the ice so the kids aren’t just whacking your patio or deck with a hammer. A simple beach towel softens the blow just enough for toddlers. Or put the ice on a scrap piece of wood or a large cutting board to absorb more force from older kids.
If you love these ice play activities, here are some more simple ideas for outdoor fun:
- Sidewalk chalk games kids will love
- Free printable scavenger hunts: 5 ways to play
- How to make a human sundial + more fun shadow activities
- Summer plan for fun: your guide to a fantastic, simple summer with kids