Make a colored ice bin on your next ho-hum day. This easy outdoor activity is the perfect pick me up on summer days. Unlock the magic of food coloring and water.
What is an outdoor colored ice bin?
When my oldest was a toddler, I started setting up Future Me (Susie) for success by adding one little thing to my freezer: colored ice cubes. I’d make them, freeze them, and know that someday I’d need them…
This is a routine that I’ve followed for 8 years now.
Make cubes. https://busytoddler.com/ice-bin-transfer-sensory-activity/
Forget about cubes.
Have a bad day.
Remember that cubes are there for the rescue.
RELATED: Looking for more fun and easy summer activities for kids? Try this list!
Why I made a colored ice bin
As per usual, I had grabbed my ice cube tray weeks ago and filled them with colored ice cubes (I’ll get to all the directions in just a hot second).
Things weren’t smooth sailing to quiet time this day and my son (4) needed a little something extra. That’s when I remembered that Past Susie had frozen colored ice for Future Susie – and I just love when those two get along.
I quickly made this outdoor colored ice bin for my preschooler – and the morning was saved.
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- Ice cube trays
- Food coloring
- Kid turkey basters/droppers
- Plastic containers (these are great for kid play)
- Large storage container to keep things contained (I use this one)
- Dollar store dish pans (the white ones photographed)
I know this list seems a little lengthy for what’s supposed to be an “easy kids activity:” Hear me out.
You don’t need to replicate this activity to the letter like you’re following the recipe for a homemade cake. Modify and adjust for what you have and what you could use.
Consider the basics of the activity: colored ice cubes being melted by warm water. Go from there with what you own.
RELATED: What are the best supplies to own? Check out my Busy Toddler supply list.
How-to create colored ice
Every now and then while I’m cleaning up dinner, I remember to make a tray or two of colored ice cubes.
I use a liquid measuring cup with a drop or two of color, fill up 3-4 slots in the tray, then move to a new color.
You can use them the next day, or (like me), wait until a day when you REALLY NEED an activity to help reset the day.
Related: If you can’t do this activity outside, try the indoor version of a colored ice bin.
The set-up for this outdoor activity
I used two Dollar Store dish pans and set them in my long under-the-bed storage bin (one of my all time favorite activity supplies).
With them, I put some other materials and supplies: there’s not real rhyme or reason to what I picked.
I wanted plenty (but not an overwhelming amount) of options for my son. This way, it could become his project and not just something mom set up.
I filled up one side of the dish pans with the ice cubes and the other side with warm water to give some science options to the play as well.
The stage was set and it was time for play.
A play-by-play of the activity
It was time – my son (who had been having a not-so-lovely day) was suddenly abuzz with anticipation. His mood began to change.
He sat down and quietly began his investigation.
- What were the colored cubes?
- Would they melt?
- Could he move them?
- Would his hands get wet?
- What happened to the color?
This is an inquiry rich activity filled with possibilities. My son was deep into play, science, learning, and fun in no time.
What all did he do in this science activity?
He moved cubes from one bin to another. He moved water around and explored ice cube color mixing. He observed the color disperse in the water.
He was mesmerized.
30 minutes of play went by – transferring cubes, water, adding lids to jar, shaking, wondering, questioning, and resetting his day.
RELATED: Remember the amazing science experiments from our childhood? If you need a refresher, check out my list of classic science experiments for kids.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nope, it doesn’t stain. Even when it’s really concentrated, it “dissolves” and disperses if flooded with water.In this activity, the colored cubes are diluted plenty and nothing got on my sons hands or clothing. If it had, I would have washed his hands and soaked the clothing in cold water before washing as normal.
Food coloring looks scary, but it’s not. But remember I’m just some lady on the Internet and make your own plan.
Remember: think stages not ages. Instead of going based on age, ask yourself these questions: is my child safe with ice cubes? Would they be interested in experimenting with colored ice? I’ve had awesome success with this activity for kids from age 2 to 10.
Depends. Ice cubes are definitely a choking hazard. You will need to use your best judgment and exceptional supervision to decide if your child is safe with ice cubes.