Painting ice cubes is a quick and easy indoor activity that’s pretty darn awesome. Give kids creative license in this art activity to explore what happens when paint cools on ice cubes. This simple activity is the perfect mix of art, science, and sensory.
What is painting ice cubes?
Necessity is the mother of all invention, right? You know that goes for toddler activities too, right? Well, I do. Because sometimes the best kids activities result from the most mundane things.
I realized my ice maker was jammed. Dang it. I really wanted ice in my water. It was an ice cubes required kind of day and I know you’ve had a day like that. I needed to dump the ice cube maker out but wait…why waste good ice?
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So I decided to change that:
I took that ice cube maker and dumped it into a storage tub. I figured it was a pretty safe assumption that my kids were going to absolutely love painting ice cubes.
Spoiler alert: I was right. They loved this.
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- Under the bed storage tub – my favorite size
- A boat load of ice
- No Spill Paint Containers – you don’t have to have these, but I do love them
- Washable paint – this is my favorite type
*Please use good judgement and supervision when using ice cubes as they can be a choking hazard*
It’s an easy set-up for painting ice cubes: literally just dump a bunch of ice cubes into some sort of container. I like a storage bin.
Other options could be:
- Water table
- Kiddie pool
- Bath tub
- Cookie sheet
I always default to a storage bin because I like the sides. I love that it contains the activity. This works for me.
Next to the bin of ice cubes, I set out our washable liquid paint. There were no rules on what this should look like at the end. Kids have free reign to explore and create.
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What happens when painting ice cubes
My kids (2 and 3.5) sat quietly painting and decorating the ice for almost 20 minutes. There was such intrigue and interest on their faces. This was unlike any other painting activity they had done before.
If the paint was thin enough, it would freeze as it hit the ice.
If the paint was thick, it would drip and move with the water.
Bottom line: it was the coolest. Even I had to get in on the action.
Cleaning up after painting ice cubes
To keep the kids “clean,” I put a wet wash cloth near each kid to give them a chance to wipe their hands as needed. I also planned to put them in the bath tub post activity, if needed (I love a good mid morning bath – it’s something to pass the time with).
I set this activity close to our sliding glass door. This way, I could open the door and dump the ice right out.
Other options: carry the bin to the sink or bathtub.
Scoop out the ice with a bowl (my kids LOVE this job).
Let the ice melt and use it as an indoor pouring station.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Painting with kids doesn’t have to be a disaster. Check out my post on tips for making painting projects doable and not a mess. It’s a life changing article.
I love washable tempera paint (and yes, it’s actually washable). Watercolor paints also work well with painting ice cubes.
Always think “stages not ages.” For this activity, ask yourself some questions to decide if the activity is right for your child, just like you would with a new food item: Is your child safe with ice cubes? Do they enjoy science experiments? Have they been able to control a paint brush?