Creating rainbow ice is an easy toddler science activity that you need to try. This exploration into the properties of water and ice is a perfect way to play and introduction to science concepts for little learners. Rainbow ice is one quick and easy activity you’ll want to always have on hand.
Why create a rainbow ice activity
It was late afternoon and the day was dragging. We needed a before dinner activity-pick-me-up but I was at a loss. My mind was blank until my 2 year old asked me a simple question.
She looked up at me with her ever-curious eyes, pointed to the ice in my cup, and said, “Where does the ice come from?”
And in a flash, I knew exactly what toddler science activity we needed to do. We needed to find out more about ice.
RELATED: Looking for more easy science experiments for kids? Check out my incredible list.
Do not overlook simple science activities
It’s easy to assume children will grasp the concept of ice on their own or discover properties of solids and liquids without much help.
But it’s so necessary to give them chances to uncover and learn about concepts that may seem mundane to us.
In my reliance on an ice maker, my toddler had yet to observe ice forming. She also didn’t remember last winter when water would freeze outside. Creating a simple rainbow ice science activity was a must.
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This activity has two parts. Part one: make ice. These are the supplies for the first half of our activity.
**Even though we have an ice machine, I still love having ice cube trays. They’re pretty perfect for toddler activities and I use them all the time for non-ice related learning activities and messy play activities.
Once frozen, here are the supplies I used for the second half of the activity.
- Kid-sized turkey basters or large medicine droppers
- Small tongs (or the plastic ones from the Dollar Store)
- Small kid hammers (like ones that come with kid tool sets)
- 28 quart storage container
- 16 quart storage container
I know this may look like a daunting supply list but really, we have two goals to achieve: make ice cubes and then melt them. For me, I made those cubes in an ice cube tray and let my kids melt them in a storage bin.
It’s a lot of supplies, but also, it’s really not. You can totally set this up however suits your family best.
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Set-up 1 – Making ice cubes with kids
I sat my toddler (28 months old) and her (just turned 4 years old) brother on the floor with our ice cube tray, food dye, and a pitcher of water.
I asked a simple question: “How do we make ice?”
My son was quick to say that we get ice from the freezer and while that’s right, that’s not exactly the science of it all.
So we talked some more and I explained a little secret about water.
Here’s my explanation for water freezing in toddler terms:
I explained that water loves to dance. It dances and dances and dances but when it gets cold, it FREEZES and stops moving. That’s when ice forms. Ice is frozen water.
We now do the ice dance every day. We dance and shake and pretend to be water then FREEZE. We turn into ice.
We poured our dancing water into the ice cube trays, added some food coloring to make them fancy (and for a specific reason), and set them in the freezer.
RELATED: Toddler activities do not need to be complicated (and I have the best collection of easy ideas).
Tip – Make rainbow ice for extra learning
I chose to make the ice cubes rainbow colored to make sure my kids could “see” the melting happening. Clear water is well… clear and they might not pick up the excitement or see the ice melting like they can with colored ice cubes.
I did choose to make a bunch of different colors – even just one color of ice would work great. For me, this is an important part of the lesson having some color to the ice.
Other options for dyeing ice:
- Natural food coloring
- Dye with foods
- Use washable paint (yep, you can dye water with paint)
Set-up 2 – Experimenting with the ice cubes
Activities with ice are some of my most favorite. Toddler’s love playing with ice – but always under direct supervision and only once they are out of the “will put anything in mouth” phase of life.
The next day, we grabbed out our colorful ice cubes for some ice cube investigation.
I put the ice in a storage container with a second shoe box sized container of warm water. Think double bagging my storage bins, I also added in some tongs, turkey basters, and hammers for added exploring.
Pretty soon, ice cubes were dissolving in water and my kids were in science heaven.
NOTE: The trick about colored ice cubes is that you can clearly see them dissolving in the water and turning back from ice to water. The seeping color makes it easy for toddler eyes to see the transformation. This is key.
More tips for rainbow ice science activity
To keep things going, every now and then I would dump out the now cold water for new, fresh warm water. I’d also move the dissolving ice out of the water bin and into the regular bin for smashing and observing.
What’s great about this activity is that the ice cube trays can be refilled immediately and frozen again because there will be dye residue on the ice cube trays. It’s like a free set of colored ice just waiting to be used.
Activities like this are why I keep a tray of colored ice in my freezer at all times. Some people keep a freezer meal. I keep ice… it’s who I am.
Frequently Asked Questions
Food coloring “dissolves” in water. In this activity, the concentrated food coloring is so diluted, it doesn’t get on little hands. If you find some on your child’s clothing, set it in cold water for a few hours to let the color “dissolve.” *Always do what you think it best though, I am just some lady on the Internet.
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.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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