painting with ice cubes for preschool and older kids

How to paint ice cubes with kids

When the weather starts getting colder, it’s always a good opportunity to help kids discover some really exciting water-based science.

There’s something endlessly fascinating about how water can exist as a solid, liquid and gas – and we’ve never met a kid who didn’t love exploring the feel and texture of ice.

That’s why there’s real genius behind this simple yet totally addictive ice painting activity by Lo from Our West Coast Nest.

how to paint ice cubes with kids

The benefits of ice cube painting for toddlers and up 

There are so many learning opportunities hidden inside this fun activity. 

From a STEM learning point of view, you can use painting on ice to learn about the properties of ice and how/why it melts. 

It’s also a good way to learn about colour theory and the colour spectrum. What happens when you mix different colours together? How can you make new colours using the ones you already have?

For very young children, it’s an awesome sensory activity for discovering cold sensations. Just make sure the ice cubes are melted enough that they are safe to touch. You’ll want to use washable paint too.

Older kids might also really enjoy making coloured ice cubes simply as a calming, anxiety-reducing activity. 

Painting ice cubes with kids can be a great seasonal activity in the colder months, but it’s also a fun way to cool down on a hot summer’s day – so feel free to give this activity a try at any time of year!

painting ice preschool and toddler activity

How to do ice cube painting for preschool and up

This activity couldn’t be easier to set up (which is always great, right?).

All you need to have to hand is:

  • Ice cube tray 
  • Freezer 
  • Washable paints or food colouring 
  • Paintbrushes
  •  thick paper (for prints – optional)
  • large waterproof container
  • dropper (optional)

Lo and her family did ice cube painting with paint (washable child-friendly paint), but you could also use food colouring.

However, just be aware that food colouring may stain (including skin and clothes), so it may be more suitable for older kids.

As always, we also recommend kids wear protective clothing and wash their hands thoroughly after the activity.

Here’s how to paint ice with kids at home:

1. Freeze water in an ice cube tray overnight (or buy a bag of ice cubes if you are short on freezer space or time).

2. Fill a large waterproof container with the ice cubes (a plastic washing up bowl or bucket is a good option).

3. Let you child use a paintbrush to add paint to the ice cubes. They could also use a dropper (for food colouring), sponges and other child-appropriate tools. 

*Bonus idea 1*

4. We love the extra creative element that Lo added to this activity! Just take a piece of thick paper and press down on the ice cubes to create a pretty print that your kids can keep as a souvenir. 

Take a look at Lo’s photo – we think they’re definitely frame-worthy!

painting ice cubes activities

Other ice cube painting activities to try

If your kids enjoy this activity, the great news is that there are loads of ways to extend it. 

That means it can work really well as part of a full science lesson or series of lessons in school. 

Check out our first bonus idea above – making prints from the coloured ice cubes!

*Bonus idea 2*

Colour predictions – challenge kids to see if they can predict which colours they will make when they add certain ones together.

Red and green? Blue and yellow? What about if all the colours are mixed together? 

*Bonus idea 3*

Melting the ice – let kids race to see how quickly they can melt the ice using different strategies – for example, blowing on the ice, placing the bowl of ice in different parts of the house, adding warm water.

Just be careful of any potentially dangerous sources of heat, and keep electrical appliances clear of the water.

*Bonus idea 4*

Shake things up with different ice cube shapes. You can use moulds to do this.

If you want to make a large block of ice so kids can explore painting and melting that instead of ice cubes, we recommend the following method:

1. Fill a clean and empty juice carton 3/4 full with water. Leave space for the water to expand as it freezes. 

2. Leave in the freezer overnight.

3. Remove from the freezer and run the carton under warm water to melt the ice a little on the inside. 

4. Carefully cut off the top of the carton using sharp scissors (adults only!). 

5. Tip the ice out into a waterproof tray. You should have a large block of ice for the kids to use!

If the block doesn’t come out straight away, run the sides of the carton under warm water for a little longer, or leave the carton on the counter for a while so the ice can melt a bit more.

*Bonus idea 5* 

Salt and ice experiment – adding salt to ice is the foundation of SO many of our favourite science experiments for kids!

Let kids add salt to the ice and see if it makes the ice melt faster. What do they notice? Does it affect the way the paint/food colouring interacts with the ice?

If this one is a hit with your kids, then definitely check out the amazing ice sculpture painting activity feature in our activity eBook – just grab your FREE copy here.

amazing ice painting activity with salt

Huge thanks to Lo from Our West Coast Nest for sharing this activity with us. You can explore more of her kids’ activity ideas here.

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