Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ice Play for Preschoolers

This week in preschool we studied winter.  I wanted to include some inquiry science activities at the math/science table and remembered seeing some ice-play activities on a PBS Kids show, I think Curious George.

So prior to Monday's class I froze water in various containers (pie tin, divided tray, rubber glove, two sizes of cups) and with various objects inside the ice (pennies, small plastic toys, glitter, grapes).

I brought out the ice during our free play time and removed the ice from the containers with the help of the kids.  They especially liked the ice in the shape of the glove initially, but the fingers fell off fairly quickly.  Some children were very interested in the objects inside the ice.  Slamming the ice onto the table to watch the cube shatter.  Others were laughing as they tried to pick up the slippery melting ice.  And others were sliding the ice around on the layer of water like hockey pucks.

We found that paint shirts were needed as we got pretty wet.  I left it up to the kids to decide if they wanted to wear gloves to protect their hands from the cold, most did not.

I remained close by to observe the children's play and encourage discussions.  I noticed that Brogan was making a concentrated effort in removing the pennies from the ice.  He saw them as a treasure that he got to keep.  At one point he asked me how the pennies got into the ice.  I answered him by not really answering him.  "I put them there."  He, of course, wanted more of an explanation than that.  I left him to think about it while I talked with other children.

Emma was also at the table and could tell me that ice melted into water and that water turned into ice.  I asked what I would need to do to get the water from our sink to turn to ice.  After much thought she said I could put it outside.  I agreed I could, since it was very cold outside.

After a few minutes I posed the question, "How else could we get the water from the faucet to turn to ice?"  I didn't want to give them the answer, as I knew it would mean more to them if they made the connection on their own.  I also knew that with time, Brogan would be able to piece together the facts to figure out how those pennies got inside the ice cube.  No one could give me an answer.  But they were so focused on the ice play that I didn't want to push the question and answer time.

So I used the rest of free play to gather some props for lesson time.

I did scrap the planned lesson on feelings for another day so that we could talk more about our discoveries at the ice table.  At the large group discussion Emma was able to tell what she knew about ice forming outside.  I posed the question, "What about in summer?  Do you ever have ice in your drinks in the summer?  Where does it come from?"  When I wasn't getting the firm answers I expected, I brought out the ice cube tray prop from the dramatic play center.  I asked if they had seen one of these before.  Aaaahhhh.... connections were being made, facial expressions turned from confusion to recognition.  Now they were able to tell me that they had ice cube trays at home and they went in the freezer.  I helped them to state that the freezer and our outside temperatures were both cold enough to turn water into ice.

I brought out the tray with a cup of water for each child I had prepared.  Each cup had a child's name on it.  I called them one by one and they got to pick one small toy to insert into their water cup.  I then labeled the tray 'Preschool Science' and they went to the window to watch me place it in the snow where we could observe it from inside our classroom.  Within an hour the children were able to notice a layer of ice beginning to develop in the cups.

We got a bit of a winter storm and did not have school on Tuesday.  As children came in on Wednesday, they asked about their ice.  Kendrick went immediately to the window and wanted to know where the ice was.  He couldn't see it due to the snowfall.  I told him and the others that I thought it was probably buried under the snow, but wanted to wait for them to be there before I went to look.  Once everyone had arrived I bundled up and took out a small shovel to see if our science experiment had been disturbed.  It was there!  It was buried in a drift of about six inches of snow.  And the children cheered when I dug down far enough to find it.

I brought the ice inside.  Each child got to examine their cube.  Kendrick's water froze with a bit of a bubble in it and he was able to break it easily in two, with the toy stuck in one half of the ice cube.  He was so thrilled with that and showed it to everyone.  Some children slammed their cube down on the table to shatter it and remove their 'treasure'.  Others just messed around with the ice cubes until they melted enough to remove their toy.  No matter how they removed their treasure, they were so proud and excited about it.

We all really enjoyed the simple play.  I feel that some connections were made that the children would refer to later.  What a fun and easy experience for all involved!

This post has been shared at No Time for Flashcards.


  1. I love the play and the questions while they played!

  2. This whole post made me smile. :)

  3. You are such a great teacher, Mrs. Feehan!!!

  4. Awesome ideas! Our preschool science at home this week has been freezing too. :-)