Sensory Play: How does melting ice teach critical thinking skills?

Colder temperatures give opportunity for a preschool favorite: ice sensory play!

Believe it or not, ice sensory play provides many opportunities for learning and is easy for busy parents.

Setting preschoolers up with their ice exploration challenge allows them to make predictions, explore the properties of water, and problem solve ways to use their tools to free their objects… all critical thinking skills!

It can be chipping away ice chunks to rescue animals or using warm water to melt ice and uncover letters! Ice sensory play keeps preschoolers engaged for long periods of time because it allows for open exploration.

Additionally, their use of tools to chip and melt builds small muscle hand strength needed for tasks such as writing and zipping and like most sensory play, preschool concepts and themes of interest are easily incorporated!

Here is how to get you and your preschooler started on a chilly new way to learn:

1. Check out these ideas and choose one that best meets your little ones’ interests.

Ice Sensory Play 3 ways to play lego build, animal rescue letter match

2. At least 24 hours prior to play time, freeze water and toys (plastic animals, letters, lego pieces) in a bowl or ice cube trays.

If the weather is cold enough around you, try leaving the bowl/ice cube trays outside overnight. Then don’t forget to ask you preschooler, “What might happen if we leave this water outside when it’s sooooo cold out?”

child's hand playing with ice

3. At play time, set out a play mat and tray. Dump the ice out from the ice trays and put in plastic bins or flat trays.

4. First, ask your child ways they think the ice will melt or how they might get the objects out.

This is a prediction – part of the Science experiment process!

5. Next, offer your child spoons and bottles like these of warm water to work their way to the objects.

child's hand ice sensory play

6. Then, as your child works their way to the objects you can demonstrate how to sort, build, or match once the objects are freed.

7. While you and your child clean up, ask them questions like:

How were you able to release the objects?

What did you use to get them out?

What happened when you used the warm water?

Most likely they will want to do this again so be sure to consider other items of interest that could be frozen in ice!

To learn more download this activity plan for more ideas on how to do this activity.

Chart of ice sensory play
Daily routine sample
Ice sensory play

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