child's hands play with ice cubes


12 Ways to Turn a Bag of Ice into the Best Toy Ever

Jul 22, 2016

If your kids are looking to cool off this summer, then these 12 ways to play with a bag of ice are the perfect boredom buster ideas for your kids! With just one bag of ice, your kids can explore science, math, art and literacy. They can even work on fine motor and oral motor skills. So the next time your kids whine and complain about being bored, try out one of these simple activities for kids using ice.

1. Ice Cube Mazes

For this activity, you will need: a shallow, clear container; a dry erase marker and one ice cube. Flip the clear container over and draw a maze on the bottom of the container using the dry erase marker. The path of the maze should be as wide as the ice cube. You can also mark the start and finish lines. (Just remember that you will have to write your letters backwards!) Flip the container over and you're ready to go.

A simple maze has been drawn on the under-side of a clear, shallow glass baking dish. There is an 'S' to mark the start and an 'F' to mark the finish.

Kids can either move the ice cube through the maze with their hands or, if they want a bit of a challenge, then have them hold the container in two hands and gently tilt it back and forth to guide the ice cube through the maze. This variation requires quite a bit of patience!

A child holds a glass pyrex dish that contains an ice cube in his hands, and a maze has been drawn on the underside of the dish. He is guiding the ice through the maze by tilting the dish.

2. Ice Cube Sight Word Tracing

Similar to the ice cube maze activity above, you will need a clear container, a dry erase marker and one ice cube. Flip the container upside down, write a sight word (remember: write it backwards!), and then flip the container back over. Then encourage your child to trace the letters of the words using the ice cube.

A young child tracing the word

You could try these other variations as well:

  • write your child's name
  • write letters of the alphabet
  • write numbers

3. Ice Cube Smash

If you have kids who enjoy using real tools and/or destroying things, then this activity is the perfect idea for them! You can play this activity one of two ways. One way is to use a hammer to smash the individual ice cubes. Obviously, this activity is designed for older kids and with adult supervision. 

The second way to play is a great way for toddlers to smash ice cubes. To play, head outside to a sidewalk or driveway and encourage your child to throw the ice cube as hard as they can towards the ground. It should break on impact.

You'll also love: 5 Fun and Easy Ways to Play with Water

4. Ice Cube Straw Races

For this activity you will need a large container filled with water, straws and one ice cube per child. We like to use our plastic sensory bin container for activities like this one. To play, place the ice cubes in the water and then try to move the ice cubes around by blowing through the straw. 

5. Arctic Small World Sensory Bin

To create a super simple sensory bin, you will need some ice, arctic animal figurines and some coloured water (optional). Kids will love telling stories about the animals as they climb the ice or dive into the water.  

6. Ice Cube Fine Motor Transfer Activity

This simple fine motor activity is always a hit with my kids! You'll need two bowls, some ice and a spoon. Encourage your child to scoop up an ice cube and transfer it from one bowl to another. Kids can count the ice cubes while they move them for some simple math learning too!

Two clear glass bowls with a few cubes of ice and a spoon for scooping them back and forth.

You'll also love: DIY Paint Popsicles

7. Ice Cube Melt Science Experiments

Kids will love trying to melt their ice cubes, but what will make it melt the fastest? Well, set up a science experiment for the kids to find out! 

For this activity, you will need ice, salt, cold water, warm water and a stopwatch. You could also try experimenting with these optional items: different types of salt, sunshine, metal pan, blow dryer, etc. 

Give your child an ice cube and encourage them to explore with the materials to see how long it takes for the ice cube to melt completely. What will melt faster: an ice cube on a metal tray out in the sun or an ice cube covered with coarse salt and warm water?

8. Ice Cube Slide Racing

Grab your ice and head outdoors to a slide! Let your kids race ice cubes down the slide to see which one slides the fastest or the furthest. You could even grab a tape measure and have the kids measure the distance the ice travelled.

9. Ice Cube Towers

For a quick and easy engineering activity, kids can stack and build towers with ice cubes.

A stack of ice cubes.

You'll also love: Sensory Play—Mermaid Ice Excavation

10. Ice Cube Sensory Tray/Bin

Placing some ice cubes in a container or on a tray to let your kids play and explore with is about as simple as it gets. Doing so is great for tactile sensory input and fine motor skills, but kids can also build shapes, taste the ice cubes and more! This activity is especially great for little toddlers.

11. Crushed Ice & Cookie Cutters Fine Motor Sensory Play

Pop some ice cubes into your blender and crush those ice cubes up! Within seconds, you'll have some icy snow for the kids to play with. The kids can make snowballs or make snow cones with it, but they can also work on fine motor skills with cookie cutters and a chopstick (optional). 

A child's hands pressing a plastic star-shaped cookie cutter into a shallow dish of crushed ice.

Make designs in the crushed ice by stamping the cookie cutters. Or trace the cookie cutter shapes with your fingers or a chopstick.

12. Crushed Ice Painting

Crushed ice is great for process art too! For this art activity, you will need paint brushes, eye droppers, liquid watercolors (or food colouring with water) and crushed ice. Let your kids decorate the crushed ice by painting it with watercolours! Not only is this activity great for working on fine motor skills, but it also allows kids to explore colour mixing.

A young child paints a shallow pan of crushed ice with watercolours and a paint brush.

My kids also like to add regular ice cubes to the painted crushed ice, which makes for a great tactile sensory experience.

Article Author Dyan Robson
Dyan Robson

Read more from Dyan here.

Married to her high school sweetheart, Dyan is mom to two boys, J and K, who also teaches piano out of her home. On her blog And Next Comes L, Dyan shares her story of raising a child with hyperlexia, hypernumeracy and autism, amongst a variety of sensory activities for kids. You can find out more about their story on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.


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