Winter ice art

Explore the concept of freezing and melting, liquids and solids with this winter-themed project. Best done in frosty cold weather, here is an activity that can take place entirely outdoors. Children will enjoy creating these ice ornaments and be intrigued with the magical end result.

A disk of ice with embedded red berries hanging from a tree branch

Materials needed

Hard plastic or metal bowls/dishes, strong string, jug for pouring water, selection of small natural objects such as red berries, leaves, twigs, bits of lichen or moss, etc.

  1. Provide each child with a box or container. Take a walk around your outdoor area and collect natural materials. This is a great opportunity to discuss seasons, life cycles and the effects of seasonal weather changes: “The flowers have all died. Why?” or “What bright coloured objects has nature left?” or “The leaves have all fallen off the trees. Why do you think? What do you think will happen to the trees in spring?” and so on.
  2. Give each child a bowl or dish and allow them to arrange their selection of nature objects in side it. Older children may wish to make more intricate patterns.
  3. Gently pour water in to the bowl or dish, covering the nature objects.
  4. Loop a piece of strong string through the water, ensuring it is immersed and leaving a length of string hanging out of the bowl.
  5. If the weather is really cold enough, you can leave the bowls outside to freeze. Alternatively, place them in an indoor freezer. You may wish to explain the freezing process to children at this point, or leave it as a surprise: “Let’s see what’s happened to the water tomorrow.”
  6. Once the water in the bowls has frozen solid, remove the ice discs from the bowls. Run water over the outside of the bowls or float them in a basin of warm water for a few minutes to loosen the edges.
  7. Hang the finished ice ornaments from a tree in your outdoor area, if possible a tree with lowbranches so children can help hang them and admire their finished work from close up.

If you’re lucky and it’s a sunny day, the ice ornaments will glisten and sparkle, showing up the nature treasures beautifully. You can make a point of timing with the children to see how long the ice takes to melt.

close-up of red berries frozen into a disk of ice, hanging from a tree branch close-up partial view of a disk of ice with many red berries hanging from a tree branch