Melting Ice Experiments

  excited little girl

What could make a child squeal with joy about an old toy she has played with a hundred times?

ICE!

For years I’ve borrowed little trinkets from my children’s toy box and froze them into a block of ice for them to play with.  My 7 year old son still gets so excited about trying to rescue all the treasures from the ice.

This activity is super easy.  Start with some small plastic toys – nothing electrical or with stickers because those could get ruined when they get wet.  I made two of ice blocks – one with dinosaurs and another with arctic figures.

little toys

Put a few toys in the bottom of a plastic food storage container, add enough water to just cover the toys and freeze them.  Once they were frozen add another layer of toys and water and re-freeze it.  Continue doing this until all the toys are frozen.  This step takes some time so plan ahead.  It’s an important step because it helps to ensure that you will have toys evenly distributed throughout the block of ice.

When you are ready to start the activity, run a little bit of warm water over the side of the container to help release the ice.  Place it in a plastic tub that has sides big enough to contain all of the water as this thing melts.

Now the fun begins!

My kids couldn’t wait to get to those toys!  Usually I let them go to it on their own but this time I talked them through some different ideas for getting through the ice.

We talked about how long it might take for onegiantice cube to melt versus 20 smaller ice cubes.  They decided to break the ice into smaller pieces to help it melt faster.

chipping at ice They discovered that this was a lot of work for little return.  I’m sure they could have been more successful if I had let them use sharper instruments but I wasn’t taking any chances on someone poking themselves with a sharp object.

Next we talked about increasing the heat.  My son got out his flashlight and tried to concentrate the beam onto the ice to warm it up.  That was painfully slow but I loved that he came up with that idea on his own.  I hinted at another tool that might warm up the ice that is usually used for drying something. 

A hair dryer!   The hair dryer would really well at melting the ice but I couldn’t let my 3 year old use a hair dryer so close to water so I gave her some salt and let her experiment with melting her ice that way.  Here is a neat animation on how salt melts ice that helped explained the process to my son.  My daughter didn’t care why it worked.  She just loved pouring the salt and rubbing it all over her block of ice.

The salt worked well but both of these processes were starting to wear on my kids who still hadn’t gotten enough ice to melt to actually rescue a toy.

Finally, we tried pouring warm water over the ice.  This worked wonders!  Not only did the warm moving water melt the ice but the ice stayed soaking in the warm water as the kids pouring more water on it.

Finally the kids were able to melt enough of the ice that they could start prying out a toy or two.  They got so excited each time they rescued one.  It wasn’t about the toy because these weren’t new.  They were straight from their own toy box.  But they had worked long and hard to get these toys in their hands and they felt a sense of pride in their accomplishments.




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Kim About Kim

Kim is a homeschooling mom of two children. When she isn't on a nature hike with her kids, she can be found scrapbooking about their adventures and possibly sneaking a bite of chocolate. She writes about motherhood and family fun at Savor the Days.