Throughout January, we had fun getting outdoors and joining in with The Ladybirds’ Adventures and Thimble and Twig for their Wild about Winter challenge. Each day had a suggested activity for winter outdoor fun and naturally some of these involved ice and frost. However, this winter has been a mild one so far and we haven’t had very much frost or ice appearing naturally. Thankfully, these activities can all be done even on the mildest of winter days and we had a lot of fun getting outdoors and enjoying some ice and frost play.
Ice sun-catchers are easy to make and so pretty. We collected some treasures from the garden in a small shallow round tin, added enough water to cover them (about an inch deep) and then put it in the freezer overnight. If you want to be able to hang it up then don’t forget to add a loop of string at this stage. We forgot that bit! You might need to let it defrost slightly after taking it out of the freezer to remove the frozen sun-catcher from the tin.
We also used the same technique to make ice sculptures. This time we used foil trays left over from a takeaway and shaped them to make a cat and a butterfly shape.
Ice scavenger hunt
We love having mini scavenger hunts in the garden, particularly when they involve hiding small toys. An ice scavenger hunt is a fun twist on this. To set up the scavenger hunt, I froze some plastic toy animals and toy people in small containers. You could also do this by pushing them into balloons and filling the balloons with water before freezing them. Once the animals were encased in ice, I hid them around the garden and gave Sophie a list of what animals to find. As well as the fun of finding the animals, she also had the fun of trying to free them from the ice. Her preferred technique was to throw them on the ground to smash the ice. Thankfully our toys were sturdy enough to cope with this! You could also experiment with other ways of trying to melt the ice, such as pouring water over the ice blocks or adding salt.
To make an ice lantern, you will need:
- 2 containers of different sizes (the smallest one needs to be big enough to fit a tea light candle inside)
- Berries, twigs and leaves from the garden
- Insulating tape
- A tea light candle
1) Place some berries, twigs and leaves in the bottom of the large container.
2) Fill the small container about two-thirds full with water and place in the centre of the larger container on top of the berries, twigs and leaves. Use insulating tape to hold in place.
2) Add more berries, twigs and leaves between the two containers.
3) Pour water into the large container until it is about three-quarters full. Put in the freezer and leave for several hours to freeze.
4) Take the containers out of the freezer and remove the insulating tape and smaller container.
5) Remove the larger container and place a tea light in the hole left by the smaller container.
We used a battery powered tea light in our lantern, which we put inside a small clear plastic tub to stop the melting ice getting it wet.
You can make ‘frost’ patterns on the windows using Epsom salts and water. This is a fun kitchen-science activity.
You will need:
- A large beaker
- 125ml warm tap water
- 75g Epsom salts
- Washing up liquid
- A lens cleaning cloth
- A stick or spoon to stir
1) Dissolve the Epsom salts in the warm water. If they don’t dissolve completely, place the beaker in the microwave for around 30 seconds and stir again.
2) Add one or two drops of washing up liquid and stir again.
3) Dip the lens cleaning cloth in the solution. Wipe the solution across a window and wait for it to cool.
Using warm water allows more of the Epsom salts to dissolve and creates what is called a super-saturated solution. As the solution cools down, the excess Epsom salts dissolved in it start to crystallise, creating ‘frost’ patterns on the window.
While we’ve not yet given up hoping for snow this winter, we’ve been enjoying being able to have some icy fun outdoors thanks to these activities. The ice lantern is definitely one we want to try again if it does snow though. I can imagine it would look quite pretty in the snow.