Painting the ice is the coolest! Okay, I know that was a little cheesy, but I had to say it. – Paint the ice is the coolest in every sense of the word and makes a great sensory play.
Sensory play is my go-to every single time my one-year-old takes a nap. Since my older two no longer nap, sensory play activities like this allow me to catch my breath. Once the boys are set up, they are always good for 30-45 minutes of independent play. That’s right! Breakfast Invitations in the morning, and sensory bin after that. Together they work hand and hand to jumpstart creativity!
There has never been a time that my boys were more engaged than when they were doing this paint-the-ice play. If you have preschoolers, you must give this ice activity a go!
RELATED: Looking for simple activities on the fly? Here are 101 hands-on preschool activities.
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- Ice maker – Do you have an ice maker? If so, you have the main supply for this post. If not, you can grab a large bag from your local store.
- Shower liner – One day, I went to the guest bathroom and took it straight off the rod. We have used it 217 times since.
- Storage bin – Anything will do as long as it’s large enough to contain the ice!
Plastic Squeeze Bottle
You want these to mix the paint and water so your kids can squirt it over the ice.
RELATED: Did you know you can also use ice on the light table?
How To Set Up Paint the Ice
Step 1. Grab that shower curtain and find a safe spot.
A shower curtain provides a buffer. You can only say, “Stay inside the bin” so often. Now when I say it, I mean to stay on the shower curtain. – I don’t tell them that. As a mom, you have to set yourself up not to get stressed out. Who knew a shower curtain could provide so much calm?!
Step 2. Fill each squirt bottle with a small amount of paint.
Use only primary colors, then add water to the rest of the bottle. Shake the squirt bottle, and you’re ready to go!
RELATED: Check out these 40+ easy painting activities for kids!
Step 3. Dump ice into a large storage bin.
Grab a sensory bin and chuck a large amount of ice inside. Bonus: It makes a satisfying sound!
Step 4. Allow your preschoolers to decide what is next.
Play should be child-led so let them take the activity wherever they want. After a while, the ice will begin to melt, and your preschooler has now moved on to water play.
Pro tip with ice sensory play: Set limits! Allow one refill. Your preschoolers may get so excited about this ice sensory play that they will squirt the entire bottle in 4 seconds flat. Hashtag – been there, done that.
Allow your preschoolers to come back for one last fill-up, and then hand them over some kitchen tools you no longer use. I found this article from Unicef about why free play should be encouraged at home especially useful.
RELATED: Want to back up and see how I introduce sensory play? This beginner’s guide to sensory play has what you need.
What is Going on Behind the Scenes?
- Child-led learning – Kids can take this activity wherever they want, which is awesome for their imagination!
- Collaborative play – My boys play this activity together and have a lot of fun doing it! It makes a great teamwork activity.
- Color mixing – Mixing primary colors helps kids learn what colors to make.
- Decision making – ‘Do I use this color first or this one? Where shall I squirt the ice?’ These are just a few decisions your little ones will make while playing!
- Fine motor strength – Squirting those bottles takes a good amount of fine motor strength, perfect for strengthening little fingers, and squeezing prepares for pencil grip.
- Inquiry-based learning – Observing what happens when they make a decision and exploring using another technique is excellent for inquiry-based learning.
- Problem-solving – Sometimes, your children won’t make the color they want, or they can’t squeeze the bottle. This is a great way for them to figure it out!
RELATED: Who wants more water play? Find 35+ Water Play Ideas, all in one place.
I Love Paint the Ice
This idea is so simple, yet it provides hours of fun! Perfect for a hot summer day, this is a go-to outdoor sensory activity to learn and play. You will also see that we rotate through preschool activities to help keep everyone busy!
Check Out These Creative Sensory Activities:
- Easy Painting Activities with Kids
- How to Paint with Kids
- The Importance of Sensory Play
- Watercolor Painting
Frequently Asked Questions
In my experience, the paint is so diluted that it washes out. Play messy sensory activities like this one with older clothes that you do not mind getting dirty.
Paint the ice by adding water and paint into squirt bottles. Bottles are easy to wash when the activity is over and can also be used for many other fine motor activities to build hand strength.
Painting on ice teaches children how to hold a steady hand, color mixing, creative expression, and science! Watch what happens as the colored ice melts and mixes with the other painted colors.
How To Set Up Paint the Ice (Print HERE!)
- Ice maker
- Kid’s Paint
- Plastic Squeeze Bottles
- Shower liner
- Storage bin
- Grab that shower curtain and find a safe spot.A shower curtain provides a buffer. You can only say, “Stay inside the bin” so many times. Now when I say it, what I really mean is to stay on the shower curtain. – I don’t tell them that. As a mom, you have to set yourself up not to get stressed out. Who knew a shower curtain could provide so much calm?!
- Fill each squirt bottle with a small amount of paint.Use only primary colors, then add water to the rest of the bottle. Shake the squirt bottle, and you’re ready to go!
- Dump ice into a large storage bin.Grab a sensory bin and chuck a large amount of ice inside. Bonus: It makes a really satisfying sound!
- Allow your preschoolers to decide what is next.Play should be child-led so let them take the activity wherever they want. After a while, the ice will begin to melt, and your preschooler has now moved on to water play. Are you catching on to how effective ice and water are in your daily routine? Here’s how I create our predictable schedule.