Free from the Freeze!

Our Tinkergarten Teachers across the country and families LOVE ice play!

Exploring the different states of water and observing the transformation from one to another makes for a fantastic sensory experience. At Tinkergarten, frozen treasures are one of our favorite ways to harness the beauty of frozen water.  What are they? To us adults, frozen treasures are objects from nature frozen in pieces of ice. To kids, they are pure magic. And once made, the possibilities for play are endless!

In this activity, we invite kids to activate their persistence and problem solving skills as they try to free frozen treasures from ice.

This activity is featured in our Winter Persistence Animal Superheroes series. Hop into your Tinkergarten dashboard to watch and get inspired by the "Frozen Friends" video lesson. Not yet signed up? Click here to sign up or to try a free Tinkergarten Home lesson.

The Guide

Step 1: Make frozen treasures.

Head outside with your child and collect nature treasures (e.g. small sticks, stones, leaves, flowers, evergreen sprigs) together. You can involve kids in the in the whole process—from freezing the treasures through freeing them. Or, you can sneak out ahead of time and hide them wherever you will be playing that day. To make the frozen treasures:
  • Place the natural objects you collected and water in freezable containers (e.g. ice cube trays, muffin tins, recycled containers).
  • (Optional) To inspire even more imaginative play, use a permanent marker to draw an animal on a rock and invite kids to free their pretend creatures from the freeze. Or, freeze a piece of yarn inside ice and invite kids to free their Ice Worm friend (one of our featured creatures in our Winter Animal Superheroes series).
  • Place in the freezer (or outside if temperatures are below freezing) for at least 24 hours.
  • Take them out of the freezer and give them a minute to warm up, then pop them out into a bowl. 

Step 2: Introduce the frozen treasures and invite play.

Show kids your frozen treasures. Or, hide them around your outdoor space and "discover" them together. Invite kids to use their senses to explore the treasures. Hold them up to the light. Can kids guess what is hidden inside?

Step 3: Free from the freeze!

Wonder, "How could we free the frozen treasures from the ice?" Support kids with testing out their ideas, then introduce new materials one at a time for kids to use in their quest. 

  • Salt
  • Warm water (turkey basters can be great for this, or paint brushes could be fun, too)
  • Warm hands
  • A sunny spot
  • Sticks or rocks
  • Mallets or other utensils
  • Gravity!
Notice together how the size and appearance of the frozen treasures changes over time. Do the treasures melt faster in the water or on the ground? Do they melt faster in direct sun or in the shade?

Extend the play!

If kids are loving frozen treasure play, try out some of these ideas:
  • Freeze treasures in a cookie sheet or larger container for a super-sized frozen treasure.
  • Make ice soup in a bucket or container.
  • Take turns hiding your frozen treasures on the ground somewhere, then challenge each other to find them! (What are the best places to hide it?)
  • Watch the video read aloud of Glacier on the Move by Elizabeth Rusch to learn more about Ice Worms and inspire even more ice play!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Testing different approaches to freeing treasures from ice supports the problem solving mindset that there are many ways to solve a problem. In this activity, kids activate multiple senses—ice is dazzling to our sense of sight, touch and even hearing. The intrigue and beauty of frozen treasures lend themselves easily to imaginary play. Kids will practice persistence as they test out using different materials to free their treasures from ice.

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