Set the Stage
Make the gems ahead of time so you can hide them outdoors. Simply place few drops of food coloring in water balloons, then fill them with water. Pop them in the freezer or place them outside (it will need to be colder than 32 degrees for at least 12 hours). Make enough for everyone to have at least one gem.
Once they’re frozen, hide them! They don’t have to be very hard to find, but don’t place them in plain sight, either -- behind a tree or under a bush works. You could also hide tools for your children to find, such as a magnifying glass, small containers of rock or table salt, or wooden spoons. When your kids find the gemstones, they’ll figure out what to do with those tools.
As you head out to hike with your kids, tell them you’ve gotten word that there’s treasure to be found -- something lovely, wintery, even a little magical. Then tell them to use their eagle eyes. There should be clues along the way -- things that they wouldn’t expect to see -- that will let them know they’re on the right track.
Let your children make the discoveries. If they’re having trouble, use the classic “warmer” and “colder” clues to help them along. When they find the gems, share in their amazement -- they are beautiful, after all! Take a moment to marvel at them.
Found all the gems? Your kids will know what to do next. Very small children will be naturally inclined to explore the gems with their senses -- feeling them melt in their hands, perhaps noting how they slide along the ground or even giving them a little taste. Slightly bigger kids may experiment with tools -- rolling them along the ground with wooden spoons, examining how the sunlight hits them, sprinkling a bit of rock salt on them to see what happens. You can also encourage kids to try cracking the gem open to see what it looks like inside. On warmer days, watching them melt swirlingly in a puddle can be mesmerizing.
Ice gems also lend themselves easily to imaginary play. Remember, this was a treasure hunt! Who else might be looking for all this loot? Perhaps you can help kids create a hide-and-seek with the gems so you can foil any pirates in search of their booty! Another idea you need to plan for is to freeze the end of a piece of twine in the gems so kids can “go fishing” with them.
Give them space to play, and your children will come up with their own ideas about how to play with these sparkling jewels.
We think all families should be learning outside. Try this activity with your child and begin to see the power in outdoor, play-based learning. Have fun!Email it to me