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. They are super simple to make, pique curiosity, stimulate kids’ senses, and even offer relief from the summer heat.
What are they? To us adults, frozen treasures are pieces of ice, formed in containers of various shapes and sizes. To kids, they are pure magic. And once made, the possibilities for play are endless!
This activity is featured in our July Activity Calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy of the calendar, get it here.
Make frozen treasures:
Head out on a nature treasure hunt with your child to collect a variety of small rocks, leaves, flower petals and other colorful objects from nature.
Welcome your child to add the treasures to a freezer-safe container. You can use ice cube trays, muffin tins or even recycled containers.
(optional) If you want to add an extra dose of color to some of your treasures, put a few drops of food coloring/watercolor paint into the container.
Pour in the water and freeze for about 24 hours.
Take them out of the freezer and give them a minute to warm up, then pop them out into a bowl.
Explore the treasures.
Invite kids to use their senses to explore the frozen treasures. Wrap the cubes in a cloth or thin sock. Where can you put the ice cube that keeps you coolest? (Tip: Putting ice on pulse points, like behind knees and on wrists is extra cooling).
Add frozen treasures to your water center.
Offer a bin or bowl of water and wonder aloud what would happen if your child added the frozen treasures to the water. Offer a few cups or scoops for your child to use in their frozen water play. Give them space to play, and your children will come up with their own ideas about how to play with these sparkling jewels.
Notice if the frozen treasures sink or float in the water. Model pushing the ice down with your finger and show surprise as it pops up again. How can the nature treasures be freed from the ice? Notice how the size and appearance of the frozen treasures changes over time. Try a melting experiment by placing some frozen treasures on the ground. Do the treasures melt faster in the water or on the ground? Do they melt faster in direct sun or in the shade?
Offer warm water, salt, sticks or mallets and welcome kids to use their problem solving skills to free the trapped treasures from the ice. Or, to add an imaginative twist to the ice and water play, freeze one end of a piece of twine into the ice treasures. Once frozen, tie the other end to a stick and you have a fishing pole complete with cool fish.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Frozen treasures look and even sound intriguing and they stimulate multiple senses at the same time, which is great for the brain! Plus, they encourage the kind of tinkering that builds curiosity and leads to independent experimentation. Exploring water in its different forms is also a super way to introduce kids to important STEM concepts at any early age.
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Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?