Ice ice baby

[ 6 ] January 22, 2009 |

’Tis the season to be freezing, so what could be more fun when you’re stuck inside than to play with ice? Inspired by my son’s current (and very appropriate) school studies on Antarctica, my kids and I went on a hunt for funky containers to fill with water and pop in the freezer to make icebergs. Ice Ice BabyWe started off simply with a few plastic Tupperware containers but soon branched out into cups, caps, even little animal-shaped molds we had for rice.

The goal was to have several “icebergs” that we could pop out and float in the kitchen sink the next day, which was threatening to be another cold and slushy one. Almost any thin plastic works, as long as the opening is big enough for the ice to pop out (although the truly ambitious could use, say, a plastic milk jug and cut away the plastic when the water freezes. Now that would make a good iceberg!).

After we had the freezer appropriately stocked with icebergs-in-the-making, we went on a house-wide search for small plastic animals that could potentially live in Antarctica. You would be amazed at the biodiversity Antarctica has, especially when you cheat a bit and add sharks, blue-footed boobies, and crawfish into the usual arctic mix of polar bears and penguins.

Popping the ice out of the containers the next day resulted in a bonus science lesson. One of the cups we used was thicker plastic than the others, so it cracked. We talked about how water expands when frozen and then, as we played with the ice, noted if smaller-sized icebergs melted at a faster rate than the larger ones (nope).

This activity kept a one-year-old and a five-year-old playing together happily for almost an hour, until most of the icebergs had melted and the animals had all “drowned.” With more cold weather on the way, I’m sure we’ll be resurrecting the penguins and rebuilding their frozen home many more times.

Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is an occasional column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.

Photo Credit: Michelle Riggen-Ransom

Category: activities: indoor, nature/nurture

Michelle Riggen Ransom

about the author ()

A fan of all things oceanic, Michelle keeps moving from one coast to another. She's lived in many cities (always by water) and now with her husband in Seattle is raising two fourth-generation beach babies. Michelle currently works as a communications consultant for tech companies, and on building apps like Craftmonkey and InstaChimp. Apparently a love of nature and a passion for cool technologies are not mutually exclusive, as she is equally smitten with both.

Comments (6)

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  1. elyse says:

    this idea is very cool (no pun intended) on so many levels. easy, available, fun!

  2. Peter says:

    Kids should learn about polar ice melting and it’s impact on animals and shipping. It’s good for kids to see how complex the questions are and how scientists look at history and data.

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has an informative site: “Melting Ice Threatens Polar Bears’ Survival
    Decision to put bears on federal endangered species list is imminent”

    CNN has the usual shock headline:
    “Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks”

    Also the history of the attempts to find the Northwest Passage.

    Wikipedia info:

    Anthropolis has colorful maps:

    Encarta has history and maps:

  3. Erin Goodman says:

    I LOVE this idea. Thank you, as always, for the inspiration Michelle!!!

  4. Alex T says:

    Great idea! If you don’t have a large freezer, the great outdoors works pretty well this time of year too.

  5. katy says:

    On Tuesday we were molding snow with assorted Tupperwares to stack tall, fancy cakes in the bath tub. You can see the mothers’ interests shine through whatever cold-weather sculpture the children choose to produce. (As long as her interests are science or cake!)

    Great idea Michelle. I love the animals. Makes it into a real ice world.

  6. Zisis says:

    Very nice idea Michelle.Would you be kind enough to tell me where can I find those specific penguins for a small vignette I am preparing?
    Thank you i n advance,

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