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Ice ice baby

’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

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