Having a toddler taught me to always be creative in presenting something that they regularly see. Variety is the key. His foods and drinks are presented in different forms, placed on different plates, and cooked in different styles. Art is no different.
We have been painting since he was a baby (future post) and I never stopped offering different ways to let him explore paint. This time, to make it more exciting, I made colored ice cubes! It wasn’t like any other painting activity because he was able to sustain his interest for approximately 20 minutes before we moved on to the bathroom for an extension to this activity which was water play.
To maximize exploration, I followed his lead. It was both an art and science activity. It was also a perfect example of work where process is more important than the product.
Age when we did this activity: 20 months
- ice tray (I got mine from Japan Homes)
- Ma’am and Mom’s Non-Toxic Washable Tempera Paints (available here)
- tap water
- thick paper so it doesn’t easily tear (art board available here)
- bowl where ice cubes will be placed for the art activity,
- tray where the activity will be done (ours is a SMULA tray from IKEA)
- fill up ice tray with water (make room for the paint)
- Pour PURE paint on each slot (the more paint, the darker the output. For this, I just used 3-4 drops of tempera paint)
- put ice tray in freezer. Leave overnight
- on the activity day, take colored ice cubes out and put in bowl
So how did it go? :
- Before we started, I laid out some rules which included not eating the ice and keeping the ice within the tray only (you can add more rules if you want but make it less restricting to encourage more exploration)
- I told him that we are going to paint with ice and also demonstrated how he can do it. After this, I was totally hands off.
- He got some more ice cubes and tried to paint with them.
- He would put the ice cubes back and forth from the bowl and/or ice tray to the paper
- There were lots of discussions between us during the entire time of exploration. He was pointing out his observations like the ice cubes were cold, the colors he’s seeing ( he hasn’t mastered the colors yet so I would say the correct color if he says the the incorrect one), how the ice cubes were gradually melting (he learned this term from his previous encounter with ice cubes), the colors he’s seeing ( he hasn’t mastered the colors yet so I would say the correct color if he says the the incorrect one), and how one ice cube “broke” when he dropped it.
- The ice cubes continued to melt so I demonstrated how we can pour the water back into the bowl.
- He requested for another bowl and got some cups (his small cups are accessible to him) and turned it into a pouring activity
- When it spilled, he cleaned up.
- When everything melted, I pointed it out to him that all the ice cubes were gone and asked him “Where did the ice cubes go? What happened to them?” He answered: “broken!” (hahah) I reminded him that the ice cubes gradually melted until they turned into colored water.
- Ice cubes melted and he spilled the water yet I’ve observed that he’s not yet done with his work so I invited him to continue playing in the bathroom, bringing along the bowl and cup he used.
What to expect:
- It will be a messy activity because of the melted ice cube. Expect spillage.
- Any curious child might taste the ice cube or feel its coldness with their cheeks or other parts of the body
- Some may not like the cold and be hesitant to continue exploring
- The paper where they’re supposed to ice paint will be soaking wet
- Once the paper dries up, you may or may not see the colors (process vs product)
- The process is packed with experiential learning especially if you follow the child (in our case, we tackled the following topics: temperature, changes in form, colors, and we did some practical life activities)
- Follow the child which basically means being non-directive and observing as the child lead (this of course has limits like making sure that child’s safety is not compromised).
- If your child makes an observation, follow through by expounding. Ask more “how”, “why do you think” types of questions.
- Prepare rags, dippers, basins. You may also opt to do this in the bathroom
- If your objective is not purely for exploration and more for an intended purpose like painting an igloo as a supplementary exercise for learning the letter ‘I’, you can instruct your child to paint the picture then transfer the ice to another tray for exploration purposes.
Will I do this again?
Definitely yes! However, I will make him more involved by letting him prepare the colored ice cube. I will let him do it from filling up the water, pouring the paint, to putting them in freezer. I can make an extended discussion on how the water with paint turned into ice and how they later on goes back to liquid form.