Insect ice excavation is a classic. I can’t think of a single year in the preschool classroom where I haven’t done this fun science meets sensory activity for kids!
Insect ice excavation is THE most effortless science activity
Once you see how easy this is to set up and how long it keeps kids engaged, you’ll have this in the rotation every year!
This is a prep-the-night-before project, and the next day you just pop it out of the freezer, throw out some simple materials, and POOF – hours of fun.
Frozen bugs is a preschool classic, and it will be your kids’ new favorite activity.
Related: Speaking of bugs, our GIANT 10-foot bug coloring poster is the.coolest.thing.ever.
If you’re new to insect ice excavation, you’re in for a treat
If you’ve done this a billion times (like us), you already know why this is the coolest (literally).
However, if you’re new, be prepared to be delighted!
There are some universal things that preschoolers love, and removing toys in frozen blocks of ice is always near the top of the list.
Looking for more frozen activities for kids? You’re in luck:
- Painting on Ice Cubes – Friends Art Lab
- Frozen Rainbow Science Experiment for Kids – Hands On As We Grow
- Frozen Flowers – The Best Ideas for Kids
- Plastic insect toys
- Small plastic containers
- Eye dropper or spoon
- Coloring – optional
- Paintbrush – optional
The three main steps are made, freeze, and excavate!
MAKE: Fill a small plastic container with water and coloring if using any.
Next, add in several plastic insect toys. I try to stand up as many as I can against the side of the plastic container so that kids can excavate from all sides instead of just the bottom.
FREEZE: Let them freeze overnight.
EXCAVATE: Provide your child with salt, warm water, a paintbrush, and an eye dropper or spoon to melt the ice.
Why a paintbrush? The paintbrush helps to push and mix the salt with the ice, adding friction to make the ice melt faster.
That’s it! Often, the kids have so much fun when we do this that when they’ve excavated all the bugs, we bring them inside and freeze again for the next day.
Why do you add salt and warm water?
To expedite the melting!
Depending on the size of the frozen cube you make, it can take a long time for the ice to melt.
So, to make it melt more quickly, salt and warm water work together to let your littles rescue the insects faster.
When I lived in Boise, there were many snow days, and it was always fun watching the big trucks go by dumping salt into the roads to melt the ice. This project always makes me think of that!
What are the learning outcomes of ice play?
When kids are engaged with this project and playing with ice, they’re:
- Exploring states of matter – observing a liquid turn to a solid and then back to a liquid
- Engaged with cause and effect – testing out what happens when ice and warm water are applied to a frozen cube of ice
- Sharing materials – unless each child has their very own block of ice and their very own materials, they’re working together toward a common goal with shared supplies
- Investigating temperature – exploring the contrast between how the ice and warm water feel
Any age that won’t try to eat the materials and that can safely use materials.
Of course! They will melt faster, but that is totally fine.
Not to say it can’t happen, but we’ve done this a bazillion times and we’ve never seen that occur.
Insect ice excavation is a sensory and science dream
And it’s a hit every time!
If you don’t have insect toys, you can grab them here or use small blocks, rocks, or other plastic toys as stand-ins.
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