Ice cube drawing

I’m always trying to think of fun activities I can do with my 3 year old that don’t require a huge amount of preparation, and don’t create huge amounts of mess. I love some of the messy play ideas I see on Pinterest, but in reality, there’s just no way I’m ever going to be organised enough to spend an hour setting up an activity!

(nor would I want to, considering half the time it would only keep her occupied for 5 minutes anyway!)

One of my favourite things to play with is ice. I keep a couple of ice cube trays in the freezer at all times (sometimes filled with animals!!), ready to go at the drop of a hat, and the most mess they’ll create is a bit of spilled water – and even I can deal with that.

This time, we used some ice cubes alongside felt tip pens, to create ice cube drawings. I had no idea how well this would work – it was just something I thought would be worth a try!

I didn’t want to be too prescriptive with this activity, as I wanted my daughter to have the freedom to explore the materials and figure out her own way to use them together.

She started by doing a normal pen drawing on the paper – it was actually a picture of me, with eyes, a mouth, and hair! Then she rubbed an ice cube across some of the lines in her drawing, and watched how the lines became smudged.

Next, she used the pen straight on the ice cube, colouring in one side of it and then rubbing it across the paper.

I can’t say I’ve discovered an amazing new way to create art – in the end, we pretty much just ended up with a big soggy mess. But she very definitely enjoyed herself, and it was fun for her to come up with new ways to use the ice and pens together. We chatted about how ice becomes liquid as it melts, and she learned about the fact that pens contain ink, another liquid.

Even the simplest activity can turn into a lovely conversation!

To do ice cube drawing, you will need:

  • paper
  • felt tip pens
  • a couple of ice cubes
  • a tray to put the paper on (not vital, but it just helps to contain any mess!)

You could extend this activity by:

  • talking about how ice is solid when it’s frozen, and turns liquid as it melts
  • using different colours of pens to watch how the colours blend
  • comparing how the ice affects different drawing materials, e.g. crayons, pens, paint sticks
  • using the icy pen splodges to create a new picture, e.g. lots of blue splodges could create the surface of a pond (then you can draw a duck or frog on top!)

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