It isn’t often we get a cold spell long enough to make ice ornaments, but with freezing temperatures set to last, we made a few batches to hang on our bushes. They look really beautiful, but also provide lots of opportunity to learn about ice, freezing and melting. A few years ago we made some and shared our learning story, as we watched them melt and freeze.
How to Make an Ice Ornament
You will need
Ribbon or string
Food colouring (optional)
Choose a baking /cup cake tray and fill each hole with cold water.
Add a drop of food colouring – mix or leave to mix itself which can leave a marbled effect.
Snip pieces of ribbon or string and submerge one end in the water, making sure the other end is free. You could loop the string but I prefer to leave it as it makes it easier to tie to larger branches. I usually do this part outside to avoid spilling when you move them to freeze.
Leave outside overnight to freeze (or put the tray in your freezer).
Hang on a bush or tree. If there is snow on the ground the food colouring will drip onto the snow as they melt. If there are prolonged freezing temperatures the ornaments will melt slightly and form icicles as they re-freeze.
I wasn’t sure how easily the hearts come out of the tins but they came out without any trouble. If they need a little help, bring them inside for a few minutes or run some warm water on the base of the tin. Alternatively, you could use a silicone mould.
The second batch also included owls and bears. We made half of the owls clear, to see how they would look without colour, but kept the colour in the bears, because my daughter thought they would look like gummy bears.
What had originally been an icy art project, unexpectedly turned into a fascinating science investigation.
A few weeks ago we filled up my baking tins with water that we coloured with powder paint and dropped all manner of things into them. Shells, berries, leaves, sequins, buttons and even a stone were placed inside to make ornaments for our tree. The weather unfortunately instantly became warmer, so we had to wait some time before they were ready to hang. Even then, only the top layer of ice had frozen and within an hour of hanging them on the tree they had melted. We also discovered that if you colour water with powder paint it separates once it begins to freeze, so most of the ornaments were not the lovely colour we had hoped for.
The girls have been peeking outside every morning to check if there is any ice. This week they were rewarded with below freezing temperatures. The ice ornaments were finally ready! We hung them on the tree. The sun was shining and the tree stands in the sun until mid afternoon. I wasn’t sure how long they would stay this time as ‘plop’ one fell down from the tree.
Let’s put it by the door. That’s in the shade – it might make a nice present for Father Christmas.
As we went inside I asked the girls to watch the ornaments from the window.
They are melting.
How do you know?
They’re wet and they’re dripping down.
What do you think will happen as they melt?
I don’t think it will fall off the string because the string is attached. It will just melt and the floor will be wet.
When we went out later there were more interesting observations
Look this one has holes in it. It might break not melt.
Can I touch one?
Within an hour or so the tree was in the shade and the temperature was beginning to drop. We noticed that the drips were starting to turn into little icicles.
The girls thought this was really cool and the next day even more so when we saw large icicles had formed.
They rushed outside to feel them, touching them gently so that they didn’t break off.
A Winter Pirate Treasure Hunt
The weather was so cold that during the late afternoon I sneaked into the garden with a jug of water and some pirate coins. I put the coins in various containers and poured a little water on the top.
In the morning I invited the girls on a pirate treasure hunt. First they needed to make a map. I had some coffee stained and singed paper that in true Blue Peter fashion I had prepared earlier.
Next they needed their pirate toolkit:
A pot of pirate sea salt
Out they went and quickly found coins. The hammers were their first choice. They weren’t very successful so then they tried the salt. They found that if they used the spoons and the salt they could gradually get down to the coin and hook it out.
This could take ages, if we got a jug of hot water it might be quicker.
The ice is still there you just can’t see it.
Drop it in the water
We were talking about the sea salt later in the day.
How do the pirates get salt from the sea?
Good question. The salt is in the water so how do you think they could get it out?
I don’t know.
Shall we try it?
What do we need to do to make the salt disappear into the water?
We need to dissolve it
How? Do you remember how we made jelly dissolve or the sugar water we make for the hummingbirds?
We put hot water on it. Let’s be scientists and do an experiment.
The girls helped to stir the mixture until all the salt had dissolved. We poured the mixture into a pan and put it on the stove.
What happens to water when it gets cold?
It turns to ice
What about when it gets hot?
I don’t know.
Watch. What can you see.
If I put this spoon over the steam what can you see on the spoon.
It’s wet – water.
Yes the water is turning to steam. Now look what’s happening in the pan. What do you think the white stuff is?
I don’t know. Is it steam.
No. The water has gone now so what is left?
We had another idea for an experiment. If we put the salt back in water and then left it outside would it freeze?