Coloured ice gems – a fun snow activity with coloured ice cubes

Get your kids outside despite sub zero temperatures by making these super simple frozen ice gems. I’ve gathered 7 fun play ideas with these colourful ice cubes to get you started, but there are loads of possibilities, so start exploring. A simple, inexpensive activity to set up in the winter!

coloured ice cubes snow activity for kids

Winter is here. And winter means snow. Well, at least for some people. Last year we’ve had no snow what so ever and the temperature barely hit below freezing point, but my soon to be 5-year old has her fingers crossed this year every single day despite her dislike of cold weather. She wishes for snow so badly, because she remembers playing outside with “ice diamonds” as she calls them and has eagerly been anticipating snow ever since she got her winter boots in the fall, so she could get to play with them again.

So far the weather reports are going to have to dissapoint her, but we’re still hoping. That’s why our freezer is stocked with frozen gems in different colours just waiting for the temperatures to hit below zero (in Celsius / 32 Fahrenheit).

The first time my daugther encountered ice gems, she spotted them in our garden. I’d spread them out in our yard the evening before and not told her about them. She was almost 3 years old, and immidiately started collecting them and playing with them – and she easily spend two hours doing this until she started freezing. The next few days I set up a handful of simple activities and invitations to play and I had to promise her we would go outside again the next day, to get her to come inside with me. I call that a succes!

How to make Frozen Ice Gems

Making ice gems is so easy. Only downside is that you have to make them in advance, but if you remember to do it, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll have some pretty excited kids that can play an extra hour outside in the freezing weather.

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Food colouring (I use Winton icing colours) or alternatively water colours
  • Ice cube trays, plastic containers or Ice cube bags

ice cubes invitation to play setup

How to:

1.Mix water with a few drops of food colouring.

Add more of the colours if you want to make solid colours, less if you like the more icy look.

2. Freeze over night.

We have to do it in the freezer, but if the temperature gets cold enough where you live, just pop them outside and let nature do it’s thing.

We’ve used ice cube trays as well as ice cube bags, but use whatever you have.

3. When frozen they are ready to play with.

If you want to make another batch and need your container, just transfer the ice gems to a big container in the freezer and store them until ready to use.

7 ways to play with ice gems

The ice gems are great on their own. Most children will feel drawn to them as they bring a colour burst to the white snow or the bland winter landscape, and from there on the imagination takes over. I’ve also gathered 5 simple play ideas with the ice gems if you need a bit of inspiration

1. Treasure hunt

Hide the gems all around your garden and have your children find them. You could designate one colour per child, give them small assignments like “find 2 red, 5 blue etc.”, let your kids comptete against each other or have them work together. You could also hide them all together and let them pretend to go on a pirate treasure hunt looking for a chest. Hide them according to their age so they won’t have to hard a time finding them, but still have a bit of a challenge. For my 2-year old I hid them in plain sight on the ground, and a few on a bench. The following year I hid them better, but of course still in plain sight.

snow treasure hunt outdoors with kids

2. Snow cooking and ice cream making.

Bring out a bunch of pots, pans, spoons for scooping and pinchers for an added challange and let the snow cooking begin. The snow in it self is great for snow cooking, but the gems gives it an extra dimension. My daughter made ice creams last year and we added some bird seeds she used as sprinkels, leaving behind some edibles for the wild bird life.

3. Make coloured ice sculptures.  

Add a spray bottle with water, coloured ice gems and watch the art happen. Happy Hooligans is behind this awesome idea, so head over to her page, to find out the specifics.

4. Decorating snow men and making patterns.

We made a bunch of snow men one year and my daugther loved decorating them with the ice gems. The many colours gave them an awesome colours boost! While she decorated the snow men I also had fun making patterns and having her repeat them.

snowman with coloured ice cubes

5. Digging for gems.

This was an absolute favourte for my daughter. Hide a bunch of gems in a big container that can handle very low temperatures, hand your child a big spoon and a small showel for sand and let him or her have a go at it. I added a container for my daugther to gather the gems in – and after she was done, she had me repeat it.

6. Hammer smashing.

We haven’t done this yet, but I had big hopes doing it this year, so we might just do it anyway despite the warmer temperatures. I had planned on letting my almost 5-year old smash some of the ice cubes with a hammer on the ground, which I know she would absolutely love. I would probably recommend safety goggles to be on the safe side and otherwise to be mindful of your child’s abilities when it comes to handling a hammer.

7. Scooping fun.

Add the ice gems to a big container fx a wheelbarrow and give them some smaller containers like platic flower pots, some scooping utensils like showels, spoons, tongs and let them have a bit of scooping fun with mittens on. The need for finger wear makes it a lot more challenging.

scooping coloured ice cubes in the snow

Making coloured ice gems has been one of the best ways to get my daughter to go outside when it’s cold – and I hope that these 7 activity suggestions can help encourage you and your little ones to snow suit up and have a few hours of play outside when you reach sub zero temperatures. I know I need some (a lot) of encouragement to go outside when it’s freezing!

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