Tag Archives: ice


We love playing outdoors in the winter. Compared to the warmer seasons our winter walks are shorter as is our total time outdoors but we still manage to spend 1-2 hours playing outdoors everyday.

In the winter there are no ‘toys’ in the yard – most break easily in the cold. Of course we still have sticks, pots, and the ultimate loose part – SNOW! I also routinely make various ice blocks for building, collecting and sorting. It is the perfect activity for frigid cold winters.

small coloured blocks of ice

With the addition of liquid watercolour paint to the water before freezing these blocks add a nice pop of colour to the yard. Sometimes I freeze dozens of trays full of coloured ice cubes and scatter them all over the yard. It is best done just before a snowfall because the children love hunting and digging for ‘gems’.

This year I decided to make some bigger ice blocks using both ice cream pails and square containers. I imagined the children may enjoy using them for stepping stones – they love the slippery spots in the yard. I also figured with bigger blocks they could build bigger structures than they could with small ice blocks. The gross motor skills required for manipulating the large blocks would be a bonus.

ice blocks and pails

The result was unexpected. The combination of the large containers and the above normal January temperatures meant the blocks took longer to freeze – I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that the liquid watercolour would separate from the water during freezing and even disappear completely!

green circular block of ice

Only four of the ten blocks remained intact when I removed them from the containers. The other ones were fragile because they were hollow! That was certainly unexpected and why it happened I do not know.

hollow round ice block

The centers of these hollow ice blocks were not wet and any colour that remained was a fine powdery texture. It was like, once the liquid watercolour paint separated from the tap water, the liquid part of the paint evaporated. How that was possible confuses me – the tops of all the blocks are solid thick ice – the bottoms are the thin delicate parts that shatter when touched to reveal the hollow centers.

hollow square ice block

Well that was unexpected and I still wanted some usable ice blocks so I filled all the containers with water again. I decided to not use any liquid water colour paint this time but I wanted something to make the ice blocks stand out a little in the snow. I found an old bag of potpourri and tossed a few pieces in each bucket. Interestingly, the next day the water had turned a nice shade of red,

containers full or red water

However, after four days outside, in the shade, in January, there is only a thin partial layer of ice on the surface of each bucket of water. How is it possible that in Manitoba I cannot freeze water outside in January?

That is unexpected.

In, Through, On and Under – Outdoor Babies in Snow

By the middle of December we had a really nice amount of snow.  There was enough snow in the yard that we were able to create some hills to climb and pathways to explore.


Some of the babies were not sure this was a good thing.  Boots and snowsuits limit mobility even on a flat surface. I kept a section of the deck clear of snow so the little ones could practice and build their confidence before they tackled the hills and deep snow.

The older children are already trail blazers – eagerly marking the path through all the fresh snow in the garden;


Still, some days the little ones just quit.  They lie on the deck and wait until it is time to go in.  I try to persuade them that they’d be warmer if they moved around like the others.  Some of them cannot manage to climb the stairs to the door.  Others scramble quickly to the top – proving to me that their outerwear doesn’t slow them down if they have enough incentive to move.

My husband looks at me as I bring the troupe back inside.  ‘Why do you even bother?  It takes so long to get them dressed and you’re only out for such a short time’. I answer, ‘The same reason I keep giving them vegetables at lunch – it is good for them even if they are a little reluctant to try it.’

Last winter my older group enjoyed hunting for coloured ice cube ‘gems’. This year I decided to go bigger.  There were squeals of delight when the babies first saw the bricks of coloured ice.  Everyone scrambled up on the snow hill to investigate.


The little ones are not interested in hide and seek games with the coloured ice bricks.  Instead they like to collect any ‘strays’ and pile them together with the others.  Each day when new bricks are made I put them in areas of the yard that are slightly beyond the babies’ comfort zone.  Once they’ve been collected and stacked with the rest of the bricks the babies are done for the day.


It’s a start.  They now have a purpose to venture out into the snow and it is something they enjoy.  Hopefully they will not be deterred when they return next week and see all the new snow that has accumulated in the yard.  Our new task will be to search for the lost city of ice…



Ice and Outdoor Play

We’re nearing the end of Spring Break with a mix of sorrow and relief.  We have enjoyed the reprieve from the rigorous school schedule.  However, I have found that the school age children require considerably more structure and guidance than any of the younger children and I am exhausted.

Luckily Mother Nature has provided us with terrific weather – warm enough that we can spend our entire morning outdoors but not so warm that we get completely soaked.  Outdoors is the only place this group of school age children have been able to demonstrate any cooperative play.

I mentioned in my last post that my husband shovelled the snow off the roof of the shed and buried the garden path – we still haven’t managed to clear out all that snow.  Now my husband chopped off some of the thick layer of ice from the shed roof. We have found that the ice pieces are far more useful to have in the yard;


One of the children thought they should “put together the puzzle’ but that activity only lasted a few minutes before it was deemed to be too difficult.

Some of the ice chunks were huge and required some problem solving skills to move;


After spending two days clearing most of the snow from the tunnel under the hill the children now used the larger pieces of ice to block the tunnel entrance;


I was informed that this piece of ice was “too heavy to carry” – probably due to the weight of the ‘skater’;


They even found a small patch of fluffy snow in the corner of the yard that was perfect for this little snow person;


Yes, hours of outdoor play is the best way to spend Spring Break.

Fairy Magic

When our dog was a puppy we took her to obedience classes.  One of the suggestions made was to ensure our strong willed puppy ‘knew her place in the pack’ by always giving her her food after we ate our supper.  Due to her whining and begging through our meal we often sent her outside until we finished eating.  Then, when she came back in her food dish was full.

She is not a puppy anymore – she is 12 years old but she still remembers the ‘food fairy’.  When she is hungry she begs to go out then wants back in right away.  She immediately checks her food dish and if it is still empty she begs to go outside again.  I’ve tried to explain ‘time’ to her but she still has faith in the magic of the food fairy.

A few weeks ago the children went outside to play and discovered that the yard looked like this;


I told them that the ‘ice fairy’ must have come to decorate the yard.  They were so excited – collecting and sorting all the coloured gems of ice.

Since then it has snowed several times and most of the coloured ice has been buried.  This week I made some more – it didn’t take long in our -40 C weather.  It hasn’t really been that cold in my yard.  My weather station has registered between -21 and -24 and the yard is sheltered from the wind.

So the ice fairy came again to decorate the yard.  The children were excited but….they laughed and said ‘Yeah, Cheryl made more ice’.  Apparently I failed to persuade them of the existence of a magic fairy that brings coloured ice.

If the dog could talk I’m sure she’d be able to explain the power of fairy magic.  Until then the ice fairy will continue to brighten up the yard and as spring arrives we may discover all those buried gems too.

Winter Science

Yesterday was February 1st and according to the weather station in my back yard it was +2 degrees Celsius. Not officially spring yet and but most of the surfaces looked like this;

The baby and I were watching some of the children ‘digging for worms’;

Apparently the springlike weather has them itching to get into the garden.  On the other side of the yard the children were singing a made up song about ‘doing science’ so I went to check it out.

After asking them a few questions I determined that they had removed a large chunk of ice from the wok and discovered that there had been water below it.  They had added some snow to the water — I assumed it was the beginning of their familiar ‘soup making’ activity — but I was wrong.

They explained that they were doing science — trying to ‘fix the ice’.  They moved the wok to the bench area and sat down.  Then they waited, staring silently at the wok;

I mistakingly assumed that they were trying to melt the slush that they had created so that they would again have water in the bottom of the wok.  I asked if they had moved it into the sunny spot to make it melt faster.

The snort and accompanying look of exasperation led me to believe that I was way off the mark so I asked her what she was trying to do.

‘Make more ice’ was her answer.  ‘Maybe it needs more snow’ she sighed and began adding some more.

The frustration was obvious as she watched the snow transform to more slush.  She declared the experiment to be a failure and went to play tag instead.

Sometimes even in winter you cannot make ice but the experiment is not necessarily over.  We left the slush in the wok — there may be a part two to winter science.