DIY Ice Excavation


An ice excavation completely cools off the kids on a sweltering summer day! No, you don’t need a life-sized cavern of icicles to make the fun happen. What you do need are a few items and objects to freeze in plain old tap water. This kids’ activity pulls science, art and fine motor play together into one project package. Your little scientist gets to ‘excavate’ – or dig out – plants, other ice cubes and more from a frozen block!

Before you get started, talk to your child about the science involved in states of matter. Ask your child to predict what will happen to the water when it goes into the freezer and what happens when you take it out. Make sure that she knows the difference between a ‘solid’ and a ‘liquid’. Say the words with her, making sure that she learns the vocabulary.

Now it’s time to get started with the science…


  • Water
  • A mixing bowl
  • 2 ice cube trays
  • Plants
  • Food coloring
  • Spoons, chop sticks, craft sticks and other similar items for excavating

How-to steps:

  1. Drip a few drops of food coloring into an ice cube tray, adding one hue per compartment. Pop the colorful water into the freezer.
  2. Add one leaf or natural item to each compartment of another ice cube tray. We used fresh basil and dill from the garden. Put them into the freezer. If you have a few cubes left over, toss them into freshly squeezed lemonade, cucumber-infused water or iced tea to make a flavor-filled drink for yourself.
  3. Fill a mixing bowl half way with water.
  4. Take the ice cubes out of the freezer and add them to the water in the bowl. The colorful cubes will begin to melt and mix together. Ask your child what’s happening, why she thinks it’s happening and what new colors the cubes are creating.
  5. Quickly put the bowl into the freezer.
  6. Take the bowl out when the water is frozen. Turn it over onto a baking sheet, thick piece of foam core board or a piece of paper over a flattened garbage bag.
  7. Give your child the spoons, sticks or other tools to excavate the plants out. She can also try to chip away different colors blocks (those are created by the melting ice cubes caught inside). If you put a piece of paper or board under the ice block, the melting colors will turn into a rainbow of water paints!
  8. Optional: Add small plastic toys, dolls or mini cars to the ice block and excavate!

You can also create ice excavations using different shapes. Swap out the bowl for a mason jar, tube-shaped vase or fill up a freezer-sized plastic bag,

Are you proud of your child’s icy excavation project? Show us, so that we can inspire others with your summertime scene! Submit your ice activity photos to us at for us to share.

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