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Embrace the Cold: Fun Ice Experiments for Kids

Last night my husband realized that upon returning from Target with my two year old son, I brought in only the bags that I could carry in one trip and forgot to return for the diapers and wipes. When he got to the car he didn’t find a soft, squishy economy sized package of store brand baby wipes. Instead he found a giant yellow and green brick. The wipes had frozen solid inside the car.

This was tons of fun for our four year old daughter because she views this frigid weather as an excuse to conduct science experiments. She even insists that we address her as “Professor.” So why not embrace the cold? Join in the icy fun and conduct a few experiments of your own. Here are our favorites so far.

  1. Icy on Top: Fill a clear cup about three quarters of the way with water and place the cup outside, out of direct sunlight. Wait a couple of hours and check back. Your children will love to see that a layer of the water on the top has now frozen, yet the liquid water remains below. We used this experiment as a chance to discuss the three forms matter takes – solid, liquid, gas – as well as water safety. While a pond or lake may appear to be frozen, the liquid form remains underneath and is very cold, and very dangerous.
  2. Dissolve or Freeze: Again, fill a clear cup about three quarters full with water, but this time add a couple of small food items that would normally dissolve or become mushy over time when in liquid. We used plain Cheerios for our experiment. Place the cup outside and return after several hours or over night. What happened first? Was the air so cold that the water froze before the Cheerios had time to dissolve and mush apart? Or did the water freeze so slowly that what remains within the ice is Cheerio pieces rather than compact circles?
  3. Hot Water, Cold Water: This time partially fill two clear cups, but pour cold water into one cup and hot water into the other. Check back after an hour or so to see if the two temperatures of water freeze at the same rate or if the cold water freezes faster. Do you know the answer?

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