When snowflakes start sprinkling from the sky and icy crystals coalesce on outdoor surfaces, a flurry of excitement immediately begins to fall on kids of all ages.
The following are simple but cool science experiments about snow and ice that will get kids interested in learning about nature's frozen wonders.
Learn how to make your own snow, ice, and icicles as well as ways to experiment with ice and learn about its properties.
Growing and Exploding
When water turns to ice, it expands. There are a couple of simple experiments children can do that demonstrate this principle.
For the first experiment take an empty can and fill it with water stopping about ½ to ¼ inch from the top of the can. Use a permanent marker to mark the water line on the outside of the can. Put the can on a tray or on aluminum foil and place it into the freezer. Leave the can in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. The ice will be higher than the water line and will appear to have grown overnight.
Another experiment is an exploding bottle. Fill a plastic bottle with water stopping about ¼ inch from the top. Replace the lid and sit the bottle in the freezer making sure the bottle is standing straight up. Leave the bottle in the freezer for at least a few hours. It will appear that the bottle has exploded because of the ice.
Frost can be made with an empty can, crushed ice, and salt.
First, fill an empty can (soup can, coffee can, etc) 2/3 full with the crushed ice. Spread about a teaspoon full of water on a piece of paper. Place underneath the can.
Next, fill the remainder of the can with salt and mix with the ice. Keep mixing for a few minutes or until well mixed. Frost will start to appear on the outside of the can.
Dry ice is actually frozen carbon dioxide. It has properties different than that of normal ice.
Let children compare the difference by observing what happens when each is placed in a cup of water. Take two cups of water. Add a piece of normal ice to one of the cups and a piece of dry ice to the other.
Ask the child to list the differences. Check out this article for more information about dry ice, more experiments, and safety precautions.
Dry Ice Experiment
On a snowy day, take a piece of black construction paper and catch snowflakes on it. Use a magnifying glass to observe the individual snowflakes.
Ask the children to describe the differences between each snowflake.
To make a mixture that has the same texture as snow, mix crushed ice in a blender until it has the consistency of real snow.
There is also instant snow powder that can be purchased. Once it is mixed with water, it looks like snow and has the same texture. It is fun to make and kids can play with it.
Ice and Salt
The freezing point of water is lowered when it is mixed with salt. This is why it is used on roadways and sidewalks in the winter to prevent (or melt) ice. There are many experiments kids can do to observe this principle.
In this experiment, the children will race two ice cubes to see which will become a pool of water first. You will need two containers or trays. Place an ice cube in each container. (A cup of snow can also be used instead of ice cubes). Make sure the ice cubes are identical in size.
Have a child sprinkle salt onto one of the ice cubes. The cube with the salt will begin to melt more quickly than the unsalted ice. The salty cube is the winner!
For an opposite result, have a freeze race. Two cups of water and two empty ice trays will be needed. Pour one of the cups of water into one of the empty trays. Add salt to the other cup of water and mix well. Pour the salty water into the second tray. Use a Popsicle stick or toothpick to mark which tray has salt. Place both trays into the freezer at the same time.
Observe periodically to discover which tray of water freezes first. This time the plain water will be the winner.
(For Preschool and Young Elementary Ages)
Have a child fill a fun ice tray with water and place it in the freezer. When the water is frozen, have the child remove the ice and place it in a clear container. Let the children observe periodically throughout the day as the ice begins to melt and the water changes to room temperature. To make the experiment more interesting, use fun-shaped ice cube trays. Food coloring can be added to the water before freezing it to make colorful ice.
Children can also do the same observation with snow. Fill a clear container with snow and let the child observe as the snow warms and melts into water.
Another ice observation kids can do is watching “icebergs” in a cup. Give the child a cup with a few pieces of ice. Have the child predict what might happen when water is poured into the cup. The child will see that the “icebergs” will float to the top because ice is less dense than liquid water. Then have the child predict what will happen to the water level as the “icebergs” melt. Use a marker to draw a line at the water level.
As the ice melts, the water level will remain constant because the amount of space taken up by the ice is the same as that of the water when it melts.
Salt and a String
Kids can perform a “magic trick” with an ice cube, a string, and salt. Place an ice cube in a cup of water. Cut a piece of string a few inches long. Have the kids try to pick up the ice cube using just the string and not their fingers. They will see that it does not work.
Now dip the end of the string in the water and lay it across the ice cube. Sprinkle some salt on top of both the ice cube and the string. Wait a minute or so and then try to pick up the ice again using just the string. It should work this time because the salt will have melted the ice slightly and the water will have refrozen around the string.
Take an empty can and punch a small hole in the bottom using a hammer and a nail. Punch three more holes near the open end. Cut three pieces of string about 20 inches long. Tie one piece of string through each of the holes at the top of the can. Then tie the three loose ends together.
Fill the can with water and hang it outside on a day when temperatures are at or below 32oF. Leave it overnight and observe the icicles that have formed the following day. Food coloring can be added to the water to make colorful icicles.
Which will melt the fastest?
This experiment is another race to see which will melt first. Take two identical ice cubes and place them in separate containers or trays. Leave one of the ice cubes exposed as normal. Wrap a small piece of newspaper around the other ice cube and secure with rubber bands or with tape.
The one wrapped in newspaper will take longer to melt because the newspaper insulates the ice. The experiment can also be done to test how well aluminum foil, napkins, or other items insulate.
Even More Ice Experiments and Fun Ice Ideas!
- Ice Science Experiments for Kids
Kids will learn about the properties of water and ice in a cool way. These activities and experiments are great to do on hot summer days or during the cold winter months. Grab an ice tray and chill out with these experiments.
Easy Edible Snow Ice Cream Recipe
- How to Make Snow Ice Cream
Newly fallen snow can be not only beautiful to look at, but a delicious treat as well. Ice cream can be made from snow using a few simple ingredients. Whip up some snow ice cream to pass the time and fill your belly.
Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on January 06, 2014:
These are neat ideas!! Living in Florida, I don't have much of an opportunity to teach my daughter about real snow. These are some interesting ideas that I could try to teach her about snow, even if I don't live in an area where we get snow.
Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on August 01, 2012:
SPK5367 - Thanks! For the frost on the can, there is moisture (condensation) on the outside of the can (think about the moisture on the outside of a drink can). The ice inside the can starts cooling the can itself to a lower temperature. The water on the outside of the can starts to freeze forming a think layer of frost (ice) as it cools down from being in contact with the can. Hope that cleared it up!
SPK5367 from Pennsylvania, USA on July 13, 2012:
This is fantastic. I'll definitely do these experiments this winter with my younger children. I appreciate any help I can get to make science more interesting. Can you explain the science behind making frost? I understand the principles at work with the rest of the experiments, but not with that one. Thanks!
Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on February 09, 2012:
Jamie - Thanks! Things can get pretty fun with science experiments.
Jamie on February 08, 2012:
This i fabulase. There is always go expiraments on this sit. How fun would it get?
melo on January 16, 2012:
do you know about the dry ice experiment? can you help me with it?
Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on January 05, 2012:
Bob - They are fun to try.
Bob on January 05, 2012:
i love this
Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on January 03, 2012:
varsha - Just about all of these experiments use things that are already in your kitchen. Have fun!
varsha on January 03, 2012:
cool !good we can try this experiments in home
Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on December 04, 2011:
vicky - Snow cream is delicious. How did the crushed ice snow turn out?
vicky on December 02, 2011:
Been craving snow for weeks (eating it) so will be buying a Huuuuge bag of ice tomorrow...thank you!!! =) x
RobertDCrandell on October 20, 2011:
Great hub, Thank you for this hub.
martycraigs on February 12, 2010:
Great, these snow and ice experiments sound fun. Not to mention they are easy enough.
Thanks for sharing the ideas.
aefrancisco from somewhere down the road on December 15, 2009:
LOVE it. :)
Laurel from Germany on December 06, 2009:
Very fun ideas! Being from Canada, we've got lots of snow right now so I'll mention your hub to a few moms that I know.
Money Glitch from Texas on December 06, 2009:
This is a great hub. Thanks for sharing such informative and fun ideas for snow and ice experiments. I'm sure the kids would enjoy doing these...
Mary Krenz from Florida's Space Coast on December 04, 2009:
Fantastic! I wish I had known about these when my kids were small. I will tell my son about the instant snow. We live in Florida and he has never seen snow.
travelespresso from Somewhere in this exciting world. on December 04, 2009:
These are wonderful ideas for kids and for adults too! Excellent hub Cocopreme