A new age has come to our playroom! An age when yogourt containers suddenly become precious, and there is an elephant living in the freezer. Budster has become fond of ice excavation, so we are in the midst of an Ice Age – everything will get frozen!

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

Two days ago, we woke up to the pristine whiteness of our yard. For a long time Budster stood by the window, absorbing the view. I could not read his expression, as he was trying to take in this new reality. Then, at breakfast time, Grandma came back from the porch with a handful of snow. Budster’s eyes immediately lit up! He loved snow.

Poor boy, for all his excitement over this change of seasons, he has had a cold and has not been able to stay outside for long. Instead, I decided to bring the winter inside for him, and was surprised how much fun it was to play with snow inside the house, not worrying about cold ears and toes!

First, I carried a plastic tub outside. It was still snowing, so I left it on the porch to fill. Then I found a stack of empty containers we had kept from fruit snacks.  I put one animal figurine in each of them and poured enough water into each container to cover the toy. I chose Budster’s summer friends: butterflies and birds (mostly from Safari Backyard Birds Toob and Safari Insects Toob). I thought he would enjoy having a rescue expedition to free them from the ice! Then all the containers were stacked in the freezer. Additionally, in an empty ice-cream pail went a surprise guest.

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

It took about eight hours for the water to freeze, so it was evening by the time I got the frozen animals out of the freezer and brought the tub full of snow inside. We needed some additional illumination. As it turned out, flameless candles are wonderful for playing with ice and snow. Snow sparkles, ice reflects light, and the small frozen world in a tub looks like it came from a fairy-tale. That must be how the Snow Queen from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale envisioned her perfect world.

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

Usually, I manage to take a quick shot of our small worlds before Budster digs in, but this time he was too excited to wait. If he was making the list of his favourite things in the world, snow, ice and candles would rank very high. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I heard my only-starting-to-speak toddler say, “Please!” While I was burying the frozen toys in the snow, he was standing next to me and saying, “Mommy! Ice! Ice! Mommy!” I said, “Sweetie, just wait another second, please!” The next second, he repeated, “Mommy! Ice, please!” I could not help but oblige this polite request.

Quoting Budster, who finally got to take a look inside a bin, he thought it was, “Wow!” He dug out candles and played with snow, then noticed the icy animals. As I expected, Budster wanted to get the toys out of their winter cages. Playing with hammers is another joy of my son’s little world. Taking after Daddy, who has about thirty of them, Budster has five wooden hammers of his own, and he is very proud of them. They proved well suited to excavating animals from ice.

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

First, Budster got interested in the big chunk of ice that hid our surprise visitor. Inside was a… mammoth! From the book Cave Baby to the cartoon Mamma for the Little Mammoth, the mammoth has long been one of Budster’s favourite creatures. But there were more animals to free, and Budster kept working hard on getting them out. Hammering is a good skill for toddlers to practice: it helps develop hand-eye coordination, and with something as slippery as ice, it is a particularly challenging task.

When Budster’s hands got too cold, and he took a break from hammering, I showed him how he can thaw ice in the bowl of warm water. He immediately stuck all of the animals that were still trapped in ice in the bowl.

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlersHe kept hammering and thawing until all the animals were free, and the ice and snow in the bin started to melt in the warmth of the house. That was very convenient, because the fish needed water and the mammoth wanted a drink. The little world became alive with animals hiding in the snow, taking a trip to the little lake and building little igloos.

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

When it was time for Budster’s bath, he took a few chunks of ice with him and kept asking for more. In one evening, we cleared out our ice stash. Good thing it is easy to replenish! Frankly speaking, it was as much fun as Budster has ever had with sensory material, and I was surprised that something so simple as ice, snow and water could be so fascinating.

If you liked this, you may be interested in:

How to Make Waldorf-Inspired Nature Blocks: cut the blocks to build more nature-inspired small worlds

Ocean in the Bin: read about how we went to the aquarium, then built one at home

Little House in the Pumpkin: carve a little house from a pumpkin and invite toys to settle in it

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Ice Age Sensory Play: ice excavation for toddlers

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