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By LittleLife on

Little Explorers: Ice Cube Boats

  • Little Explorers
Little Explorers: Ice Cube Boats

So the idea here is to make a pretty little boat with a Christmas tree sail, ideal for skimming across a muddy puddle, or floating in the bath. We experimented with a couple of sails to work out which was most effective and think it’s worth trying both!

You will need:

  • An ice cube tray
  • Food colouring
  • Toothpicks and twigs
  • Clothes pegs
  • Christmas wrapping paper

This was a creative and scientific activity which we managed to stretch out over two days while we waited for the water to freeze. The science behind what happens when water freezes is so simple for adults that we barely think about it, but explaining it to a Little Explorer for the first time is really exciting.

We coloured two jugs of water red and green using food dye and poured them (enthusiastically and messily!) into the ice cube trays. We would have added glitter too for good measure if we had any to hand.

The Little Explorers scavenged for miniature Christmas trees. We used twigs from a much maligned leylandii, but if you have your full size Christmas tree already, why not try that? We counted out an equal number of toothpicks and cut triangles of wrapping paper into Christmas trees ready to make into sails the next day.

Our Little Explorers held the twigs and toothpicks in the water in the ice cube trays while a grown up Explorer secured them in place using clothes pegs. These were left to freeze overnight.

The next morning we were all thrilled with the results. Beautiful, vibrant, tiny little tree boats. Children love tiny things. Tiny boxes, tiny jewels, and tiny bits of Lego. It’s all very good for practising fine motor skills while they play.

The wrapping paper Christmas trees were pushed onto the toothpicks and bowed out for maximum wind collection.

We togged up and ventured outside to find the perfect puddle – shallow and not too murky - to sail these beauties on. We also filled a large dish with cool water (so they don’t melt too fast) and skimmed them across the surface. It was interesting to experiment and discover which sails were most effective. This activity is also brilliant for exploring how colours mix together. Ours blended into a lovely shade of brown – but you could experiment with blue and yellow for a more vibrant example!

Expert Explorers: Did you know there are real ice boats? These are sailed over ice (rather than being made from it!). They are made of a hull attached to a cross shape with three skates or runners below. They are entirely wind-powered and need snow-free ice to sail across. They were first developed in Europe and have been used transporting goods and racing since the late 1800s. They can travel up to 60mph!

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