Salt and Ice Activity – melting frozen hands

Melting frozen hands!  When it comes to easy, awesome icy science activities, this one is a winner!

This simple salt and ice activity is perfect any time of the year.  We happened to do it in winter, but we’ve done similar experiments in summer-time, and they’re always a blast.

I was inspired to make our frozen hands when I spied a photo of some similar hands on Takoma Park’s Facebook page, I immediately thought “Oooh! We need some of those!”  If you’re not familiar with Lesley from Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School, I highly recommend that you visit her blog.  She has a deep respect for children and a real appreciation for the value of play.

Lesley also has a gift for studying a child immersed play, and pointing out to her readers what that child might really be thinking and learning while playing.  You can see what I mean here, in her post about Dramatic Play.  I love that she never takes child’s-play at face value.  She is truly an inspiration in the early childhood field.

Colourful, frozen hands: a salt and ice activity

How I made our icy hands:

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  1. Fill a glove with water.  Leave yourself a couple of inches at the top because you’re going to have to twist it shut.
  2. Add a drop or two of food colouring, and shake the glove to disperse the colour.
  3. Twist glove tightly a couple of times and secure snugly with a twist-tie.
  4. Lay glove in baking pan. (the pan will catch any water in the even that a glove leaks.
  5. Place pan in freezer overnight, or if outside temps are cold enough, place the gloves outside overnight like I did.

freezing water in latex gloves


I really didn’t have a plan for the hands at first.   I simply set them out in the sandbox early one winter morning, knowing the hooligans would discover them when we went outside to play.

Removing the hands from the gloves:

You can see there were a few lost digits by the time I got all the gloves off the hands.  The trick to minimizing any casualties is to run the gloved hand under a bit of water, and very gently slide the glove off.  You have to take your time when you’re working on the fingers.  You may have to dribble a little water into the glove, but be careful not to melt the fingers with the water.

coloured icy hands in sandbox

When they came upon them, they were a little puzzled, and not sure what to do with them, so they loaded them into a basket and brought them up to the back deck.  It was then that I thought to get the salt.

children discovering icy hands in sandbox


For those of you who have never done a salt and ice activity with your kids, you have to try it!  The hooligans love it when we set out to melt ice with salt.  We do it at least once a year, and it always holds their attention until every last bit of ice has been dissolved or turned to mush.  Not only is it engaging and fun, a salt and ice activity is a chemistry lesson that never fails to impress kids of all ages.

rock salt and icy hands for ice and salt activity for preschoolers

What you’ll need for your salt and ice activity:

  • your icy hands
  • a shallow pan, container or tray to put your icy hands in
  • salt (I used driveway salt, but table salt would work as well)
  • bowl to hold your salt
  • scoops and spoons

I place the hands in a foil baking pan, and filled a plastic take-out dish with driveway salt, and supplied the hooligans with a few scoops and spoons.  They got to work sprinkling the salt on the hands.  As the ice melted, the salty water pooled in the bottom of the pan, and they were able to scoop that all over the hands to speed up the melting process.

salt and ice activity - melting frozen icy hands with driveway salt

This is an activity that could easily be done inside, and if you’re looking for a way to give your hooligans even more of a mission, add some buttons, beads and other small toys to the gloves like we did with our haunted hallowe’en hands.  Your children will work until they’ve released all of the goodies from the ice!

If you’re looking for a couple more awesome salty science activities for toddlers and preschoolers, check out our:


Ice Age Bin

 Salt, Glue and Watercolour Art


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  1. Gina says

    oooh, I think mine would love that, they love anything cold and wet on a cold, wet day. I will have to look the science up so I can pretend to be a clever mummy.

    • happyhooligans says

      We did the same thing, Jenn, right down to the pieces of drinking straws. We called ours “Haunted Hallowe’en Hands”.

    • happyhooligans says

      Yes, just run it under a little bit of cold water, and gently slide it off. I should add that to the post! Thanks, Lisa.

      • lisa foster says

        Thank you for the speedy response. I want to try it tomorrow. Just started following you and am loving it

  2. gemma says

    Latex gloves are great. For a baby sensory activity we filled gloves with jelly to squeeze and squash and then suspended some from ceiling too. Other gloves were filled with ice and water. The babies had fun batting them and squeezing etc.

  3. says

    Thank you for the lovely words about the blog, Jackie. LOVE the salt PLUS icy hands. The same thing happened to our “troll hand” fingers. The children collected the fingers in a bucket. The idea was kind of gruesome, but the colorful collection was pretty.

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