Salt and Ice Activity – melting frozen hands

Melting frozen hands: an easy, awesome winter science experiment for kids.

Here’s a simple salt and ice activity to do with the kids on a winter day.  Freeze up some ice and give the kids some salt, and watch what happens.

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 childs-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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Happy Hooligans for kids crafts and activities from toddlers to preschoolers

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