Preschoolers love to play with ice and water dispensers on refrigerator doors, sometimes to the point where ice cubes start flying. You can develop their natural curiosity about ice by encouraging observation and prediction. Using the scientific method, preschoolers can examine the properties of ice, guess the outcome of their experiments and check the results.
Expansion of Ice
Everyday activities offer preschoolers the opportunity to observe how water expands as it becomes ice. With assistance, your preschooler can pour flavored water into a popsicle mold. Filling the containers to the top will provide the most dramatic results. Ask your preschooler what might happen in the freezer. Will the frozen popsicles look the same as the liquid ones? Later, your preschooler can check how the frozen popsicles seem to pop out of the mold. Somehow they grew. Your preschooler might ask, "Why?" You don't need to talk about crystalline ice structures, but your preschooler might remember that water gets bigger when it freezes.
Effects of Salt
Preschoolers love contests, particularly melting contests involving ice cubes. Will salted or unsalted ice cubes will melt more quickly? Your preschooler could sprinkle salt on a bowl of ice cubes, while you do nothing to yours. Soon your preschooler will check the results and win the contest, happy that salt can melt ice but unaware that salt lowers the freezing point of water. Later, your preschooler might appreciate how this idea applies to making homemade ice cream.
Another ice cube experiment could use crushed ice and cubes. Which melts more slowly? Your preschooler will be eager to use the ice dispenser to fill two identical cups, one with crushed ice and the other with cubes. After predicting the outcome, return to the experiment to check the results. Although you will omit the explanation that crushed ice has more surface area, your preschooler might remember that cubes melt more slowly than crushed ice.
Ice cube experiments can lead to experiments with color. You could help your preschooler fill two ice cube trays, one with deep blue tinted water, the other with bright yellow. Prepare for the mess to follow! Later, your preschooler could place two cubes from each color in a clear class and predict what will happen once the cubes melt. Will the melted cubes turn green? This simple play can help your stimulate your preschooler's curiosity and introduce the scientific method.