Ice bowls are fun to make, safe to eat from and they even look fantastic on any Christmas party table. To make one, each child will need two bowls to form a mould – one must be able to fit inside the other with 2-3cms to spare all the way around. Plastic pudding basins are ideal.
Children start by using a pastry brush and cooking oil to lightly grease the outside of the small basin and the inside of the large basin. Next, place the small basin in the middle of the larger one, and half fill with water to weigh it down. Place attractive, edible, decorative items such as blueberries, herb leaves and cake decorations in between the two bowls. Pour water into the space between the bowls (onto the decorations), then place the whole thing in the freezer. (Remember to record which child made which bowl!).
Once completely set – it’s best left overnight – remove from the freezer and stand the whole thing in a sink of lukewarm water for exactly one minute. Younger children will now need some help, but it should be possible to carefully ease out the inner bowl. (The ice inside is no longer needed, but you may like to save it for the ice sculptures activity below). The outside bowl can now be carefully turned out to reveal the elegant, decorated ice bowl. If you’re serving chilled food from the bowls, don’t delay, and remember to use place mats underneath to catch those melting drips.
Ice sculptures are a perfect outside activity for a cold, wintery day. In preparation, you’ll need to fill many containers of differing shapes and sizes with water and freeze until solid. Ice cream and margarine tubs are good for large blocks of ice, yoghurt pots are useful and balloons can be used to make interesting shapes. Traditional and novelty ice trays are good for smaller shapes, as are the trays from boxes of chocolates. You may like to add food colouring to some to create interest, but only use a little to prevent staining during play. Ask children to bring in gloves to protect their hands from the cold, and to prevent them becoming stuck to their sculptures!
The children sculpt by fusing frozen shapes together to make whatever they feel inspired to – an igloo, a figure or an abstract perhaps. Sometimes blocks will bond when simply held together for a few seconds, but brushing a little water on each surface beforehand will act as “glue”. You could make craft resources available for adding to sculptures (pipe cleaners, sprinkles etc), or children could incorporate natural materials such as stones and twigs.
Lastly, take photos of the icy creations which can be looked at long after the ice has melted.
If you’re looking for more activity ideas for a mixed age group, check out my book A Practical Guide to Activities for Older Children, which focuses on themed activities for the 4-12 age range. You may also be interested in A Practical Guide to Playwork.
In the meantime, enjoy a lovely, well-earned Christmas break.