Rainbow Ice Painting

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In this week’s at-home activity, your child will explore the concept of changing states of matter while they create colorful ice cube “paintbrushes” to make art.

What we’re learning & skills we’re building 

  • Changes in states of matter – liquid water turns into solid ice when frozen; solid ice turns back into liquid water when it melts 
  • Sensory Awareness – using the sense of touch to feel and learn about ice 
  • Temperature – very cold temperatures, such as the air inside of a freezer, cause water to freeze 
  • Friction – the slick, melting ice of the frozen cubes reduces friction, allowing them to easily slide around the paper 


Optional Materials 

  • Sandpaper 
  • Salt

Creating Rainbow Ice Cube “Paintbrushes” 

  1. Fill the ice tray with water so each square is about ¾ full. 
  2. Squeeze a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolor paint into each square. Stir the colors using popsicle sticks/craft sticks or chopsticks. 
  3. Place one stick diagonally into each square of the ice tray (they’ll be less likely to slip out if placed diagonally). These will become the handles of the ice cube “paintbrushes.” (Note: Adults can break the sticks in half if they’re too long and falling out of the squares. The broken ends can either be sanded or inserted into the squares to prevent your child from getting splinters.)
  4. Carefully place the ice tray into the freezer (it’s easiest if the ice tray is put on an art tray or a baking sheet). Leave it in overnight or until the cubes are completely frozen.

Painting with Rainbow Ice Cube “Paintbrushes”

  1. Remove the ice tray from the freezer. 
  2. Let the ice cubes thaw for about 2-3 minutes before removing them from the tray.
  3. Carefully take out a colorful ice cube from the tray by its stick. You now have a colorful, frozen “paintbrush” to paint with!
  4. Hold onto the end of the stick and rub the colorful ice cube around a piece of watercolor paper or thick cardstock. (Note: at first, the cube will be somewhat “sticky” and it might not glide across the paper, but very soon it will be easier to paint with as it continues to melt.)
  5. When you’re ready for a fresh paintbrush with a different color, remove another cube from the tray and repeat Step 4. Watch art unfold!


More Exploration

  • Sensory: Have your child observe the ice and use their own sense of touch to learn about it. Ask, “What does the ice feel like? Cold? Hard?” 
  • Temperature & changes in states of matter: Ask, “What caused the colorful liquid water to turn into ice?” Have them stand in front of the open freezer to feel how cold its air is. Encourage them to talk about what they see happening to the ice once it’s out of the freezer and on the paper. Ask, “How are the ice cubes becoming liquid paint? What’s causing them to melt?” 
  • Movement/friction: The paintbrush stick handles will eventually fall off as the ice melts. Have your child place a colorful ice cube onto the paper and (gently) shake the paper so the ice cube moves across it. Ask, “Why do you think the cube is sliding around so quickly?” (Note: What’s happening is that the frozen water is reducing friction between the ice cube and the paper so the cube is able to move around more easily.)
  • (Optional) Salt: Have your child sprinkle or shake salt over the top of a wet painting. Observe how the salt changes the paint colors.


A Note About “Rainbow” Art Activities

Every June in Habitot’s Art Studio, we’ve created rainbow-themed art as part of our week-long “Rainbow Arts” Pride celebration. This year, we want to acknowledge that the traditional rainbow Pride flag, from which we’ve drawn inspiration for our art activities, doesn’t fully reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. There are many flags used by groups in the LGBTQ+ community that we’d like to highlight and include in our 2023 celebration! Check out this list of Pride flags and what the different flags mean for specific communities. Happy Pride!