Make ice candles for winter fun

A few ice candles viewed from windows can turn your yard into a winter wonderland for young children. Ice candles are easy, beautiful, and cost next to nothing. For more ways to prepare young children for school and a lifetime of learning see for ideas, pod casts, and videos.

What to do

Explain to children what you will do together to make their yard a bit cheerier during these cold nights. Young children can help with every step. Following directions, asking questions, and discussing during activities help children learn to listen carefully and interact positively with others. This social emotional growth prepares them to be successful in school. It’s as important as reading to them every day.

To create ice candles make an ice form first. Fill a bucket with tap water and place a tin can in the center. Weigh it down with rocks or something else around the house. Do not sink it completely. Use a marker to draw a line noting the water level on the pail. Point out where the water is now. Ask children whether they think the frozen water will be above the line, below the line, or the same.

To keep the can or cup from drifting off center you can anchor it in place by putting a stick across the top of the pail and duct taping or tying the can to the stick letting the cup hang down in the water.

Place the bucket outside or in the freezer overnight until the water is frozen solid. Carefully remove the block of ice from the pail or bucket. If difficult loosen the ice by running warm tap water over the bucket’s surface for a few moments.

When the ice is free from the bucket, remove the tin can or plastic cup from the center of the block with a little warm water.

Once the ice has been removed from the pail and the cup from the center of the block, you have your basic ice candle. Place a large or small thick candle at the bottom of the well where the cup used to be. Thick candles won’t tip over. The ice will make interesting shapes as it melts.

What else can we do?

You can make rainbow candles by adding 2 inches of water tinted with food coloring to the pail and freezing. Repeat the process with a different food coloring for each layer. Place can in the center to hold your candle, as above.

Remember the marker line in the pail? The frozen water should be above it.

Why? Unlike other liquids, frozen water molecules don’t fit tightly like two hands clapped together. They are formed at angles and take up more room than liquid water.

Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers.Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.