Arboretum News

Kids Activity: Ice Wreath

Take advantage of freezing winter temperatures to make something from ice.

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Make an ice wreath using natural materials. Photo by Reba Luiken.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

It’s winter in Minnesota, but that just means there are more fun opportunities for outdoor play! The birds are still singing, and if you look closely, you’ll notice some trees are still hanging onto their fruit and leaves. Take this chance to make some beautiful outdoor art that might even feed some feathered friends. 

Collect and arrange natural materials, and pour water over them to create the wreath. The plastic top from a bakery cake works great as a base for the wreath. Photo by Reba Luiken.

Materials:
– Collected nature materials 
– Plastic containers (one large and one small) Note: You can use glass or metal containers too, but as the ice freezes it expands. This can warp or break hard containers, so flexible plastic is safer. If you do use a rigid container, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your sculpture as it freezes and take it out as soon as it is solid. 
– Water (and container to pour from)
– Scissors 
– Twine or other string for hanging 

Instructions: 

1. Head outside to gather the natural materials you’d like to include in your wreath. Evergreen branches, berries, and anything that will provide some color work well.

2. Place the smaller container inside the larger one.  It should be at least as tall as your larger container. (You can skip this step and just make a solid ice disc too.)  

3. Add natural decorations into the space between the large container and the small container where your wreath will be.

4. Fill the smaller container with water. This will keep it from floating away.

5. Slowly pour water into the larger container, filing it close to the top.  Keep in mind that your natural materials will probably start to float a bit.  If you want to make clear ice, unsoftened water often works better.  (You might have a basement tap you could use for this if you have a water softener at your house).

6. Put your creation into the freezer. Or, if it’s below freezing, you can let it freeze outside.

7. Wait patiently! Freezing can take many hours, especially if the temperature outside is just below freezing.

8. Take your ice wreath inside or out of the freezer and remove it from the container. If it’s stuck, turning it upside down and running it under warm water can help. If your smaller container was not quite touching the bottom, you may need to break off a thin layer of ice to reveal the inner circle of your wreath.

9. Cut a piece of string or twine and tie up your wreath outside. Enjoy!

Extensions: 
– Make regular observations of your wreath. Is it melting or changing shape?
– The hole in the center of the wreath is also a great place to put a candle, turning your wreath into an ice luminary.  
– Add bird seed to your wreath to give a treat to local birds. They might enjoy the berries you collected, too.
– Ice sculptures can provide great opportunities for sensory play, giving young learners the opportunity to briefly experience something cold!

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