Sensory experiences are an important component of early childhood learning. Children love hands-on activities that allow them to explore with their senses. Adults, however, are often reluctant to let kids paint, glue, or play with ice simply because of the mess. When the weather gets hot, outdoor exploration with melting ice is one way to avoid those indoor messes while giving kids the sensory experiences they need! The Ocean Animals Preschool Ice Excavation Activity builds fine motor muscles as kids chip away and learn about all kinds of sea creatures.

– Life Over C's Ocean animal ice excavation.

Recommended Grade Level:

Ocean Animal Ice Excavation:

  • Ice tray
  • Ocean Animal toys
  • Water
  • Container
  • Stones or toy hammer
  • Optional: poster board or mat for outdoor use

Sensory Learning in Preschool and Kindergarten



This ocean themed activity is a great science experiment in itself. Children can experience first-hand the transformation of a block of ice kept out of the freezer.

Ice excavation for kids gives them a chance to grasp and hit using small hand muscles. Once they find the toys in the ice, the activity switches gears to naming the ocean creatures, describing them, comparing and contrasting them, or just playing with them!

Freezing toys in ice activities really can become an opportunity to engage students before, during, or after learning about a particular topic. Or it can just be an exciting way to pass the time chipping away at a block of ice.

I love to use ice melting activities for preschool in the spring when the weather gets nice and students get anxious for summer break. If I can, I take the activity outside to the playground. If that’s not an option, I turn the sensory water table into a frozen tundra.

In addition to learning about sea turtles, whales, sharks, dolphins and more, this preschool activity can get kids thinking about:

  • What causes the ice to melt?
  • How does the ice change form/shape as it melts?
  • Would it melt slower/faster in the shade/sun?
  • What would help the ice melt faster?
– Life Over C's The ocean animals and water are ready to freeze.

What Can Children Learn From Preschool Ocean Animal Activities?



As children explore in the ice and discover all of the animals, they can work on important vocabulary:

– Life Over C's Complete the ice excavation activity by getting toys out of the ice.

Why Are Preschool Ice Activities Important?

Activities with ice for preschoolers stimulate their interest while improving fine motor and teaching concepts at the same time. What a versatile activity!

Background Knowledge

Objects relating to any topic, from animals to flowers to body systems, can be frozen and excavated. This provides a healthy chunk of background knowledge and experiences the kids can draw from.

Oral Language

Interesting hands-on activities are a great way to get kids talking! They will learn new vocabulary related to ice, melting, or ocean animals, that they can then put into informal conversations as they work.

Fine Motor Skills

Chipping away at an ice block, pushing and pulling to get objects out, and using a spray bottle help build up the muscles in children’s hands that they will use later for handwriting and more.


Faced with a block of ice and a favorite toy buried deep inside, kids will come up with some pretty creative ways to get them out! What a fun way to encourage problem-solving and creativity.

How To Make The Ocean Animal Ice Excavation

How to Freeze the Ocean Animals


  • Ice tray
  • Ocean animal toys 
  • Water
  • Container
  • Stones or toy hammer 

Optional: Poster board or mat for outdoor use. If desired, fill a spray bottle with warm water and food coloring to aid in the melting process.

– Life Over C's Gather ocean animal toys, water, and an ice cube tray.

Step One:

Place one ocean animal in each section of the ice tray. If desired, allow for part of the animal (example: the tail) to stick out a bit so young fingers can easily grasp something while trying to excavate it.

Step Two:

Fill the ice tray with water. 

– Life Over C's Put toys in the ice cube tray and fill with water for the ice excavation activity.

Step Three:

Place in the freezer until frozen.

– Life Over C's Frozen ocean animal ice cubes.

Step Four:

Remove from the freezer.

– Life Over C's Ocean animal ice cubes are done and ready for the ice excavation.

Step Five:

Place the frozen sea animal ice cubes into a bin. Allow the child to engage with the ice, using stones or toy hammers/objects to try to break the ice away from each ocean animal. 

– Life Over C's Using a stone for the ice excavation activity.

Extend the Activity:

Ice Painting

Another fun activity involving ice is ice painting. Make frozen colored cubes with an ice cube tray and food coloring, then head outside to draw and color on paper.

Role Playing

Once the ocean animals have been released from the ice, place them in a sensory bin and encourage kids to role play different scenarios of animals meeting, playing, sharing, etc.


Ocean animals could be sorted after they have been excavated. Children can sort by color, size, shape, or any other animal characteristic.

Do you love this activity?

Pin it for later!

– Life Over C's Ocean animal ice excavation.

author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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