Paintsicles. Frozen paint cubes for creative fun.

Jan 23, 2014

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Thanks to a recent heat wave in Melbourne, we've been having lots of fun playing with ice

The other day I thought I'd combine our love of painting by making some frozen paint cubes for the kids to paint with. 

I wasn't actually sure how well it'd all turn out, but the results speak for themselves. 

I've since tested it with a variety of different paints and found that whilst the results vary, they all provide a fun, sensory and unique painting experience.

Ages: 2+  (See the end of the post for handy hints. This is a great multi-age activity)

  • Paint (our favourite is this easy wash finger paint as it's nice and thick! Use any poster paints, tempera paint or acrylic paint you have)

  • Ice cube tray. (these are super cheap so it's not a stretch to have one dedicated to crafts. However, using a non-toxic paint and then popping it through the dishwasher when you're done would make the tray fine to continue using for ice)

  • Craft sticks/popsicle sticks cut in half

Squeeze your paint into your ice cube tray.

As the finger-paint we were using is nice and thick, it allowed me to make a multi-colour cube as well. (This isn't going to work well with thin paints that will run together when poured in the same cube.)

Thanks to the thickness of the paint, the craft sticks sat up nice and straight in the centre of the cubes.

As there was such a small amount of paint to be frozen, these only took a couple of hours to set completely. 

To be safe, I'd pop them in the freezer overnight so that your activity is ready to go the next day.

They popped out of the ice-cube tray the same as you'd pop out an ice cube. It wasn't an effort to get them out cleanly. It was nice and easy.

We used the ice cube tray to hold the paint cubes in. They slipped in and out with no problem. 

I presented them along with some painting paper (it's a little thicker than regular paper) to my 2 year old and 5 year old and left the rest up to them.

The little sticks were perfect for little hands

Maddie loved swirling them round and round and watching the colour come off as the cube slowly melted.

The toddler quickly discovered what could happen as they melt and by using some force.

It was a wonderfully sensory experience. Crushing the frozen paint and swirling it around the page was a lot of fun and it was great for cooling down as well!

Worried that her little brother was on a "crushing mission," Maddie quickly collected some of the remaining whole paint-cubes on the side of her paper.

And of course, the finger painting looked like so much fun that she had to have a turn of it herself.

Some of the works of art by my little artists using frozen paint cubes

The multi-coloured cube was my favourite.

When we were doing the activity I shared this pic on my Instagram account. Thanks to @fifomama for suggesting they be called "Paintsicles" ;)

Just in case our favourite thick finger-paint was the only one to produce these great results, I thought I'd better give it a bit of a test with some other varieties of paint I had so that you wouldn't be disappointed.

Here I tested some easy wash, acrylic and poster paints of different varieties to see if it made much of a difference. 

The acrylic paint (good varieties) was pretty thick so I tested some on it's own and some mixed with water.

None of these paints were thick enough to make the craft-sticks stand up in the centre. 

I wasn't fussed about it but if you want them standing up straight, you'll have to pop some tape across the top of the ice-cube trays to hold the sticks in place.

You can see that the water based paints (like Tempera, poster paints, easy wash paints) leave a nice colour that is a bit thinner than the acrylic paint. 

You'll get a much thicker, smoother and creamier result with the bold pigments of acrylic but I would recommend watering it down first as it actually spread better (and went much further) than just straight acrylic paint. 

(The light blue in the centre top is straight acrylic and below it is the same paint watered down about half/half.. I think you could get away with 1 part acrylic and 3 parts water though.)

I think that regardless of the type of paint, they still look great and are lots of fun!

Handy Tips:

Simplify this activity by freezing your paint in plastic cups to provide larger "paintsicles".

With more paint around the sticks, the one colour should last them a lot longer and will be harder to get off the stick.

Extend this activity by challenging children to make new colours from the paint cubes they have.

This could be by layering the colours over one another or by crushing some of the icy-paint together. Test for different results.

- If you are using a paint that does not wash off hands/clothes easily (such as acrylic paint) you will want to encourage use of the sticks.

You get a great result with acrylic but for younger children, I'd definitely be recommending an easy wash paint (like our awesome Micador ones) so that you don't have to worry about it and so that the kids get an even greater sensory experience by being allowed to touch the icy paint.

- Mix it up. Try placing some paintsicles on a piece of paper in the sun. What results will you get?

You could also pop them into a box with some paper and tip the box slightly to get the frozen paint cubes to slip and slide around as they melt. (I did have thoughts about pushing them around paper with a hair-dryer but as we were trying to beat the heat, this didn't seem like the best idea for the time, haha)

Talk with your child about what they are doing. 

This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. 

Working side by side with children while they are being focused is also a good time to talk with them about sensitive issues and their feelings.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "frozen," "swirl," "melt," "spread," "slide" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Supervise. Neither of my children tried to lick the paint cubes but there'd be some kids who would (especially if you're freezing them in actual popsicle moulds). 

Paintsicles are not food and are not intended to be eaten. We always use a non-toxic paint but still discourage any eating/tasting of it.

Want more ideas for Painting with kids?

Click the picture to see the post in full.


           art for kids, fun art, canvas art

Happy creating,
Debs :)

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