I've been meaning to try an ice excavation activity with the children for a while. Harry recently finished a dinosaur excavation kit which he really enjoyed so I knew that he'd like this. The activity is really easy to set up, and if you are lucky it will engross children for quite a while!
For the ice block
A plastic container (I used an old ice cream tub) and freezer space
Water, food colouring (I used gel food colouring for a stronger colour)
A collection of little Halloween themed toys and decorations
Glitter and sequins
For the excavation
Tools (we used tools from the dinosaur excavation kit, you could also use plastic and metal cutlery, and plastic droppers and syringes if you have them)
Things that the children suggest might melt the ice - I gave them a bowl of salt and a bowl of hot water.
The ice block needs to be prepared a day or so in advance, and I made it over the course of a day. First I put a couple of centimetres of water into the bottom of the tub and let it freeze, then I added a further three layers, each filled with a handful of different items. I also added in food colouring and plenty of glitter, and I let each layer freeze before adding the next one. This way everything doesn't sink to the bottom of the ice block while it freezes.
Then I put it out for them to have a go at. First we used a large tray underneath, but as they added more and more hot water it was getting messier, so we ended up with it in a washing up bowl. Note to self - do this again in the summer when it can all be done outside!
I also gave each child a bowl where they could collect the things that they had excavated, fortunately they worked really well together and didn't argue over what they wanted to reach. The hot water proved to be the most effective way of getting through the ice, and when they started to get a bit frustrated I simply boiled the kettle and poured it over the block for them to make it easier.
We had a lot of fun with this, definitely something we'll be doing again. In fact it made a good threat - if you don't tidy up your toys I'll freeze them and you'll have to dig them out! I'd also like to extend the activity to make it a bit more scientific - perhaps with a wider range of materials that might melt the ice for them to experiment with that we could discuss beforehand.
Many of the little Halloween bits and pieces were recycled from our Halloween sensory tub, another great Halloween activity for little ones. Some other toddler friendly Halloween crafts that we have enjoyed were our super simple Halloween window decorations and our make a monster busy bag kit. Finally if you are hosting a Halloween party for young children you might like some of the ideas in my post about Halloween party ideas for small children.