My children love real snow, it’s a wonderful experience that stimulates all their senses. Yes, we try to catch it on our tongues and eat it too! And we simply adore the muffled effect it has on sound, especially in the city. This year they enjoyed getting really physical and built a gorgeous igloo you can see here. Every year they look forward to the snow so much but then in a blink of an eye it’s gone and it’s always sad to say goodbye to it so soon.
I really wanted my children to be able to carry on the winter play experience a bit longer so we made a lovely indoor igloo you can find here and a cute small world snow scene. They were all great fun but I thought it was time to get messy!
I wanted to make something that looked like snow and that had wonderful cold and soft properties too. You can buy fake snow powder that you mix with water but I prefer homemade if possible, who doesn’t? There was of course the cornflour and water option and shaving foam but my boys have done those so many times now, I really wanted something different!
A while ago I had a good kitchen cupboard sort out and my boys benefitted with a hoard of old stuff they used for an exciting hubble bubble potion making activity. Amongst the throw away oddments was a packet of gelatine I’d bought to make turkish delight with once. Well that never happened and the packet had sat there ever since until we made our super cold, wobbly, sparkly Snow Gel.
How to make Snow Gel
You will need
2 Gelatine sachets
2 pints warm water
Squirt of white poster paint or powder paint
- Simply sprinkle the gelatine into the warm water and stir until dissolved.
- Add the paint and stir until evenly mixed.
- Refrigerate until set and add the glitter.
It’s great fun to pop the finished Snow Gel onto a large tray or table top so the children can really enjoy the tactile experience as they squash the slimy Snow Gel through their fingers and create patterns and shapes by prodding and poking. It is such a rich sensory play experience.
Messy play experiences are so valuable for children of all ages. Different materials offer a wealth of tactile pleasure that even the very young can become completely immersed in as they explore its temperature, texture and form.
Children can be encouraged to think about exciting adjectives to describe the experience and older children may even be able to invent some of their own, Roald Dahl style.
It’s squelchalicious and stickylumpcious…Biscuit aged 9
My boys are 7 and 9 and very much went into small world play mode after an initial exploration of the substance. They thoroughly enjoyed creating little scenes with their Playmobil and toy animals. The little people had to cut a hole through the Arctic ice to fish for their dinner and avoid the prowling polar bear.
And this poor little Playmobil had quite an upside-down, headfirst experience!!!
My boys also liked the science behind Snow Gel and we discussed materials and their changing states as their gel went from a powder to a liquid and then to a semi solid. They understood that temperature played a part through the addition of warm water and then the cooling and setting process. They asked the question “What would happen if we put it in the freezer?” There’s some in the freezer now and we’ll have to get back to you on that one!
Younger children may be more taken by the pure sensory and artistic experience of the snow gel. A great addition to this kind of play material are simple objects that help them explore the material’s properties more and to be self expressive. Sieves to squash it through, pouring containers to fill and empty, rakes and sticks for swirling patterns, water to add to change its texture, moulds to shape it in like sand castles, sponges, funnels, pipettes, the list is endless!
If your children are still at the mouthing and tasting stage and you want a safe edible variety then you can simply omit the paint and glitter and instead of mixing the gelatine with just water use a mix of water and milk instead. The texture will be the same and the milk will give it a lovely white colour.
This activity supports:
Understanding The World , Expressive Arts and Design and Communication and Language: in the EYFS Early Learning Goals.
Primary Curriculum Science: Exploring Materials and their Properties at Key Stage 1 and 2.
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