Monkey gets really into hunting for things, and smashing things (like these fossil eggs), so really we couldn’t go wrong with this activity. Add to the searching and smashing some ice to play with and he was in seventh heaven! These animals encased in ice are really easy to make. All you need are balloons, water, toys to put inside, and a way to smash them open afterwards.
Start by getting your toys inside the balloons. I was certain that the sharp bits of the toys were going to pierce the balloons, but that didn’t happen once. The four legged creatures gave me the most trouble. I found the best technique was to gather the whole balloon up so that the toy was placed right into the main part of the balloon (the same way you’d put on tights). Don’t worry if a toy gets stuck halfway in, once you start adding water they’ll get pushed right down anyway.
Next fill the balloons with water by stretching the neck over a tap. If any of the toys got stuck now is the time to ease them into the main body of the balloon. Tie up the necks and then put them in the freezer. Depending on how big you made them they’ll probably take about 24 hours to freeze properly. We were impatient and took them out after 12 but that meant they gushed water when they were cracked. Much more dramatic! Once they’re frozen, snip the balloons with scissors and peel off the rubber.
You should have something resembling an icy sphere with a toy encased inside. Hide them around the house or garden (in a bowl if they’re inside to protect whatever they’re sitting on). Now’s the time to decide where and how you’re going to open them. I put out a towel with some tools for smashing in the kitchen, but melting them in a sink of warm water or taking this part outside would both minimise mess.
Now you can make up a story to start off the hunt if you want to. We told the Monkey that an Ice Monster had got in during the night and frozen some of his toys! Help your toddler to search for and collect all of the ice spheres. They’re heavy and slippery so they will probably need help carrying them. Searching in this way is great gross motor skill practice, especially if you encourage them to stretch to look high and crawl to look underneath things. You can also encourage colour recognition by saying “it’s by something blue” for example.
Once they’re all accounted for it’s time to get smashing! My son is really good with a hammer and needed no encouraging at all, but obviously he was still closely supervised.
Ours were still slushy inside so every time he succeeded in breaking one there was a flood of water.
Some of the globes he daintily tapped until they cracked, showing some excellent fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.
Others were given a really good whack leaving an animal surrounded by a pile of ice and water. He used his favourite kitchen tongs to pick up the animals and ice chunks and put them into a big pan.
We carried on playing with the remnants of the ice for ages. He smashed some into oblivion, swirled other pieces around in the pan like soup and (despite me trying to stop him) had a good munch on the ice too. This was a brilliant way to spend the morning, and I know he enjoyed it because he asked for more ‘eggs’ when they were all cracked!