Easiest, Cheapest, BEST Sensory Activity EVER!


My philosophy for kids activities: cheap, easy, and fun. Double bonus if they actually keep kids engaged for longer than it takes me to clean up the aftermath.

I found the motherload of all sensory activities — cue giant ice cube excavation!

This activity is perfect for those blistering hot days where kids need something to do outside that doesn’t involve a pool. My son and his friend loved their frozen treasure-find sensory activity!

Easiest, Cheapest, BEST Sensory Activity EVER! | Des Moines Moms Blog

Here’s what you need:

  • Water
  • Ice cream bucket
  • Freezer space
  • Small items to freeze
  • Optional: food coloring (for dyeing the layers a different color), spray bottle, turkey baster, cups (for actual excavation)
  • TIME


The first thing I did was clean out an ice cream bucket and add a layer of water and a few plastic toys I found around the house. Then pop it into the freezer until the ice has set and add your second layer! I used things like some rubber worms, a toy compass, a plastic frog, a couple strings of beads, etc. You can add some blue food coloring as a fun effect; the boys liked to see the different layers as different colors. The whole bucket took about a week to freeze, doing one layer per day and making sure everything was frozen solid.

Easiest, Cheapest, BEST Sensory Activity EVER! | Des Moines Moms Blog
When it was excavation time, I ran the bucket under a few seconds of warm water and popped it into a baking pan and turned the boys out onto the deck. I gave them a spray bottle full of warm water, a turkey baster, some measuring cups, plastic pipettes, and another bowl of warm water and told them good luck in getting everything out! Two hours later they were still working on their giant ice cube and were still having fun. That’s what I call a #momwin. I did later on give them a wooden hammer to use, but even then it still took a while.

Easiest, Cheapest, BEST Sensory Activity EVER! | Des Moines Moms Blog

Summary — best sensory activity EVER.

Virtually the only money I spent was the water to make ice and the electricity to turn the water into ice! I used a bucket, food coloring, and toys we already had, and it kept a five-year-old and seven-year-old entertained for almost two hours on a hot summer day. DO THIS NOW!

Easiest, Cheapest, BEST Sensory Activity EVER! | Des Moines Moms Blog

This activity was based on this post at thechaosandtheclutter.com.

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Kara Knaack
Kara originally hails from northwest Iowa where she met her husband, Lance, through a 4-H fashion show. After a decade of living in central Iowa, Kara is still figuring out which way is north. Wearing the hat of “wife, mommy, employee, chef, ribbon tie-er and family calendar organizer,” Kara knows a bit about juggling life and work. Kara became a boy-mom in June of 2011 to Lucan and a girl-mom to Gracelyn in December of 2014. Most days you can find her mixing up metaphors and oversharing life’s moments via social media. Kara enjoys yoga, reading, gardening, cooking, sewing in straight lines and singing along to musicals. A spender by nature, but thrifty by necessity, Kara is always in hunt of a bargain. She’s an active member of Northpoint Church and a resident of Grimes. Her vision for life includes “doing the best we can with what God gives us.”


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