Dino Dig Ice Excavation – Science & Sensory Activity for Kids

Dino Dig Ice Excavation Science and Sensory Activity for kids. Dino Dig Ice Excavation – Science & Sensory Activity for Kids

Oh winter!!

I have a love/hate relationship with this season! I love when it’s snowing outside and I’m tucked indoors, cozy on the couch with hot cocoa. I love how beautiful everything looks covered in freshly fallen snow. Like the world is covered in frosting! I love sledding, and watching Avery ski. But I also hate my hands being cold, and shoveling (thank goodness for a husband who handles that on his own!) I hate slipping on ice and landing on my butt (it happens at least once every year) and I hate that we’re often “trapped” inside.

I’m always trying to think of fun ways to keep Avery entertained. We have coloring books, puzzles, games, and lot’s of toys and books, but she needs things that hold her attention longer.

While visiting the Audubon Environmental Education Center a few weeks ago, we participated in a fun activity that taught about how salt melts ice. This gave me an idea for another activity at home, using the same lesson but bringing it up a notch!

I froze a dinosaur and some fake rocks in ice and let Avery go at it! Her mission: To rescue the Stegosaurus from the ice!

Dinosaur in ice activity Fun sensory activities for toddlersAs you can see, she was very excited to get started! I had told her about this fun activity the night before, and the moment she got out of bed in the morning she was asking to work on her “dinosaur project” Fun indoor toddler activities sensory play

The activity is simple to put together, and uses items that you already have on hand!

You will need:

  • a bowl (plastic is best for removing the ice)
  • water
  • plastic dinosaurs or other small toys
  • salt
  • excavation tools (Examples: spoon, paintbrush, toothbrush, water dropper, popsicle stick)
  • baking sheet/bin/other container with sides.


Put your plastic dino in the bowl and add water. Do not fill the bowl! You’ll add water in layers so the toys don’t all float up to the top or sink to the bottom! Let the first layer of water freeze, then add another toy, and another layer of water, and freeze. Continue this until your bowl is full.

Once frozen, remove the ice block from the bowl (run a little warm water over the bowl, or let sit for a bit if you’re having trouble getting the ice out)

Place the ice in your container. (I used the lid from an aluminum baking pan, and put a paper towel down on the bottom so the ice wouldn’t slide around while Avery worked)

Toddler ice scienceThen let your kiddos go to work! They will learn how the salt melts the ice, and will work on their motor skills digging in the ice!

About halfway through, I gave Avery a cup of warm water so she could use that to melt the ice a little faster.  It was fun to watch her reaction as she learned about the effect the salt and warm water had on the ice!

She’d get excited each time she was able to break off a chunk of ice! “He’s almost free!”

Digging out the dinosaurThis activity kept her busy for over an hour (with a snack break in the middle) She was really dedicated to the cause, and was determined to rescue the dino!

HOORAY!!  We rescued the dinosaur!!

Dino Dig Ice toddler activityI loved this activity for so many reasons:

  • It was easy to set up, using items we had on hand.
  • It is easy enough for a two year old, while still offering a challenge to older children.
  • Virtually mess free. (Avery did a great job keeping the water and salt in the container)
  • Teaches lessons in science.
  • It’s a sensory activity: Touch, sight, sound.
  • Develops fine motor skills: Using tools and digging, and chipping at the ice, sprinkling salt on the ice.
  • Teaches cause and effect, problem solving and persistence!!
  • It is open ended, there is no right or wrong way to do it.
  • It takes TIME! And keeps the child busy!
  • It’s a great indoor activity in the winter, but would also be great outdoors in the summer!
  • It’s FUN!

You can do this activity with whatever you have on hand! It doesn’t have to be dinosaurs. You can use other toys, and found objects, too! The possibilities are endless! HAVE FUN!

I’ve shared this fun sensory activity with you, now share yous! What is your favorite indoor activity?

Sensory Activity Sensory Activity


  1. Jenna Wood says:

    How adorable, my mother and I did similar activities when I was growing up. I loved learning about the different techniques for ‘excavation’ and all about what made the dinosaurs extinct!

  2. Pilar says:

    What a fantastic lesson-turned-activity! I used to do things like this when my son was younger, but sadly, didn’t do the same with my daughter. Poor second child 😉 Still, I think we’ll have to revive this for our next Snow Day. Thanks so much for reminding me how much fun there is to be had with household items!
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  3. susan king says:

    Our 3yr old granddaughter loves dinos too !! When she came to visit she wanted to go to the dino museum. She got to go and they were there for 4hrs because she didn’t want to leave ! She kept saying I want to go back and see this. Please can we go through 1 more time. The adults were so worn out they couldn’t do it anymore !! I have to do this for her the next time she’s here. Thank you !!

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