Our storybook advent series has featured one of our favourite Christmas books The Snowman by Raymond Briggs twice now. This classic picture book is ideal for reading with kids of all ages it's also fun for exploring through crafts and activities. Today's Christmas Book Based Activity is a fun STEM investigation into Melting Snowmen inspired by the book.
The Snowman Themed STEM EXperiment for Kids
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We recently read The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. If you’re not familiar with it, the original version is a wordless picture book (see our top tips on reading wordless books with kids) where a boy’s snowman comes to life one night.
The boy invites the snowman into his house where the snowman encounters all kinds of things he’s never experienced before. Then the snowman takes the boy for a flight around the world so the boy can see all kinds of things he’s never seen before.
The next morning the boy rushes out to visit his snowman again only to find that he’s melted.
The ending of the story is the perfect lead-in to a discussion of why snow melts.
Explaining why snow melts to Kids
The basic answer to this is that when ice crystals get warmed up, the heat energy is causing the frozen water molecules to move around too much, so they can no longer stay together. They separate turning from a solid to a liquid.
So how do you apply this heat energy to snow or ice?
This is the fun part of the discussion to have with kids.
Ask them, if you built a miniature snowman with snow or ice cubes, how could you make it melt?
Try not to guide the discussion too much.
STEM Hypothesis Making The Snowman Melt
My 7-year-old daughter suggested we use a lamp, a sunny window, and hot water. She also suggested a hairdryer, but I cautioned against the use of electricity around water.
So we set to work.
STEM Investigation Into Melting Snowmen
Like all good scientists, we asked a question and we designed an experiment to test it.
Our question was, “What is the fastest way to melt a snowman?”
First, we made a list of materials.
Suggested Materials for Melting Snowman Science Experiment With Kids
- Miniature snowmen (one for each melting method we wanted to test). Since we didn’t have snow, we used ice cubes to represent our snowmen. We really wanted them to resemble snowmen, so we gathered black plastic buttons, an orange foam carrot nose and a black felt hat for each snowman. (See the note at the end for instructions on making a snowman with ice cubes.)
- A cup or bowl (preferably clear) for each snowman- make sure it’s big enough to contain the water from the melted snowman and any warm water you add.
- Measuring cup
- Tap water (½ cup or 100ml hot and ½ cup or 100ml room temperature)
- Thermometer (optional)
- Pencil and Observation Chart to record results.
- Towels for potential spills
Helping Kids to Formulate a Science Investigation Into Melting Snowmen
Next, we determined the steps for our snowman melting experiment.
As scientists, we know that everything in the process needs to be the same except the one thing we’re testing, in this case, the melting method.
- Make a prediction telling which melting method you think will be the fastest. (Write it on the Observation Chart.)
- Make three snowmen (or more) all the same size. (If you don’t have access to snow, see the note at the bottom for how we used ice cubes to make snowmen.)
- Gather materials. (Be sure to print out the chart or make your own to record your results.)
- Place each snowman in a large cup or bowl.
- Apply chosen heat source to each snowman separately. Start timer immediately.
- Record results at suggested time intervals. (See the chart.)
- When all the snowmen are melted, discuss the results.
- Decide if you want to change anything about the experiment and repeat it.
Then, we carried out the experiment. We followed the same steps for each snowman. We used the Observation Chart to record what we noticed.
Analysis Question Prompts for This STEM Activity Into Melting Snowmen
Finally, we analyzed our results. Here are some things you might discuss during and after your experiment.
—Was your prediction correct? Why do you think it was or wasn’t?
—What surprised you during the experiment?
—What would you do differently if you did it again?
—Does this experiment prompt a new question about ice/snow/water for you to explore?
Ideas for extending this activity:
- The child(ren) could draw the snowmen at different points during the experiment.
- Think of more ways to melt ice/snow.
- Measure the amount of water used altogether.
- Measure the weight of the snowmen in solid form and in liquid form.
Don’t be surprised if this activity leads you and the kids into more water-related investigations.
The ideas for what you can do and learn are only limited by your imagination. Have fun playing around with it.
Have fun, and go with the flow!
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How To Make your Snowman Out of IceCubes
Note: Here is how we made snowmen from ice cubes. (We have a mold for making nice big square ice cubes, and that worked really well for building a snowman. But we also were able to create snowmen with standard ice cubes. The process is the same for both.)
- We used three ice cubes to represent the body of the snowman.
- We laid them end to end on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and “glued” them together by “painting” them with cold water using a paintbrush. We also “glued” on buttons and the carrot nose and hat, but we kept these decorations to a minimum.
- To seal the “glue” (water), we placed the snowman’s tray back into the freezer for 10 minutes. If you are generous with the water when applying it with the paintbrush between the ice cubes, they should stick together by the time you remove them from the freezer after 10 minutes.
- When you remove the “snowmen” from the freezer, GENTLY peel back the parchment paper and GENTLY place the snowman in the cup or bowl. (It won’t be able to stand up on it’s own, but will need to lean against the edge.)
- If your ice cube snowman won’t stay together, don’t worry about it, just move forward with the experiment.
More Snowmen Themed Activities for Kids
Check out these other activities inspired by The Snowman by Raymond Briggs to do as well
- Make delicious Snowball Cookies with the kids. SO simple and just 3 ingredients.
- Put together a Melted Snowman Sensory Bag.
- Another fun STEM/STEAM activity create a flying Snowman!